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The Metro Show: a touch of whimsy with a dash of art

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It's the middle of January and you don't want to wander the park in the cold and snow, but you don't want to hang around inside or stop by the movie theater (where the cashier knows your name already) to catch the latest film. What to do? Well, if you have any interest in art, or the abnormal, paranormal, Americana, ancient cultures, African religion, the extraordinary, or want to see something simply unique, then stop by the Metro Show, where you'll find the greatest mish-mash of objects old and new, American and international, beautiful and odd. Every item you will see here is presented for sale by over 35 galleries from New York and beyond.

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The Metro Show opened its doors on January 22 at the Metropolitan Pavilion, located at 125 West 18th Street. In its five-day run, the Metro Show will not only display its eclectic works, but it also hosts lectures, provides upscale lounges with cafe fare, and further educates visitors through a new concept, entitled Metro Curates. There are so many different items on view here that you're sure to come across something you've never seen before or something you want to learn more about. That's when Metro Curates comes in. Each booth is centered around a theme or a single-artist, providing small details about their preferred topic. To learn more, the gallery owners and dealers are more than happy to engage in conversation.

Some of the more unique items you may ever see can be found in the expansive halls of the Metropolitan Pavilion this weekend. Don't believe it? Have you ever seen a painted whale's ear? That's what I thought. The Metro Show is worth more than just a quick run-through and you owe it to yourself to take your time, stopping at each gallery space and picking out a few key items. Here's what we found:

Painted and decorated ear bone from a whale, 19-20th century. Made by a sailor, this actual whale's ear bone is painted on the outer rim in muted colors to look like a male head, the inner edge of the bone acting as the nose of the painted man. The open side of the ear bone remains unpainted and empty, and the striations of the bone are clearly evident even with just a quick glance. Samuel Herrup Antiques was selling this item for $850.

Navajo wedge weave blanket, 1870. The entire booth by David Cook Galleries from Denver, Colorado, was set up to resemble the midwest, with mustard-yellow walls playing the backdrop to some brilliantly-woven and intricately-designed blankets. Many belonging to Native American chiefs, these items are so well made and so eye-catching, it's hard to pull yourself away from the gallery space here. This Navajo wedge weave features vertical zigzags in multiple colors, but dominated by white, black, orange, and gray. Each color complements the other perfectly. It's price-on-request is likely over $100,000 when compared to its companion pieces for similar prices.

Ceremonial tunic, 200-600AD. Likely worn by a chief of the Nazca culture in Peru, this unique piece is made entirely of natural feathers, in colors ranging from vibrant blue to sunshine yellow and everything in between. Gail Martin, the gallery owner, is known as a specialist in tribal art and textiles, and her gallery is a lovely conglomeration of African ceremonial hats and pottery pieces. This particular piece was unpriced, but a nearby beaded king's ceremonial hat from 20th century Cameroon was listed at $6000.

Elephant trade sign, early 20th century. One of the very first items you'll see when you walk in is this large, painted tin elephant, hanging on a booth wall facing the hallway. As elephants tend to be, it's impossible to miss. Described as "unique hammered and formed tin with polychrome paint," this elephant is seen in side view, trunk down, tail wrapped across his legs, and wearing a green blanket that advertises "J. O. Sundstrom's: The Big Store will save save you money on everything." A fun remembrance of America past, this item is sold by New York's Ricco/Maresca Gallery for $75,000.

Tramp Art cupboard with mustache pediment, 19-20th century. Tramp art (art "made out of society's discards" - i.e. cigar boxes) is the theme for Clifford A. Wallack Gallery's booth, and we bet you've never heard of the phenomenon before. Featuring carved wooden mirrors, tables, boxes, and cupboards, the gallery is a marvel to behold, and the term "American craftsman" seems perfectly fitting here. This cupboard is intricately carved, its multiple raised ridges yet simple design putting it squarely in the folk art community, and yet it offers so much more. Looking at this marvelous hand-made piece of furniture gives the viewer a sense of calm and comfort, of being home. Perhaps it belongs in your home - don't let the $22,000 price tag deter you!

Carousel horses, funhouse mirrors, old American flags, painted wooden statues, famous handprints, prints by master artists, African masks, and traditional paintings are all among the many items you can find at the Metro Show. Don't miss it - it ends tomorrow, Sunday, January 26. Tickets are $15 and the show runs from noon til 5:30.

Let us know what you found by leaving a comment in the space below! And don't forget to "like" Jennifer on facebook and follow her on twitter!

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