Is your apartment missing that certain something? Could that certain something be a turn-of-the-century slide projector? Or mother-of-pearl opera glasses? Or an original Singer sewing machine? Or some steampunk-esque optometry glasses?
Well, you’re in luck. There’s a pop-up antique store coming to the Lower East Side next week, and the highly curated roadshow shoppe, which bills itself as a kind of “cabinet of curiosities,” may have just the eccentric accent your staid apartment needs.
Virginia-based The Curio of Norfolk is stopping in New York as part of a multi-country “grand tour” to present a “curated collection of unusual items.” This iteration is loosely organized around the theme “Women in Motion.” “Our choices include items showing the history of how ladies have navigated space, especially so-called forbidden places,” promotional materials say. “This means antiques and oddities related to travel, writing, science, performance, visual art.”
The Curio was founded by Jennifer Craig, PhD, and Nicole Ponemon, two friends who met during college — history buffs and art geeks who describe themselves as the sort of people who would live in a museum if they could. The project is inspired by the Renaissance-era tradition of cabinets of curiosity, also known as “cabinets of wonder” or Wunderkammer, extravagant collections of both natural and man-made wonders, maintained by the wealthy and powerful to impress their guests.
“When we were brainstorming the idea for [the store], we wanted to do something more than a normal antique shop,” explained Craig. “We got onto the idea of oddities, things that catch our eye that are unusual, 1930s and earlier, a different aesthetic from run-of-the-mill Americana.”
The focus is on European objects; Ponemon and Craig collected most of their objects in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. The traveling pop-up will have more than 500 items. Some of the highlights:
- A “baby Pathé”: the first “camcorder,” in this case comically large yet intended for use by children.
- A magic lantern projector which works with an electric candle.
- A meticulously detailed 1800s-era globe complete with ocean currents and shipping routes. The cartographer even marked the not-yet-created Panama Canal, such was the Whiggish spirit of optimism in the age.
- Vaseline glass — a green-tinted older form of glass, made with uranium. The glass is actually (very mildly) radioactive and if the right light is shone on it it will glow in the dark.
- An Art Deco sewing machine called the “Sphinx.” (“It doesn’t run but it could be a very nice pet project for an up-and-coming designer,” said Ponemon.)
- Hair jewelry. “The original friendship bracelet was take some of your hair, braid it up and give it to your friends. […] And when somebody passed away generally you took some of their hair and made art out of it.”
- A collection of beautiful antique snuff boxes, pill boxes, toiletry boxes and other items made from agate.
The pop-up shop will operate August 16 to 31, 11am to 7pm daily, at 119 Ludlow St. There will be a preview August 15 at 6pm and an opening party August 16 at 7pm.