Arcadia Fine Arts, New York City, offered Paul Rousso’s super-size money. Five Grand from NY (bottom), 50" x 75" x 7", was $16,900. (The $1000 bill was $15,900.) Rousso makes wall pieces and free-standing sculpture of large sheets of acrylic, on which he transfers high-resolution prints of paper money from the 1930’s (no longer circulated). He then heats the acrylic with a blowtorch to soften it and crumples it for wall pieces or folds it for standing sculpture. Gallery owner Steven Diamant said, “Warhol did a series of money paintings in the sixties. Rousso’s money series is sculpture. Inflating its size and rumpling it makes money seem useless.” It seemed an apt image for an antiques show to encourage people to spend money on art and antiques of lasting value. Diamant said the gallery has sold 60 of Rousso’s works in the last year and a half.
These slices of a 14th-century water pipe once carried water from hot springs, which contained carbonate and aragonite that created rings of crystal. Found in the Czech Republic, sliced and polished and fitted with metal stands, the large ones were $1800, and the medium ones were $1500 from Gallery of Amazing Things, Dania Beach, Florida.
This 15th-century Book of Hours was $3500 from Sonny Ideker, Bookseller, Atlanta, Georgia.
Staffordshire lions with lambs commemorate Isaac van Amburgh’s trained wild animal stage show, which ended with a lion lying down with a lamb. “It was Queen Victoria’s favorite performance, and she attended multiple times,” said Elinor Penna of Old Westbury, New York, who specializes in Staffordshire. She asked $5750 for the pair.
This Gaudy Dutch grape pattern saucer was $110 from Fred Heintz of Darien, Connecticut, a generalist whose stand was always crowded.
Dean Borghi Fine Art, New York City, asked $195,000 for Suspension Bridge by Ralston Crawford. The two drawings by Crawford (middle left and right of the painting) were $25,000. The four untitled drawings by Frank Kline (top and bottom each side) were $65,000 each.
Heller Washam Antiques, Portland, Maine, asked $28,000 for the pair of portraits by Ammi Phillips of a New York state couple in untouched condition. The sideboard, Mid-Atlantic States, was $12,500; the brasses are original, and it’s a nice small size (under 6'). The inlaid knife boxes were $6800. The New York state kas was $28,000. Above it, a pair of English or Continental portraits, circa 1810, was $13,800. The tilt-top tea table, an idiosyncratic one from Connecticut with a wood spring lock and a 42" top, was $4800. The pair of paktong candlesticks on the sideboard was $7000, and the large mocha bowl was $14,500. Don Heller said he did business, but not as much as last year, and found little to buy.
This 10" x 14" oil on board by George Luks (1867-1833), Central Park, was $57,000 from David David Gallery, Philadelphia.
This circa 1880 Bakshaish carpet, 11' x 14½', with a deep blue central field was $75,000 from Shaia Oriental Rugs, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The Baltimore show is the place to buy expensive handbags. This is a porosus crocodile Birkin bag by Hermès, 35 cm. It was $63,000 from Only Authentics, New York City and the most expensive bag on the stand. The 35 cm size is the most common size for a Birkin bag, most of which are $11,000 or $12,000 depending on the leathers. The rare saltwater crocodile leather makes this one especially expensive. A smaller size (28 cm) Birkin, called the Swift, was selling briskly at $8000 to $9000.
This 1915 advertisement for Levi coveralls was $795 from Your Piece of History, Tucson, Arizona, and Alexandria, Virginia.
“The day of the charity antiques show is over. Show business is big business today,” said Scott Diament, president, CEO, and managing partner in the Palm Beach Show Group (PBSG) at the 33rd annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, held August 22-25.
The Baltimore show is the largest of the seven big shows on the PBSG roster, which includes shows in Dallas, two in Los Angeles at the same time, Naples, Palm Beach, and a new show in Chicago. “We spend a fortune on advertising in Town and Country, USA Today, local papers, trade papers and magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. That’s the way we get retail people to our shows,” said Diament. “Charity shows can’t afford the media that brings in the crowds. We do Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and we have our own app for each show available free from the app store powered by Collectrium. Log on and find a list of most of the dealers. Half of them post images of four to a dozen pieces at the show.”
The app is a useful tool during the show in plotting a route. After the show, it is a direct link with an exhibitor’s Web site, where you can get an address, map, e-mail, and phone number for follow-up business. Not every one of the 560 dealers who reportedly has stands or shared stands took advantage of the app. Some opted for anonymity. Many said they would do it next year. Some also took advantage of the PBSG photo studio available at the show for instant postings; others said they could not leave their booth long enough to take objects over for photography.
Diament pointed out that PBSG also offers Collectors.net, a Web site for dealer-to-dealer and dealer-to-collector business year round. That’s where 1200 active dealers pay $700 a year to post their stock with as many as 175 postings with no added fees. “It’s a fraction of the cost of other sites,” Scott Diament went on. Apparently he is not concerned about competition from InCollect (www.incollect.com), a new site to be launched this fall in partnership with Antiques & Fine Art magazine with the aim of “bringing together buyers, sellers, and enthusiasts of fine art and period design.” Diament sold them an ad on the back cover of the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show catalog, which is printed by John Smiroldo, founder and publisher of Antiques & Fine Art and principal of Pure Imaging, the company that printed the Baltimore catalog. Diament calls Smiroldo a media partner because he publicized all the PBSG shows.
A hands-on promoter, Diament is on the show floor all the time, interacting with dealers, meeting collectors, and shopping. His partner Rob Samuels, vice president of PBSG and a jewelry dealer with a stand at the show, said his current project is building a hotel in Palm Beach, where dealers and shoppers can stay during the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antiques Show, PBSG’s flagship show, held Presidents’ Day weekend, when it opens in 2015.
All the shows by PBSG are managed by Dale Chlumsky, who works with the crews, contractors, and unions through setup and pack out, making sure it all works smoothly. “My mom ran the old Naples show; I grew up in this business,” he said.
Diament’s big promotion for the Baltimore show this year was Art Baltimore 2013. “I upped the quality and the amount of art at the show. I got several New York galleries and some art dealers who do Palm Beach to show here for the first time, and we placed stories about art at the show in the local media, telling young people to come and buy art and jewelry, not mentioning the word antiques,” said Diament just before the show opened. “When they get here, they will see a lot of antiques on the other stands, and I hope they will fall in love with them and become collectors. When they are exposed to antiques, they will discover collecting is a lot of fun. I did that. I had never bought an antique when we formed our group in 2001; now I’m forty-three and a committed collector of many things.”
So how did the Baltimore show do? Pretty well. The gate was up on opening day, about 1000 over a year ago, and the crowds came all weekend, except during the ball games when parking was tough. Laurie Green, the press officer, reported that 35,000 attended, and it was a diverse crowd. The ambience of the show is upscale—with a wide center aisle, white carpet, park benches, and flowers. The pipe and drape stands and the book dealers are in the back or off to one side. They are vestiges of the flea market origins of this show along with stands with names such as “Search Ends Here,” “Antique Jungle,” and “Just Bookends.” The flea market gene is still in this show; it remains a non-vetted treasure hunt.
“I’ve bought some incredible things at this show, but so far I made only three minor purchases,” said Americana dealer Rex Stark of Gardner, Massachusetts, three hours into the show. There was not much Americana this year. Jeffrey Tillou of Litchfield, Connecticut, Don Heller of Heller Washam, Portland, Maine, and Ed Weissman of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, were the only dealers with significant amounts of 18th-century American furniture not highly refinished. An occasional piece of American furniture turned up on stands that had mainly ceramics and paintings. For example, Malcolm Magruder of Millwood, Virginia, had a New York County painted kas. The Norwoods’ Spirit of America, Timonium, Maryland, brought American folk art. John Orban of Cadiz, Ohio, sold a large Philadelphia sideboard by Daniel Pabst to Scott Diament; the Post Road Gallery, Larchmont, New York, offered a pair of Herter chairs. Spencer Marks, Southampton, Massachusetts, had an impressive selection of fine American silver, most of it made in the 19th and early 20th century.
Conrad deRosa of Morongo Valley, California, offered some first-rate mixed-metal Tiffany silver and sold three major pieces. Tucked in with European porcelain and bronzes at the back of the show, three pieces of Tiffany were discovered by private collectors. “I sold the best of the best,” deRosa said. “A Tiffany mixed-metals tea set with a fish motif, the only Tiffany mixed-metal tea set with a kettle on stand, was bought by a collector from Massachusetts. She had gone through the show for two days thinking about it and came back to buy it just as another client came in to make up his mind between two vases—one a two-handled vase with mokume panels, a combination of gold and copper and silver, and the other a Greek warriors vase. He couldn’t make up his mind, so he bought both. That was a quarter of million dollars worth of business,” said deRosa.
Tiffany lamps and Tiffany metalwork were found on several stands. Glass of every description was there—Irish decanters, Murano vases, Peking glass, snuff bottles, and bowls.
There was plenty of art at the show—paintings, drawings, prints and maps, photography, and sculpture from all eras and countries. There were some 19th-century American paintings and plenty of 20th-century American works by big names and many by those whose names are not yet household words.
There was an abundance of jewelry—the real stuff. Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, and Boucheron are hot. Much of it is old, and some is new, and prices were roughly half retail. There was some stunning costume jewelry, lots of it Bakelite.
French and Austrian applied art at the stands of New York dealers James Infante and Jason Jacques was first rate. They are among the dealers with a following whose customers come to Baltimore to see them. There were some amazing contemporary ceramics by artists working in America and Japan. Georg Jensen goods could be found at The Silver Fund and at Drucker, but the Danish dealers with Jensen designs did not return. Silver dealer Gary Niederkorn from Philadelphia said he sold Modernist and Mexican silver.
There was less silver at the show this year. Several of the U.K. dealers did not return, although others did. “Your parents’ generation came to England and bought silver; your children who inherited it are selling it; and I am buying it, taking it back to London where Americans will come and buy it and bring it back here,” said an English dealer walking down an aisle with a piece of silver in each hand. “This is a great buying show for me; that’s what I like to do best,” he said and then asked for anonymity.
A contingent arrives from Europe every year; some take stands and others just shop. A lot of different languages were overheard.
You may not be able to furnish an entire house at this show, but you could make a good start. The English furniture dealers from the U.K. were not there this year, but the American dealers with English furniture sold well. Roger D. Winter from Solebury, Pennsylvania, had a double booth with two dining tables and two sets of chairs and lots of cupboards and more. He said he sold a long set of Georgian chairs, a hexagonal table, a desk and bookcase, and more. Zane Moss, New York City, offered a full range of mostly English Regency chests and library tables on his large stand and moved a lot of furniture. “The housing market is turning around, so people need furniture and find Georgian furniture well made and well priced,” said Winter, “I’ve had my best year in five years.”
There was an entire stand of French furniture. There were two stands jammed with 20th-century chairs and tables, and dealers with a broad range of antiques had a few pieces of furniture, some with red “sold” tickets early in the show. There were good rugs—runners and room size—and there were textiles and needlework offered as wall art. There were bronzes, European and some American and many Asian, including some ancient Chinese and some 19th-century Japanese works of extraordinarily fine craftsmanship. Ceramics of all sorts were everywhere, and there were enamels (Russian and Japanese), many of them old and some new.
Some major dealers in Asian arts come to this show every year: Orientations Gallery with Japanese enamels; Santos, London; Imperial Oriental Art, New York City, with Chinese export porcelain; Asiantiques with a range of top-of-the-line ceramics, glass, and paintings; and TK Asian Antiquities offering Korean gold, life-size Chinese figures, and scrolls. A handful of dealers from China take small stands, put a few things in a showcase, and are constantly meeting with other Chinese dealers who bring them things to buy; others bring ancient jade and ritual bronzes. Some speak English; others do not.
Dealers love this show. They shop during the two-day setup and continue shopping during the four-day show. Dealers who do not take stands make up a big part of the gate. Jim Alterman of Lambertville, New Jersey, who also has a shop in Palm Beach, bought four entire stands. It seems like an efficient way to stock without sitting through endless auctions or buying privately one piece at a time.
The Baltimore summer show jumpstarts the fall season. It is held the week before Labor Day, when evenings are cool and the summer is nearly over, and people seem to be in the mood to shop. Art dealers said they made good contacts and expect call-back business. Furniture dealers sold more than in the last few years. Business was done in every category, and as usual some sold better than others. “I sold a dozen pieces of furniture,” said Rob Stevens of Stevens Antiques, Frazer, Pennsylvania. “Best of all I came home with more than I brought. I bought during setup, and I bought more on Sunday. That’s what I call a winner.”
If this show is a bellwether, it bodes well for the year ahead. Passionate people are still collecting; they seemed focused and informed and were looking for a good deal and found it in a recovering market that had new energy.
For more information, contact PBSG at (www.palmbeachshow.com).
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest