Eric Miller is a web publisher, writer and show promoter.
He is a partner in Stripe Specialty Media and Vintage Promotions, LLC which produces the Dallas Vintage Clothing and Jewelry Show, the Texas Art Collector Show and Sale, Vintage Garage Chicago and other events.
Eric's public relations work has resulted in placements in the Boston Globe, Maine Antiques Digest, Antiques and the Arts, Antique Trader, the New York Post and elsewhere. His articles have appeared in publications including San Francisco Downtown, InPittsburgh and The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
ewmiller's Latest Posts
Another article crossed my screen about the size of apartments people are living in. I’d heard this about San Francisco and knew it about New York, but this article was in the Dallas Morning News. This is middle America! There are thousands of new apartments around Downtown Dallas, and looking in the window of a recently completed building I couldn’t believe just how small it was inside: bed, sofa, kitchen, that’s about it.
There are lots of reasons for this, just as there are many factors weighing on the antiques, vintage and retail industries in general. More single-person households is one. As is an increasing demand for mobility in today’s economy. But one I’ve thought for some time about, but haven’t expressed in long-form is the idea that we are becoming virtual.
No, we’re not going to live in virtualness literally, but greater portions of our lives are becoming virtual. I see it inside houses of young people. There’s often less inclination to decorate. And less space is less to think about. It’s not that our lives are becoming virtual exactly, but the things we spend time on, the things we think about more and more are not things around us, but in this virtual world. We’re looking in a lot more often than out and sometimes it seems we’re only noticing the world when say the air conditioning is on the fritz.
You may have read some of the recent articles about young people delaying getting a drivers license or foregoing driving all together. I have little doubt the reason for this is nothing other than its really hard to be connected while driving. You have to leave the virtual world and enter the real world when you get in a car; that or risk your not very virtual life.
My company recently took on the Grand Rapids Antiques Market and so I picked up (ordered virtually) a real paper book about the furniture industry in Grand Rapids. A lot of the furniture in Grand Rapids was made in the Victorian era when interiors were pretty dense. Add radio, television and then computers and maybe its all just a style preference, but with each design trend change there’s less and less stuff in the house. I personally think it may be more than a coincidence.
Today people may discuss the latest new gadget or app, but then they discussed furniture styles and what should be in the living room. People really sat around and talked about this. If in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest Eva Marie Saint were asked by inspectors today what she had talked about with Cary Grant, the answer wouldn’t be train travel vs. plane travel, it would be “android vs. iphone, that sort of thing.”
And now today I read an article about how it’s increasingly hard to sell stuff based on the traditional advertising model used to sling products since the height of the industrial revolution. The desire to have a thing- mostly virtual things- has to be built in. And this graph seems to sum up this generational shift:
“Boomers want stuff, Millennials want experiences and relationships. Boomers care about owning; Millennials prefer sharing and access, not ownership. Boomers derive status and identity from their job titles and school affiliations; Millennials derive their status and identity from doing meaningful things that help other people, or sharing creations that bring enjoyment to their friends.”
But maybe 500 square foot apartments are coming out of financial necessity, or a desire to be in the most convenient area so one can forego owning a car. Even so, it’s all tied together. But the changing world will continue to impact a desire for stuff. Granted, the number of people in the Millennial age category is huge, and there will still be demand for some stuff, even if its a lot less stuff per person than we saw with the Baby Boomers.
If you think these Millennials will get older and want a big suburban home, I’m not so sure. Unless you think the virtual world is going away and people will begin spending less time in their virtual lives, I’d venture the trend will continue.
Stuff is just not what it used to be. If you want to sell stuff to young people, its going to have to more often than not replace something already there (no more basements and attics to set things aside), add real value to their lives, seem very nice and necessary and fit perfectly into a small space.
Senior Curator of European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, Oliver Meslay told a crowd of docents assembled at the museum Monday that it wasn’t the easiest exhibit to put together, nor the most obvious.
Rather the need for Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy took some convincing. First, it’s difficult to talk about the Kennedy’s in Dallas. The art, put together just a few days before the president’s arrival at the hotel suite, might seem on the surface a mish-mash.
Organizers, who included Ruth Carter Stevenson (then Ruth Carter Johnson), chose art that would appeal to the tastes of the room’s important occupants. The Master Bedroom, which was designated as Jacqueline Kennedy’s bedroom, was adorned with impressionist masterworks, per her well-known affinity for the genre. Other works related to Massachusetts. And the assemblage provides an interesting overview of the work that was in Fort Worth at the time.
The President and Mrs Kennedy arrived late, and likely didn’t notice until morning the art on the walls was anything other than the usual bad paintings found in hotels. It’s then they spotted a pamphlet on the desk which lists works by sixteen artists including Thomas Eakins, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Claude Monet, Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and others. One account says Mrs Kennedy was so pleased she personally phoned Mrs. Johnson and said she would like to spend the day in the room.
Of the pieces in suite 850 at the Hotel Texas, three could not be located for the exhibition. None were refused. One of those is Portrait of the Artist’s Grandaughter by Claude Monet, then in the collection of Mrs. J. Lee Johnson, III. While in the hotel suite, it was set in the Suite Parlor with Angry Owl by Pablo Picasso, then owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ted Weiner.
One Western work, Meeting in a Blizzard by Charles M. Russell was included, then owned by the Amon Carter Museum. Lesser known however is the fact that the hotel suite of Vice President Lyndon Johnson was also decorated, and featured exclusively Western art.
While the hotel is existent (now the Hilton), the suite is gone. That’s nothing to be bothered about, however. The time and place will surely come alive in the exhibition. And as much as the exhibit is less about the history, the fact remains that this contains the components of the last exhibit the President and Mrs Kennedy- who were huge supporters of the arts, saw together.
Meslay ended with a quote from Kennedy.
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth. There is nothing worse for our trade than to be in style. In free society art is not a weapon and it does not belong to the spheres of polemic and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But democratic society–in it, the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation. And the nation which disdains the mission of art invites the fate of Robert Frost’s hired man, the fate of having “nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope.”
Click to hear the remarks: http://www.arts.gov/about/Kennedy.html
The preview party at Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques and Garden Fair is at the top of everyone’s list as far as antique-oriented events in the city. The significant flooding that occurred yesterday could however put a damper on anyone’s plans.
“You might have assumed not many would show up,” says Melissa Sands who covered the show for Urban Art and Antiques. “You would have been wrong.”
The flooding forced patrons to park in a distant lot and take vans to the show. And those vans had a lot of trips to make. Sands says the event was a vibrant affair, and very well-attended.
Often preview parties are places to be seen with not places where a lot of transactions, but Sands says she saw plenty of patrons leaving with shopping bags, and even furniture being carted away. Several dealers confirmed being off to a good start with sales.
Dealers traveled to the show from Europe and beyond, and while the number of international dealers has waned in recent years, promoters say changing circumstances are seeing their return.
As might be expected, a significant portion of merchandise is garden-related, five indoor gardens were created by vendors. The displays seemed in tune with the time, featuring displays that included a lettuce garden and chicken coop.
Sands also says while there are plenty of high-end items, much of what is at the show is accessible and usable.
These events are also about the food, drink and merriment, and the promoters and caterers did not disappoint. Appetizers were plentiful, and carts delivered colorful desserts paired with flavored vodka drinks for an additional wow effect.
“This is one of the best shows there is,” Sands says. “Plus you’re supporting a worthy cause while enjoying an amazing evening of art antiques and gardens.”
The event runs through Sunday. For more information, call the Antiques & Garden Fair Hotline at (847) 835-8326
Nearly 200 people made it to the Witte Museum in San Antonio for the Annual CASETA conference. If you’re not familiar, CASETA stands for the Center for the Advancement and Study of Early Texas Art.
Before you start, there are two things to know about Early Texas Art. First, if you spend time hanging around say Boston, you may not think much of what’s here is “early.” Much of it touches on modernism, abstraction and the like, and it may be from as recent times as the 1970s. CASETA uses the idea of up to 40 years ago in the past.
The second thing you should know is that it’s not locals painting cactus and cowboys. Early Texas Art may have some ties to Texas- and that is what it has in common- but the subjects are diverse as are the artists. They are not one day wondering out of doors and picking up a brush as much as they are well-traveled, professionally trained and exposed to the art world, with emphasis on world.
I was mistaken, however, there is a third thing you need to know. If you have no ties to Texas, it doesn’t matter. Attendees came from at least several states, some far from the Lone Star. Texas Art is collected far and wide, and is increasing in popularity.
One reason for that may be that the economy is booming here and some new residents may have a desire to become connected. But, if comments revealed during a panel discussion are accurate, contemporary artists from Texas who have gained national prominence are instigating interest in their teachers, and teachers teachers and their circles.
These factors about Texas art and artists seem to have held true from the beginning. Hermann Lungkwitz (1813–1891), as one example, was born and trained in Germany. Born in San Antonio Julian Onderdonk went to New York to study with William Merritt Chase. Members of the Fort Worth Circle were certainly looking to Europe.
Sure, there are cows and bluebonnets, just as there would be bridges in New York or smoke stacks in Pittsburgh. But the art is as diverse as the people and landscape. And if you’ve been here, most likely it isn’t quite what you thought it was. The same is probably true for Early Texas Art.
A table at the Old Jail Arts Center in Albany, Texas caught my eye. It’s always nice when museums feature decorative arts, but its especially nice when museums of this size include furniture.
The round inlaid center table with a classical form features prominently our first president. I assumed being in this small town Texas museum the George Washington table could be Texas-made. A docent confirmed it probably was, but there remains a chance we could find out it isn’t.
With that in mind, I found it curious George Washington would be featured on a table made in Texas. Of course Texas is as much a part of America as anywhere else, but if the table was made circa 1876 as the label suggests, it wasn’t so long ago that the Lone Star State was a Republic. It became the Republic of Texas in 1836 and was admitted to the Union in 1845.
Reading a little about Texas history (and admittedly a little can be dangerous), it doesn’t seem the state had the independent spirit like it had today (thinking of the petition for succession that followed Barack Obama’s election). It looks like Texas entered the Union by request.
Then there was the matter of the Civil War. After Confederate defeat, Texas was readmitted to the Union in 1870.
So here just a half dozen years later we arrive at 1876, the United States Centennial. There was a big exhibition in Philadelphia, but I imagine wounds from the hard-fought war would have been pretty deep. The Texas State Capitol, completed in 1888, includes the words “Republic of Texas” ingrained into the floor of the rotunda.
It’s fair to ask just how much reverence there would have been in Texas, circa 1876, for George Washington. With a little history in mind, did someone in Texas create this table with the image of George Washington positioned prominently in the center?
One thing I recall is learning at a furniture forum at Winterthur that much early furniture featuring American eagles was actually made outside of Philadelphia. The eagles were most often placed on the furniture by craftsmen and their customers wanting to show allegiance to the new nation. They are rarely found on Philadelphia pieces.
Perhaps George Washington’s prominence on the table was to show Texas’s allegiance to the U.S. Or they could have just gotten caught up in the Centennial celebrations.
But it doesn’t appear Texas was represented at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, which makes this well-crafted table all the more puzzling. Maybe it’s one skilled craftsman’s wish that the Lone Star State had been there.
There are still more questions than answers here. I look forward to finding out more.
A controversial exhibition of modern American art, assembled to show the world America’s artistic coming of age, was instead deemed un-American by members of the U.S. Congress and President Harry S. Truman. Reassembled by the Jule Collins Smith Museum at Auburn University, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia and the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma as Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy, the exhibit draws from the permanent collections of 10 museums, private collectors and other public institutions. “We are afforded an incredible opportunity to collaborate with other U.S. museums and organizations to reunite this powerful exhibition of American works,” said Ghislain d’Humières, the Wylodean and Bill Saxon Director of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. “Visitors will recognize works from the Fred Jones’ State Department Collection, as well as many other significant paintings from other collections that have made this important exhibition possible.” Represented are works by artists from Romare Bearden to Ben Shahn, Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Loren MacIver, Jacob Lawrence, Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove. Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art served as the premiere venue for the traveling exhibition Sept. 8, 2012, through Jan. 5, 2013. After its display at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art through June 9, the exhibition will travel to the Indiana University Art Museum, in Bloomington, Ind. Sept. 13–Dec. 15, 2013, and the Georgia Museum of Art, in Athens, Ga. Jan. 25–April 30, 2014.
Anton Refregier (U.S., b. Russia, 1905-1979)
End of the Conference, 1945
Oil on canvas, 32 x 15 ½ in.
Purchase, U.S. State Department Collection, 1948
Works of art depicting scenes around Dallas line the walls of the historic Turner House in Oak Cliff. Largely depicting areas on the urban fringe in the late 20th Century, the paintings make up an exhibition titled North Texas Recalled: The Painterly Chronicles of Jack Erwin.
The paintings are a treat. Erwin painted plein-air and executed hundreds of paintings during a decade spanning roughly 1973 to 1983. Curated by Houston gallerist William Reaves, the week-long exhibit provides opportunity to take a fresh look at Texas regionalism that traces its North Texas roots to a group of painters known as the Dallas Nine.
Reaves wasn’t about to drive up from Houston to tell Dallas art fans about the painters their city knows so well, however. Rather he used a Thursday night lecture titled The Regionalist Legacy in Contemporary Texas Art to provide an overview of the characteristics of the art and draw a line forward as the legacy is carried later and today by contemporary artists painting in the realistic style of regional art.
These contemporary Texas regionalists include artists like Jeri Salter who we met previously exhibiting at the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival. Salter, like Erwin, often depicts the man-made environment. Others like Robert Harrison depict the natural world, in this case the well known subject of hill country Bluebonnets.
Bluebonnets may be timeless, but the Texas landscape isn’t. This fact makes the works by artists like Erwin particularly engaging. Still some painterly impressions, like Lemmon Avenue in Dallas, look much the same today. You can likely still identify a view of downtown from what was likely in East Dallas somewhere. Paintings of landscapes and buildings in Addison and Grapevine may be less identifiable.
A lecture on Saturday will give further insight into the life, times and works of Jack Erwin followed by a reception. The exhibit remains on view through February 28.
It occurred to me a while back that perhaps the reason the proliferation of shows on television about antiques have generally coincided with a down market is because of the focus on the price. For them to be appreciated and appreciate, antiques need to be something you want to own, not something you want to sell.
As they should be.
I’ve been wondering for some time whether the tide will turn for some time. Aside from television, many factors are working against it. Boomers are downsizing, meaning the supply is going up and demand going down. Electronic gadgets continue to take up more of our spare time (and so we’re spending more time virtually and less on material objects). More shopping is being done online, which favors new items over old.
But if television can be a style influencer, it could help usher in the return of a more classical, formal style. The big one here is PBS’s Downton Abbey. No, the average person can’t live in a big manor, but formal furnishings are readily available for prices comparable to new items of similar quality. A second show, Netflix’ House of Cards, features American period furnishings like those in Washington buildings. As the economy rebounds, national pride could be on the rise, and so an interest in historical furnishings could increase.
There is some indication this is already happening. Browsing through my email yesterday I opened an email from the online retailer Gilt. A phrase in the subject caught my attention: American Federal Style. These were for the most part not antiques, but new furniture and other items made in styles from the 18th and early 19th century. Included were a three section over-mantle mirror, a high boy, a print of George Washington, plus lots of crystal and silver. Oddly original items offered include period newspapers.
It may be disconcerting if the manufacturers beat the antiques industry to the punch. But wanting the look may be the entry drug into wanting the real thing.
In some sense its nice when the lot you picked out of an auction turns out to be the top lot. That’s from an observer’s point only, however. Had I been bidding on the sterling silver two-handled presentation bowl with an inscription to Maestro Arturo Toscanini, I wouldn’t have been so excited to see the price climb out of the $4,000-$6,000 estimate range to reach $28,125 (including buyer’s premium).
That’s what the 1921 bowl brought at Doyle in New York today, however. More than 80 lots of property from the Collection of Arturo Toscanini met the hammer after being consigned by the the Estate of his Grandson, Walfredo Toscanini (the Maestro died in 1957).
Auction totals brought just under $200,000 against an estimate of $94,480-149,670.
Born in Parma, Italy, Toscanini was one of the world’s most prominent conductors of the 20th century. During his lifetime, he was music director at Milan’s La Scala, New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, and finally, the first music director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Generations of Americans were introduced to classical music through his radio and television broadcasts and numerous recordings.
Whiting Sterling Silver Two-Handled Presentation Bowl Bearing inscription to Maestro Arturo Toscanini, 1921. Height 13 1/2 inches (34.3 cm), width 20 1/2 inches (52.1 cm), approximately 136 ounces. Doyle Auctions.