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The Chicago International Art, Antique & Jewelry Show

Danielle Arnet | April 24th, 2014


Macklowe Gallery, New York City, brought the Majorelle chairs, priced at $35,000 the pair. The triangular table, also Majorelle, is $19,500, and the Tiffany Studios Dragonfly lamp with a blown glass base is $235,000.


Rainbow Bridge, acrylic and resin on 20" x 20" canvas modules, by Dutch artist Jacqueline Bozon (b. 1966), was from the Villa del Arte Galleries, Barcelona. Modules sell as groupings of either six or nine for $28,500 a cluster.


Tom Veilleux of Portland, Maine, and assistant Kate Kelley enjoy a brief respite. The Bather is a 32" high mahogany torso, circa 1925, by Robert Laurent (1890-1970), tagged $285,000. On the left wall but out of view is The Porch, a watercolor by Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009), pricedat $750,000. Behind the bust is Woman with Flower Pot by Max Weber (1881-1961) for $125,000.


Onessimo Fine Art, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, brought Buddha Moon, a $5000 cast glass sculpture by Susan Gott. The oil on linen Macadamia Bridge by Alan Wolton measures 60" x 50" and is $45,000. Blown glass pieces by Massimiliano Schiavon (b. 1971), here lit from the inside, are $6800 each.


The show featured settings by ASID Illinois designers. Here Nancy Mayerfield of NM Design House (with Norah Meadows) enjoys coffee in her creation.


As we stood admiring the twisty $28,000 stainless Gino Miles sculpture, Quest 2013, in the space of the Long-Sharp Gallery, Indianapolis, the couple shown standing before the Mirós rushed past us. She gasped, “Isn’t that fabulous?” His reply, “You want it?” If she does, the circa 1972 Miró litho on vellum called Bronzes she’s admiring is $6800. The Miles tall sculptures to the right called Stili are $28,000 for one or $50,000 the pair.


Asked to show us something grand and rare, Rob Samuels, founder and CEO of Provident Jewelry and VP of the Palm Beach Show Group, offered the $245,000 signed and numbered Cartier necklace. Circa 1970, with 25 carats of diamonds plus some 50 carats of cabochon emeralds, the beauty bears a French hallmark. Period signed jewelry of this quality, said Samuels, is exceedingly rare.


Palm Beach Show Group shows are noted for a specific look. Here in a seating/eating nook, the show’s signature look is on display—lavish floral-filled urns, abundant greenery, and stylish furnishings. Note the Lucite furniture—a pop of style in a functional setting.

Chicago, Illinois

Let the annals of collecting read thus: The era of shopping for antiques as theater began in Chicago on Thursday, April 24, at 6 p.m. when the new Chicago International Art, Antique & Jewelry Show launched by the Palm Beach Show Group (PBSG) opened at the Navy Pier.

At that point Chicago joined Palm Beach, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Naples, Florida, as target markets for the ambitious, expanding, and focused PBSG. Founded only 11 years ago, it has management that is young (CEO/president Scott Diament is 43) and brand savvy.

“We had a game plan,” director of communications Laurie Green told us. From the beginning, the stated goal was to mount major events in the style of Art Basel, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), Maastricht, and the International Art & Antiques Fair shows.

“We like to reflect that feeling and energy,” said Green. “We are not your grandma’s antique show.” By the way, she’s 31 years old.

To that end, PBSG built on a checklist of must-haves, including a champagne opening for each event, lush florals repeated throughout the show (a corporate guru oversees local florists), spacious booth spaces (depending on the seller), and 10' high booth walls of European felt. Add brilliant white carpeting; over 100,000 square feet was cut just for this hall.

Throw in a powerhouse publicity machine plus local publicists to back the corporate layer. At the Chicago show, PBSG corporate operated from a small office behind the scenes.

Show components are for the most part portable and interchangeable, designed to travel and be reassembled.

The end result as seen in Chicago is bright and glitzy. The show fit beautifully into Navy Pier’s immense 170,100-square-foot Festival Hall, a space so daunting that it can—and has—swallowed past antiques shows.

Using just under 100,000 square feet of available space, the show established a festive mood, starting with a flowery entry off a spacious and decorated sunlit hall.

From box office to exit, some 12,000 viewers (some with complimentary tickets from sellers) were made to feel special and that their $20 ticket bought access to a different, more elevated kind of show—that we were there to see finer, better goods than we could find elsewhere.

Subdued lighting, pinpointed with halogen beams and light bounce back, created a glamorous world of glitz. Wide aisles conveyed luxe, enhanced by white plush underfoot.

One hundred sellers participated, including several that were regulars at the annual Merchandise Mart International Antiques Fair, a Chicago show suspended for 2014. PBSG tried to buy that show in 2013, but Mart management was not interested. In what has to go down as a classically inept PR bungle, Palm Beach muscled into the exact dates already announced for the 2014 Mart show. And PBSG announced its intentions a week before the 2013 Mart show opened.

According to Green, one-third of the Navy Pier sellers were new to the PBSG roster. “They tell us they were happy with the show,” she added.

Chicago seller Michael Bock of Classic Antiques, a regular at Mart shows, agreed. “There’s a large, open feeling here,” he said. “It’s more open.” Perhaps soaring overhead spaces are one major reason.

“We’re seeing a new crowd,” he continued. “It’s a younger crowd.” And he was pleased with sales, especially on preview night.

Tom Veilleux of Portland, Maine, brought art related to works in the Art Institute of Chicago. It paid off. At preview, a visitor admired a circa 1910 Marguerite Zorach painting priced at $70,000 and returned later to buy it.

When mounting an upscale event, especially a new show such as this, a promoter needs to land an upscale philanthropy. PBSG hit it smart, adopting the Women’s Board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, former beneficiary of the Mart’s preview. According to Green, the Women’s Board approached Palm Beach.

Another tie-in was with the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). A designer showcase featured a few rooms by area members.

More than 2000 guests attended the champagne opening on Thursday evening, and over $250,000 was raised for the renowned Rehabilitation Institute.

On Sunday, we observed a young woman with husband and teenagers in tow return to Provident Jewelry, West Palm Beach, Florida, to get serious about a pair of large diamond hoop earrings she’d first seen at preview.

Coming to Chicago, PBSG “had a game plan,” said Green. “This is a different area, different market.”

Post-show, she observed that “The Chicago market is conservative, more conscious of price, not as quick to commit. Many came back two to three times before they bought.”

In that way, she added, Chicago buyers are similar to buyers at the Naples, Florida, shows. We then pointed out that many midwesterners retire to the Naples area. Mystery solved.

East Coast buyers seem to be aligned more with Palm Beach buyers, she added.

Basing the show on art, antiques, and jewelry ensured that differing tastes were included.

To us, the crowd was indeed younger and certainly more hip than at most shows. It was clearly a group comfortable with shopping as an experience. On Sunday afternoon, we noted a surprising number of families with very young children.

We didn’t witness any sales, but dealers reported good results, big ones. This is not a show with bargain prices. Parking at the Navy Pier is always problematic; it is a heavy traffic area, and underground parking adjacent to Festival Hall fills up rapidly. It is also expensive, and that tends to put off suburban buyers.

We asked where PBSG advertised the upcoming show because we didn’t see anything in our demographic. Told that it was marketed and promoted in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, in at least seven glossy art world publications, and the Chicago Tribune (honestly, we didn’t see it), and in Chicago gallery publications, we got the picture.

Now we can add Chicago and the Midwest to a growing stratification of antiques. PBSG was on the ball to see an opportunity and jump on it. There’s room for everyone at the table.

I cannot think of another show where one can experience an entry flanked by a stunning pair of immense circa 1970 Rolls Royce titanium turbines, 87" in diameter and $95,000 (offered by Hatchwell Antiques, London).

For more information, check the Web site (www.chicagospringshow.com).


Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2014 Maine Antique Digest

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