No More Boundaries: New York’s Latest “Antiques” Show Refuses to be Boxed In

Could a Focus on Design be a White Cow in the Room?

Following a decision by the Philadelphia Antiques Show to allow items in the show created as recently as 1970, comes a press release from New York’s Metro Show about a new mantra for collectors and designers: no more boundaries.

According to the release “collectors, design aficionados, and art-insiders will be treated to an astonishing array of fine and decorative treasures dating from the pre-Columbian era through the twentieth century.” The Metro Show fills a space this year following the loss of The American Antiques Show, which concentrated on American Folk Art.

“The term ‘modern’ apparently originated in the late 16th century,” Leigh Keno says in the press release. “Even in the early 17th century, a room filled with ‘modern’ furniture or accoutrements very often had ‘antiquities’ mixed in, whether collected or inherited. It’s no different today. A room filled with fine and decorative arts from the same period is seen in some museums with ‘period rooms,’ but almost never in the home.”

That’s all true. Still, its my opinion we are treading a fine line here. There was also a time when department stores sold antiques. They were in a special “box” or department, however. But now it seems we’re not only thinking outside the box, there is no box. The boxes have been in place for dozens of years range from “American Folk Art,” and whatever might fit into that category and “Antiques,” and whatever legitimately fits into that category, ie more than 100 years old, of considerable quality, and in some cases items that were hand-crafted.

In relation to the Philadelphia Antiques Show, it was explained to me that many dealers had newer items by artisans they couldn’t bring to the show. Picture for a moment the work of furniture-maker George Nakashima. On some level it does make sense to bring these hand-crafted works of considerable quality into the shows. Especially since in today’s market, they may have increased chances of not going back into the box truck.

But while a 17th Century room might have had a mix of modern and antique pieces, I wonder if a one-stop shop for everything in the home is the answer to the current woes. Sure, you can replace the box built to hold antiques with one limiting the assemblage to things only of similar quality, but quality is more subjective than antique and that’s a slippery slope.

Compared to the Philadelphia Antiques Show, the Metro Show doesn’t have a box built into its name. “Metro” has the connotation of being big and broad. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with having a high-end decorator show, putting antiques into a department store or even bringing them into a home show environment. Yet I think a major issue facing the industry today is a consumer not able to differentiate the antique from something perhaps at Restoration Hardware. Eliminating these boundaries on some level means further blurring distinctions and thus potentially compounding the problem.

More information on Americana Week Antiques, Art and Design shows in New York is available at www.AmericanaWeek.com

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is ericmiller.me

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