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.
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
Presented by The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, curators say a new exhibit called Painters and Paintings in the Early American South is the first exhibition of its kind that explores the scope of this region of early American art while bringing new vitality, excitement and scholarship to the forefront. “Nothing like this has been done before,” says Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger Curator, ”having all these wonderful examples in one place at the same time.
“Most importantly, the exhibition will illustrate the myriad connections between art centers of the early South, New England, the Middle Atlantic and Europe.”
Included more than 80 portraits, landscapes, seascapes and other artworks pertinent to the Atlantic coast states from Maryland southward and the upper coast of the Gulf of Mexico. All were created in or for the South between 1735 and 1800. Participating institutions include The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Charleston Museum, The Corcoran Gallery of Art,The Dallas Museum of Art, The Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum and others.
A second and similar exhibition featuring works dating prior to 1735 is planned for a 2015 opening in Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.
About three years ago, I attended my first antiques show after moving to Texas — the Dolly Johnson Show. Although the show had gone more mid-century and industrial than in previous years, the show stopper then was the Susanna Fuller White trunk, from the Mayflower. Americana was still the heart and soul of the show.
The current owner, Jan Orr-Harter, had the vision of broadening the scope and appeal when she bought the show from JJ Frambes in 2009. Only three years into the show, she has successfully transformed the show into an eclectic market that goes beyond antiques and art. That is prominently reflected by the change in the show’s name: Fort Worth Show of Antiques and Art. Its website is even simpler: FortWorthShow.com.
Broadening the scope and appeal has been a trend among antiques shows. The Philadelphia Antiques Show has adopted a more flexible standard by setting different time windows for different types of objects. For artwork, modernism is welcome as long as the artist is deceased. The Metro Show, which replaced the former American Antiques Show two years ago, took a totally different turn by dropping off its pursuit of patina to incorporate a wider range of objects- the name itself doesn’t convey “antique” at all.
To some extent, the current Fort Worth Show has some characteristics of its predecessor – a penchant for folk art and country craftsmanship. Yet through mixing objects of anti-urbane, un-common or untamed by unconventional training, it has achieved an eccentric sophistication that may shock some long-time patrons but can excite a younger crowd. When we were there on Friday afternoon, the traffic was steady.
This year Ken Weber of Vintage Martini, a clothing retailer, participated in the show for the first time. Together with another first timer, Adrienne Astrologo of Ladybag International from Philadelphia, they represent a desired demographic shift from the show promoter. Risking being called a sexiest, I would argue more or less that men collect, women shop. Collecting American furniture or art is methodological and fastidious. You would trust the voice of Wendell Garrett or the hand-touch of Leigh Keno. Shopping vintage on the other hand is fun, impromptu, and spontaneous. In that case, you would be happy to tag along with Martha Stewart, who visited the Brooklyn Flea a few years ago.
Of course clothing, jewelry and accessories can be collectible but first and foremost on the consumers mind is whether it fits and looks good.
Thus it is the emphasis on the shopping experience (mostly targeted to a female audience) that these vendors would contribute. Given the long history of the Dolly Johnson Show, a more complete transformation, if there is to be one, may not happen this year or next. But the equilibrium will be matched once more vintage dealers settle in.
Yet, even within the spacious Will Rogers Memorial Center, the show is not as big as those super markets such as Scott Market, Brimfield or Marburger. The great advantage of “there is something for everyone” also means that, after dividing the limited space by the extraordinary range of selection, a die-hard collector could find fewer items of interest. Variety vs. homogeneity has always been a conundrum for show promoters. The smaller the show (and while not the largest in the region, this one is on the large side), the bigger the problem.
Dealers have taken the cue themselves in anticipating the shifting interests of patrons. Gordon Harrison of Harrison Gallery, who also exhibited at the Heart of the Country show in Nashville, seemed to bring more affordable art here with modern and regionalism-looking works. They offer unique decorative value without depleting one’s wallet.
In contrast Jane Christian of Art, brought paintings of Dallas Nine and Fort Worth Circle. Otis Dozier’s work has been recently sold at David Dike Auction for more than $30,000. Although not everyone can afford a large painting by Dozier, the presence of paintings with local interest helps educate Martha Stewart followers who may just browse between vintage Coke signs or Fort Worth hotel memorabilia, and perhaps ignite their interest for, in the words of Amon Carter who founded the museum not far away from the show, higher attributes of life.
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.
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.
The caliber of items offered at the Tower Antiques Show in Fair Park, Dallas seems to have improved over the last visit. Not that it was ever disappointing but for some reason there were more items of interest to engage with this time. The show seemed full, with a steady crowd observed on Saturday and reports of an enthusiastic crowd having made purchases on Friday.
The show has a wide-variety of merchandise offered by dealers mostly from Texas, but also Alabama, Illinois, Florida and elsewhere. Most are offering traditional antiques, jewelry and art with the new look containing “found items” is creeping in.
One dealer in this category is John Whittemore, a recently repatriated Texan, back from New York.
Whittemore made a bold statement with the front part of a mid-century truck greeting visitors to his booth. This kind of funky, rustic Americana (known well by viewers of American Pickers) makes up a larger portion of shows like Fort Worth’s Metro Show (formerly Dolly Johnson), as well as stores in hip areas of Austin, Dallas and elsewhere.
While it’s great to see this new style of merchandise in a show, I would be disappointed if every booth adopted this look.
Americana with a southern or Texas flavor, was popular in the show. Sandra Worrell, from Houston, showed naïve portraiture of children along with fancy furniture featuring painted surface. The oil money can be sniffed from the floor too. Many items (from bookend to real hardware tools, to early prints related to oil rigs were plentiful. Or, if one regards them too small for a state famous for being BIG, a vintage TEXACO sign will certain fill a whole wall. Made of plastic, the sign can be illuminated from inside. More interesting find came from J Compton Gallery of Wimberley, Texas. A pie safe stood with old southern charm and hospitality. The safe was made circa 1870, from southern states such as Tennessee or South Carolina.
The striking patterns on the tin door are, in fact, for utilitarian purposes (for a 19th century precursor of modern day refrigerator). The punctured holes enable ventilation while keeping away insects. (In particular, all the holes were punctured from inside to create harsh edges and borders to stop insects). The crest was added later, making it more elaborate. At certain time of its history, it has been repurposed to be a wardrobe. It can see it attractive to both hard-core Americana collectors and decorators looking for the right balance between functions and decorations.
Vintage postcards are abundant in antiques malls. I can spend hours going through piles of cards with regional interests. Linda Mahlke of Victorian Greyhound, however, made it easy. Collected and apparently cherished by their original owner, a set of pristine post cards were sorted (based on subjects) and stored in two albums, as if they were family photos. Eric immediately spotted two cards of Horseshoe Curve of Altoona, Pennsylvania. The panoramic view of curved railroad looked even more impressive with two cards, each carrying half of the scene, placed side by side.
At Leftover from Brenham Texas, a metal sign, probably from a bar, looked very Texas. It was funny to see the gigantic head of a cow inched so close to a butterfly. In the shadowed background, however, were depicted two guys hand in hand. It turned out this was from England and Burtonwood, written on top of the sign, was probably the name of the bar.
Fred Cain from Fort Myers, Florida presented a primitive portrait attributed to Frederick Mayhew. Charming yet mysterious, the sitter has an elongated face, echoed with a set of books on the upper right corner. It is a fancy design of symmetric patterns and a careful study of personal character. Born in 1785, the Nantucket painter left no signature on his portrait. Yet the peculiarity of his artistic style helped the collectors identify the hand behind a few (although scant) charming stylized portraits. The last auction record on the artist (from Skinner) was $30,000. A secretary from late Federal period, also from Mr. Cain, kept a manageable scale while maintained a pristine condition of its mahogany veneer. itcould satisfy many needs of a household (book shelf, clothing storage, writing desk or even for a laptop), especial for those multi-taskers.
A gigantic bed from Rod Bartha of Riverwoods, Illinois was eye-catching. Although Victorian furniture has fallen out of the style so that one could hardly spot them in an antiques show now, this one is of top quality. It should satisfy anyone who is seeking a high Victorian bed.
Time spent at Ralph Willard’s Tower Antiques Show is time well spent. The quality of merchandise is generally very good and the dealer’s are knowledgable in their area’s of expertise. This show is the best bet for a mostly traditional Americana show in North Texas.
A thief has likely hit a plexiglass case and made off with valuable objects a second time, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. According to an article posted today, police believe the person who stole a gold box with ornamentation depicting early California scenes this week is likely the same one who made off with some gold nuggets in November. City officials say the box is worth some $800,000 and have posted a $12,000 reward. The stolen box measures 7 by 9 inches and weighs about 3 pounds. It’s been in the museum’s collections since the 1960s.
Photo: Oakland Museum of California, 2011. Photo by Greg Habiby.
To provide a snapshot of the most fashionable and creative designers working in London in the 1980s, this summer an exhibition at the V&A will look at how the impact of underground club culture was felt far beyond the club doors, reinventing fashion worldwide. More than 85 outfits by designers such as John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett will be on display together with accessories by designers including Stephen Jones and Patrick Cox.
Included are garments by influential 1980s designers, with a substantial amount of menswear designs by Jasper Conran, Paul Smith, Workers for Freedom and Willy Brown who dressed Duran Duran. Textile design played an important part of 1980s fashion, with designers such as Betty Jackson working with design collectives like The Cloth, helping to create the archetypal early 80s silhouette of loose shirts and bold prints.
London’s clubs in the 1980s acted as a site for the convergence of music and fashion and provided a safe environment in which young people could experiment and mix with those of similar tastes.
Fashion designer Stevie Stewart of Body Map noted that ‘each group of people, whether they were fashion designers, musicians or dancers, filmmakers or whatever, living together, going out together and at the same clubs … had a passion then for creating something new … that was almost infectious’.
Examples of the resultant looks will be displayed, ranging from the exaggerated, exotic styles favoured by the Blitz crowd, through the distressed styles of Hard Times, to the eclectic mixing and individual expression of Taboo, to the dance influenced looks of acid house.
Club to Catwalk: London Fashion in the 1980s runs July 10- February 16, 2014. Tickets go on sale in June.
Sketch for Levi Strauss & Co. denim jacket, ‘BLITZ’, by Stephen Linnard.The exhibition shows a display of Blitz denim jackets. In 1986, Blitz magazine commissioned a group of 22 London-based designers to customize denim jackets provided by Levi Strauss & Co. – See more at: http://www.urbanartantiques.com/2013/london-fashion-in-the-1980s-on-display-at-va/#sthash.3IkKz4R7.dpuf