As "the season" in the antiques world begins, collectors, dealers and market watchers are anxious about the year ahead.
One barometer they will monitor closely is the International Antique Dealers Show which opens the season when it turns New York's Seventh Regiment Armory into a museumlike emporium in early October. Another is the Fall Antiques Show at the Pier, also in New York, an all-American event which for the past dozen years has made a passenger pier on the Hudson into a fairground for folk art, American Indian arts and Americana, and this year takes place later in October.
The nearly 2,000 collectors and benefactors of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who will have paid $500 a ticket to arrive at the International Show's society preview party on Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. (or $200 to come an hour later), will know by the end of the evening whether the art and antiques market remains healthy or if world politics and the cloudy economic climate have made even the most ardent collectors, the most knowledgeable connoisseurs and the very rich tighten the drawstrings on their purses.
Some say these troubled times will not affect the top of the market at all; that the rich prefer objects of art to fluctuating currencies, and that the shortage of masterpieces will keep prices high. Others, however, are pointing out that only those dealers who work very hard and price very fairly have been selling this summer.
The International Antique Dealers Show, only in its second year, is already considered an event that defines the market at the very top. The daily scholarly lectures set the tone, offering subjects ranging from "Royal French Furniture of the 17th Century" to "Imperial Patronage and Early Ming Porcelain."
More important, it is a vetted show, which means each object is examined and guaranteed by committees of experts in rugs, tapestries,
silver, pottery, porcelains, paintings, Asian works of art, clocks, English, American and Chinese furniture and jewelry. They guarantee every object is authentic and has not had extensive repair or embellishment.
The International Show has already influenced other shows. The legendary New York Winter Show in January, which for more than three decades has benefited the East Side House Settlement, will be vetted for the first time this year. Frequented by decorators with clients in tow, this show has been criticized for exhibiting pieces that have been embellished and extensively refinished, or are even fake.
The Winter Show, which was once only for American dealers, now has become international. For years there was an unwritten agreement that a dealer had to have a shop in America for five years before he would be invited to exhibit at the Winter Show.
Three years ago when Winter Show chairman Mario Buatta invited Paris antique dealer Bernard Steinitz to exhibit, the American dealers protested (to Mr. Buatta's deaf ears), that Mr. Steinitz had opened his New York branch only five weeks earlier.
However, when Brian and Anna Haughton, the London porcelain dealers and show promoters, proposed the International Antique Dealers Show in New York, many of these same dealers were eager to participate. Of the 80 dealers exhibiting there this year, 14 will also exhibit at the Winter Show; five others who exhibited at the Winter Show in the recent past have chosen to exhibit at the International Show instead.
Reportedly Mr. Buatta, who in the last two years has pruned a dozen dealers from his list, has just returned from Europe, having rounded up French and English dealers to fill the vacancies. The world of antiques is a global one.
The International Antique Dealers Show at the Seventh Regiment Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street in New York, Oct. 6-10, will be open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.