Inaugural Metro Show Unleashes New Mantra for Collectors and Designers: No More Boundaries


NEW YORK – When the inaugural Metro Show opens its doors for a five-day run at the Metropolitan Pavilion on January 18, 2012, collectors, design aficionados, and art-insiders will be treated to an astonishing array of fine and decorative treasures dating from the pre-Columbian era through the twentieth century. With a core group of dealers from the now defunct American Antiques Show, this brand-new edition reflects the current mantra of dealers and interior designers who have their pulse on the collecting habits of their clients: mainly, that the boundaries between the centuries and periods are gradually falling away and collectors are seeing that fine collectibles from various time periods and styles can harmoniously co-exist.

“The Metro Show reflects the new attitude toward collecting in which a work is valued for its intrinsic qualities and the beauty of its design — not solely for its place in the historical continuum,” says Show Director Caroline Kerrigan Lerch. “As visitors walk through our fair, they will see how everything connects.”

Both dealers and interior designers recognize this trend and are adapting to their clients’ diverse curatorial tastes. 

“The term ‘modern’ apparently originated in the late 16th century,” says Leigh Keno, the decorative arts expert and television personality. “Even in the early 17th century, a room filled with ‘modern’ furniture or accoutrements very often had ‘antiquities’ mixed in, whether collected or inherited. It’s no different today. A room filled with fine and decorative arts from the same period is seen in some museums with ‘period rooms,’ but almost never in the home.”

“There really are no boundaries in decorating anymore,” notes New York–based interior designer Ellie Cullman. “Instead, we have embraced a new and most welcome era of eclecticism, with rich and layered interiors characterized by the juxtaposition and inclusion of architectural details, furniture, fabrics, and finishes from disparate styles and periods.” As an example, Cullman cites a classic Upper East Side apartment she decorated with an eclectic mix of Abstract Expressionist art, Asian sculpture, contemporary X-benches, an 18th-century Italian refectory table, an Empire chandelier, and alabaster lamps from the 1940s.

“The period room is virtually extinct,” declares New York interior designer Thomas Jayne. “Almost no one lives in a room furnished with antiques from the same historic period — except maybe a few of our clients. Today, antiques are successfully used for their contrasting shapes and surfaces, especially when they are juxtaposed with modern furniture. 

Jamie Drake, another trendsetting interior decorator, who counts New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg among his clients, concurs with Jayne. “It is the rare client who wants a room or home quagmired in one time and place,” he says. “The juxtaposition of furnishings, art, and accessories that span centuries and continents creates dynamic spaces that reflect the range of experiences and interests that people have. Textural contrasts of cultures and eras are the epitome of today’s designs.”

“Boundaries between collecting and decorating disciplines have changed and permutated over the years,” observes Randall Morris of Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York, who specializes in contemporary Asian and tribal arts. “Collectors are breaking down the distinctions between High/Low, Outsider/Insider, and Studio Craft/Fine Art by ignoring the distinctions and pursuing quality. For this reason, you will see homes with great tribal art, ceramics from Japan and the West displayed and used, traditional and new Moroccan rugs, and paintings and sculpture by trained and untrained artists all held together by the qualitative eye of the collector. Quality, then, is the paramount factor. We no longer differentiate by label.” 

“It is exhilarating to be a designer today and to create spaces using furnishings from a vast variety of periods and styles.” says Bunny Williams, recognized for her perfectly impeccable style. “There is a sense of freedom to experiment and unending curiosity to explore new sources. Designers and clients are now great collaborators. Finding unique pieces together is a fabulous adventure.”

Gary R. Sullivan, the Sharon, Massachusetts, dealer of upscale Early American clocks and furniture notes that, historically, many of his collectors were furnishing their entire homes with early furniture. “We now find that slightly younger buyers are working with designers to help them mix superb traditional pieces with spaces that are largely contemporary,” he says. “In stark contrast to previous decorating schemes, I now see some stunning interiors where folk art, formal furniture, photography, and modern art all exist in harmony. It’s a new world.” 

Pat Garthoeffner, owner of Garthoeffner Gallery Antiques in Lititz, Pennsylvania, also recognizes the change in decorating and collecting tastes. “We started 45 years ago with a very different mix of items, like mason jars made into lamps and rough country furniture in ‘old blue milk paint.’ Condition was not a factor since the look was old and rough,” she says. “Now, clients want slicker, edgier, cleaner lines in their homes, as well as in their collections. We recently delivered ten pieces to a Florida penthouse with wrap-around windows and modern furniture. The combination of modern art and contemporary backdrop created an outstanding background for our decorative arts.”