By Wendy Moonan
Do sales increase at McDonald's if a Burger King opens next door? This week's guess is that they do, metaphorically speaking, in the antiques trade in Manhattan.
Both Christie's and Sotheby's have scheduled European decorative arts auctions to coincide with today's opening of the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show at the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue (Review, Page 34).
In addition, four leading dealers in antique textiles -- Cora Ginsburg of New York; M. Finkel & Daughter of Philadelphia; Maureen Morris of Essex, England; and Alistair Sampson of London -- will show more than 80 period samplers and textiles through Wednesday at Chelsea Editions, on the sixth floor of the Fine Arts Building, 232 East 59th Street.
For the next two weeks, private decorative arts consultants are also visiting the city, to shop and meet with their New York clients. One of the more recent additions to this group is Alexander Cohane, an antiques scout for the past five years. Based in London, Mr. Cohane spends four months a year in Europe looking for unusual antiques at all price levels, from a $2,000 English Arts and Crafts chair to a $500,000 pair of antique Roman commodes.
"I go to Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, France and Italy," he said. "I look for antiques that stand out, that have a certain simplicity and purity of design, from Jacobean to Italian 1960's." He photographs favorites.
His ultimate criterion? "It has to be something I would buy for myself," he said. "I began as a collector."
He brings his stack of photos to New York three times a year. His architect and decorator clients include Robert Couturier, Joanne De Palma, Bunny Williams, Victoria Hagan and Frank DeBiasi, who heads the interiors department of the Michael Graves architectural firm. Mr. Cohane charges a 15 percent to 20 percent commission, depending on the value of the item (the higher the price, the lower the commission). Dealers, of course, have higher markups, reflecting the cost of running their galleries and renting booths at antiques shows.