This was a good year to visit Philadelphia Antiques Week as there was some renewed energy in the air. I should not say was yet, because Freeman’s auction is going on now and the Philadelphia Antiques Show is still in progress.
The first stop was the 23rd Street Armory Antiques Show. With its usual charm, the show leans towards the folk and Americana end, but there is a variety in the displays, including Chinese wooden objects and fine prints.
The show opens a day before the Philadelphia Antiques Show, and has traditionally been visited then by dealers from the other show. Several 23rd Street dealers mentioned the Friday attendance was lighter than usual this year, and no one could quite put their finger on why. Dealers seemed to be selling, however and in the end it doesn’t matter as much how many come, but rather if they are in a buying mood. It was a crowded week in Philadelphia and it was hard to get a hotel room. Folks were in town for a math convention, the Penn Relay and other events in addition to Antiques Week. Given the fact dealers at this show say it’s not Philadelphians who patronize the show, but rather visitors, and one can imagine how the traveling difficulties may have come into play.
The Philadelphia Antiques Show was in a welcome new location at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The facility was beautiful, and some additional changes in the type and age of merchandise gave the show new energy. The dealers displaying wares from more recent times seemed to be selling quite well. Designer booths in the rear of the facility provided examples of how to mix antiques with modern decor. I do wonder where it will lead if the outcome would be if the new dealers in the end mirror the larger market and stronger sales than the staple dealers. How much long-standing shows can change is going to be a question for some time.
I also want to make a comment here on something else I heard while in Philly. The population of the Center City has increased “dramatically” in the words of one local. It is my opinion that current stylistic preferences and the economy have less of an impact on the industry than demographics and the real estate market. On factor playing into that is where people are choosing to live and how big their homes are. With lots of “downsizing” going on and both Boomers and younger generations opting for smaller homes, chances are continuing into the the space for antiques at home will continue to be tight.
That of course allows space for the best, but not the rest. With less room, that may be true in a spectrum of market segments, not just the well-heeled. It also favors smalls. I think you see this in what is displayed at the shows in Philadelphia. Yet it isn’t specific to Philadelphia or the shows there. I wish I had the time and energy to chart out the furniture sales at Freeman’s based on size and hammer price.
We’ll be posting in the coming days on some of the art and antiques at the show.