Maybe it happened to be a cold day, the armory antiques show did not see a huge crowd on Sunday. Geo and I did not go to the Winter Antiques Show which is more or less a museum exhibition with price tags to us. But the armory show itself was top notch. Dealers are friendly and knowledgable. Styles and materials vary greatly that one should be able to at least find something interesting.
Americana, in particular primitive and folk art, was well represented in the show. A few years ago, we saw a weather vane sold for more than 40,000 dollars in an auction. Today almost every Americana antique dealer displayed one or more weather vane in their booths. The number of them is so great that raised the suspicion of my friend, who has been a long-time dealer and collector.
It is reasonable to assume that under such economic circumstances buyers are more cautious to buy things that hold value more in aesthetic than functioning. However, it is probably a good time to invest . Dealers still offer objects, no less impressive than before. (One of the fine art dealers from Brooklyn features a portrait painting by William Merrit Chase.) Dave Smernoff, from New Haven CT, offers an impressive landscape painting by George Inness Jr. Although more or less regarded as a tonalism painter with specialty in figures and animals, in this sunset painting, even though the overall tone is in the vein of barbizon school, his use of dashed broken color in bold prime red paint without any tint or shade shows his departure from the influence of his father.
Another dealers showed a few painting by other tonalism painters such as J. Francis Murphy, Bruce Crane, Alexander Wyant and Dodge Martin. It would be interesting to pair the painting by Alexander Wyant with that of George Inness Jr. Both depict sunset in forests. But the yearning of expressiveness and personal intuition and illusion has advanced greatly from the first generation of the Barbizon painters such as Wyant or Inness to the second generation such as Charles Warren Eaton and Inness Jr. who happened to be neighbors at one time.
The real startling object found in the show came from a dealer Thurston Nicholes from Breinigsville, PA. A painted chest, both dated (1798) and signed, was marked at 285,000 dollars. Painted Pennsylvania furniture has seen the rise of its market for the past few years. Just not too long again, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art exhibited similar furniture from a place called Soap Hollow. The chest, wonderfully painted, did attract a lot of visitors, probably all wondering why it commands such a price. It may have significant cultural heritage meaning or may even relates to some German descendants, however I cannot imagine taking it home and placing a TV on it.
“Are you taking pictures for buying it?” He half-joked when I asked permission to take some pictures. Then he casually open the chest. There besides a bag and some folders, there laid a sweater. “Too bad, with a price tag of an apartment, I cannot live in it.” I said to myself.