The Class of 1960 lost a very special classmate on April 25th 2023 when Niall Smith passed away in New York. Whenever Niall would visit Ireland, he met up with classmates and friends – particularly Jim & Margaret Flannery and Niall Doris.
The New York Times Obituary states that:
“…Niall immigrated to America in the late 1960s and established himself as a renowned antiques dealer on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. In early days, when times were tough, he referred to the shop as, “Bleak House.”
Such was his wit and self-effacing charm. Niall introduced Biedermeier furniture to an American market and his singular style was remarkable. His personal loft in Chelsea, a temple to Neoclassicism and The Grand Tour, was often published and a setting in which he loved to entertain.
A spirited raconteur possessed of an antic charm, Niall will be missed by a large group of friends for his irascible nature, generosity and conversation.”
The Irish Times featured his retirement from his Antiques Shop in a feature article in April 2021.
“At the age of 84, veteran New York-based antiques dealer Niall Smith is finally calling it a day at his showroom in Greenwich Village. After more than 50 years in the business, the contents of his treasure trove will be auctioned by the Stair Galleries of New York on May 6th.
The Kanturk man, who was described by Ralph Lauren as “displaying a dazzling array of 19th-century neoclassical furniture … in his small jewel-box shop”, was initially destined for a very different life.
After a degree from Shannon College of Hotel Management, he set off for the bright lights of the United States, only to discover that his accreditation wasn’t recognised.
“They thought I was a culchie, but I was young with my whole life ahead of me, so I went to California for two years but then thought ‘I cannot live on my wits’,” says the affable octogenarian.
A love of art and antiques was instilled in him from an early age, stemming from “travelling to every auction in the south of Ireland with my parents”. It was most certainly in the blood – his sister, the late Satch Kiely, was a well-known dealer in the west of Ireland.
Smith credits his mother, Birdie, gifting him his inheritance as the nascence of his success. On a subsequent trip to London, he returned with a container full of British and continental furniture, and that was the beginning of his glittering career.
‘I found this tiny little shop on Bleecker Street where I’d give the windows a theme – and then everyone came in.’
His vignettes paid off; numerous designers and collectors, featured in a plethora of publications, credited his taste and his shop became hallowed ground for professionals and amateur enthusiasts alike.”
The full article is available >> here.
Antiques and The Arts Weekly have also published a very personal Obituary for Niall – that is available >> here
Niall’s ashes will be buried in Ireland where he is survived by an extended family of nieces and nephews. A Memorial Mass in his name will take place on Monday, May 8th at 10:30am at St. Francis of Assisi, 135 West 31st Street, NYC.
Donations in his memory may be made to The Irish Georgian Society, 1953 North Clybourn Avenue, Suite R286, Chicago, IL 60614 or to God’s Love We Deliver, NYC.
May Niall rest in peace.