From attic to gallery: `new vintage' treasures

SO many ``golden oldies'' are being shown at the ``Modernism'' show at the Seventh Regiment Armory here this week that people may blink in delighted disbelief. ``Where has all this wonderful stuff been kept?'' asked one incredulous young man, who was discovering this range of late 19th- and 20th-century treasures for the first time.

Many such objects had been given away, thrown out, or consigned to attics and basements as styles changed, and the pieces became ``old fashioned.''

Some were put in limbo because they appeared to be too overstuffed, overcarved, or overscaled. Others, from revival periods, were considered to be ugly, ornate, or too big. Many were classically handsome and beautifully made of finest materials.

Today, the whole range is viewed with new appreciation. There's a growing demand for pieces that may have been loved and then scorned by our forebears.

Subtitled ``A Century of Style & Design 1860 to 1960,'' this offbeat show redefines ``antique'' and ``modern,'' and opens up whole new worlds to collectors. It runs Nov. 10 through Nov. 13.

Sanford Smith, a New York antiques show manager, first saw the possibilities of an exhibition devoted to ``new vintage'' pieces from the near 100-year span. He also noted the growing desire of young couples for robust design and superb craftsmanship.

Mr. Smith discovered they liked 1930s radios designed by Walter Darwin Teague and chairs by Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Charles Eames.

They collected Lalique glass, Rookwood pottery, Georg Jensen silver, and furniture classics by the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto and Viennese designer Josef Hoffmann.

Smith's first Modernism show in 1986 was a new idea, never done before.

``I wanted a word that would cover the 1860-1960 period, so I called it `Modernism,''' he says. ``It was to include the fine and decorative arts, paintings, jewelry, and furniture, and was to start back with the roots of the modern era and come up through all the revival movements (Greek, Gothic, Roman, etc.) - and from there to the English and American arts and crafts movements and the Prairie School.

``It was also to include the Vienna Secessionists, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, the Bauhaus, and the architectural styles of the 1950s and '60s.''

Smith was on safe ground, since he had watched interest shift to these later periods. The third edition of the Modernism show, with 73 exhibitors from the United States and Europe, covers the spectrum of 20th-century design, and its antecedents in the 19th century.

Average buyers, says Smith, are from 30 to 35 years old and are fascinated by the diversity of what is laid out before them under one roof. Where else, for instance, could they see so much Mission, Rococo, Gothic, Renaissance, and Esthetic Movement furniture?

According to Eileen Dubrow, a dealer, young people respond to the energy and vibrancy of the show. They love the strong and vivid design elements, and are willing to open their eyes and their minds to them.

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