Bruce Newman, Leading Man of Antiques, Dies at 94

Bruce Newman, a New York antiques dealer once known as the Cecil B. DeMille of his profession for his outsized personality and extravagant wares, died on Feb. 9 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, according to his daughter, Emily Greenspan.

Mr. Newman, a dashing figure in impeccably tailored black suits and scarlet pocket squares, was the proprietor of his family’s business, Newel Galleries, which was founded during the 1930s as a prop house for theater and film productions and ran for a time out of a small shop under the Second Avenue El in Manhattan.

During his reign, Newel was in full, overwhelming flower by the 1980s, housed in a five-story building on East 53rd Street, near the East River, each floor teeming with two centuries’ worth of treasures, most costing upward of five figures. The business was a glittering antiques mall for set designers, party planners, decorators, society lions and Hollywood royalty.

Vintage carousel horses? Check. Ruhlmann desks? Yes! Benches from the Paris Metro? Of course. French Victorian dining chairs swirled in bronze trim? No need to ask. Mr. Newman carried it all and in staggering amounts: Victorian wicker. French salon furniture. Art Deco. Art Nouveau. Gothic revival. Biedermeier. Directoire. English Arts & Crafts. Renaissance and Medieval pieces, and the “quality camp” or “fantasy furniture” he favored — weird and whimsical pieces embellished with mythical creatures; chairs sprouting antlers, torcheres bedecked with gargoyles, commodes atop griffin feet.

Paul Rudnick, the playwright, screenwriter and author, called the shop “a wonderful cross between Hogwarts and the warehouse at the end of Citizen Kane.”

Mr. Newman was like a Hollywood agent, Stephen Drucker, the design editor, said.

“He was always selling, always exaggerating just a little — which you both knew,” he added. “He truly loved the hunt and the scheming required to get stuff.” (It was Mr. Drucker who, in a House & Garden article, described Mr. Newman as the DeMille of his trade, a moniker Mr. Newman loved, and so it stuck.)

Back to top button