Shows and Markets
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
Northern Liberties may be a Philadelphia neighborhood, or a suburb of Brooklyn. It may be hard to tell when the Brooklyn Flea opens up shop next month. The popular market’s website shows Mark Wahlberg sporting vintage Philadelphia Eagles gear announcing the June 2 opener. Brooklyn Flea Philly will include mainstay vendors, and undoubtedly some from the city to the south and will be open every Sunday throughout the summer.
Not once, not twice, but too often have been told by my Dallasite friends that Houston is just ugly. They are not talking about its skyline — a mirage when approached from the highways — but of the sprawling neighborhoods with no zoning restrictions. At Holly Johnson Gallery, a new exhibition of a group of drawings, by Randy Twaddle, who lived in Dallas in the 1980’s and has since moved to live in this charm-challenged Texas city, focuses on the unconventional beauty of distribution lines there.
“I love to drive down Houston streets – especially at dawn or dusk – when the light magically turns these silhouetted utilitarian wires and cables into calligraphic drawings or something akin to alternative music scores. I’m constantly awed by their unintentional beauty and lyricism,” says the artist.
Twaddle’s choice of medium is also unconventional — black ink and coffee. I am not sure they would look agreeable under the scrutiny of any paper conservator; at the minimum, it is a lesser sin compared to what have been added to pictures shown at the Brooklyn Museum in the past: Yogurt (in Hernan Bas) or elephant dung (in Chris Ofili).
The black ink lines are sharp and controlled. At distance, they look rather organic and simulated. In close proximity, the pictures betray that Tawddle has drawn border lines first before he filled in black ink. To say they are calligraphic is to over-emphasize the gestural grandness and to ignore their firm root in realism: tangled or stretched across the murky background, they retain instantly recognizable as the way we see them when heading up — there is nothing between those power lines and the sky. That makes them mesmerizing to observe.
Yet it is the coffee ground that transforms these images into a lyrical statement of urban decay. If utility wires are the melody lines, the coffee ground is their counterpoint of the harmony. They may be seen as representational, echoing shadows of wires, but they grow and sprawl in their own way. Twaddle let washes of coffee forming their diaphanous shapes and boundaries, by chance. They ease the eyes from knots of wires, and in turn, engender images with an romantic rhetoric. To some extent, they remind me of Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings in which turpentine-thinned paint in watery washes was poured onto raw canvas. Yet while Frankenthaler utilized the technique to liberate colors, Twaddle plays down the brown wash to reach a great degree of expressive freedom in our sub-consciousness.
Utility wires are disappearing in urban centers. They were cursed to cause untidiness of street scenes in China. Often, they are the last thing to go in a gentrified neighborhood, but once they are gone, gone with them is the care-free low-key ambiance of those hoods. In variant shades, Randy Twaddle’s coffee stained utility wires drawing recall minds of urban dwellers, at repose.
The show is open through March 16 at Holly Johnson Gallery, located at 1411 Dragon Street in Dallas.
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.
The Show and Sale of Early Texas Art will be back at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in 2013. Vintage Promotions, LLC has taken on the show following more than a decade of production by the Collectors of Fort Worth Art.
“After several years enjoying the show as an art collector, I offered to take on the project,” says Eric Miller, co-owner of Vintage Promotions, LLC. “Local art collectors are enthusiastic about the show continuing.”
The show has been held for the past decade and was often followed by an exhibit that would continue for the remainder of the month. The show includes a dozen or more dealers displaying oil and watercolor paintings, prints, drawings, and other works by early Fort Worth and Texas artists.
“The term ‘Early Texas Art’ can be a little misleading,” Miller says explaining that works from as late as the 1970s can be included. “It’s not only landscapes and western scenes, but includes abstract and modern work.
“Early Texas Art includes a wealth of variety and style.”
Held August 9-10, 2013, promoters say the aim of the show will continue the quality, atmosphere and affordability of the show while at the same time expanding promotion and growing the size.
If you’ve ever stood in a flea market and wondered what you were looking at, it might be a lot of money. Found at a Flea Market in Philadelphia for $200, a unique sculpture commissioned by Tiffany & Co. from one of the world’s foremost living silversmiths floored a standing-room only auction Tuesday at Freeman’s by climbing to an astounding $22,500.
The seller who first found it hiding inconspicuously amidst a pile junk on a flea market table was in shock. Initially, he’d had no idea what it was. Nor could anyone tell him. He’d just liked it for what it was–a beautiful abstract composition of swirling bands. Even so, at the time, $200 seemed a lot to pony up.
What emerged after polishing was a thing of beauty. And, more importantly, the faint impression of the initials “UV” emerged, in what he suspected–and indeed proved to be–a maker’s mark. It was a clue, but still all his efforts to identify it came to naught. That’s when he decided to bring it in to Freeman’s Auction in downtown Philadelphia for a complimentary assessment.
Freeman’s Silver specialist David Walker, who greeted him, had never seen anything like it, although he immediately recognized the quality of the piece. The good news that day was that it was solid sterling and not plate, as its discoverer had believed. It was then and there agreed that he would consign it to Freeman’s for sale to the highest bidder.
For one specialist at Freeman’s, however, that was only the beginning. Whitney Bounty in the American Furniture and Decorative Arts Department made it her personal mission to identify this piece and she spent many months following up on all leads. Once she identified it as having come from Tiffany & Co., still the elusive maker’s mark “UV” continued to haunt her. In time, the truth emerged from one of her many sources, and soon after a call came from the son of the very man whose design it was–internationally renowned architect, industrial designer, and sculptor Charles O. Perry (1929-2011)… And he told her all about it.
The piece is one of only six known examples of the design, commissioned by Tiffany & Co., which Perry titled Cassini after the Italian astronomer who inspired him, Giovanni Domenico Cassini (1625-1712). Cassini believed that a planetary orbit could be along the intersection of a cylinder with a sphere. The composition this idea inspired was hailed a triumph. Large scale, steel versions of the Cassini sculpture are installed at the Civic Arts Complex in Ringwood, Australia; in East Moline, Illinois; and in a few private collections around the world.
“UV” is the mark of Ubaldo Vitali (b. 1944), among the greatest of 20th-century silversmiths. The man whose hands formed this piece is renowned as a master of his trade and is featured in multiple museum collections and exhibitions. Vitali is a fourth generation silversmith, who stamps his pieces with the hallmark once used by his father and grandfather. Having done work for Tiffany, Cartier, Movado, Bulgari and Steuben, he is in very high demand.
Lighting can be really boring. So often homes and apartments are adorned with fixtures that came from contractor multi-packs offered by big discount chains. Changing the lighting is such an easy task, but locating the right replacement isn’t always so easy- contemporary fixtures just aren’t that interesting.
Finding lighting at vintage markets and antiques shows can also be fraught with difficulties. The lighting may need repairs or rewiring. While rewiring is something that’s not too difficult, there can be a learning curve to everything. Finding a dealer with exceptional fixtures in good shape and all rewired is something that makes it possible to add unique charm to a home. That is the case with a vintage lighting dealer displaying at Vintage Garage Chicago.
The fixtures available are mostly circa 1900 to 1940 or so, and that period addresses every decor from classic formal to minimal. A variety of wall sconces, chandeliers and even an art deco skyscraper light with two fans attached was offered. I don’t think you’ll find too many of those!
Many visitors to the garage are likely to be apartment dwellers, and while you may hesitate to buy lighting for a home you don’t own, changing a fixture is relatively easy. The old one can be saved and re-hung when its time to move and the classic fixture re-used in the new home. Many landlords will even assist in changing fixtures should you desire.
When thinking about the decor for your home, don’t forget about the lighting. Vintage lighting can add a classic touch that’s too often over-looked. If you’re in Chicago, look up the Vintage Garage and pay a visit to Helene Lys at Cavelier Lighting.
The current exhibition George Grosz’s Flower of the Prairie at the Dallas Museum of Art centers at four oil paintings and seventeen watercolors by the artist, commissioned by Leon Harris Jr. in 1952, to celebrate department store A. Harris & Company’s 65th anniversary. These works, nonetheless, were not what Grosz was famous for. Grosz, who fled Germany at the onset of the rise of Hitler is most noted for his satirical political illustrations of roaring twenties. Had the artist had his own choice for a retrospective show, the Dallas images probably would not have taken the center stage — according to the artist, he sold himself for the commission in the time out of a pure need for money.
The art scene in the 1950’s Big Apple was not all accommodating for painters from the old world who once flourished in the Weimar Republic and began to be marginalized when Abstract Expressionism put New York the center of the art world. In January 1952, Grosz was first contacted by Leon Harris, the young vice President and art connoisseur of A. Harris & Company, to document the progress and burgeoning urban scenes of Dallas. He visited Dallas for five days in May, 1952, 60 years ago this year. However, most of the works in the series were produced after he returned to his studio in Huntington, New York over a period of five months. They were then exhibited in October 1952 at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts (the predecessor of DMA, located in Fair Park) and later New York City in 1954. Continue Reading »
Patinamania is not enough for describing the dominant theme in the 23rd street Armory Show. The obsession with surface and paint has already stirred up interests and prices in many folk art areas, such as dower chests or weathervanes; now dealers must prove that collect-ability and bargains can still co-exist, in an antiques show.
At the 23rd Street Armory, we found many windmill counterweights. Made of cast iron, they look sturdier, humbler, and more restrained, like the mid-westerners who relied on them for their daily living in the first two decades of the 20th century. Anita Holden of Holden Antiques, from Naples, Florida said they were price-wise more affordable compared to weathervanes from the Northeast, which have gone up in price and out of reach for many collectors. She showed me an unpainted counterweight bull from Fairbury Windmill Company of Nebraska. Continue Reading »
The Philadelphia Antiques Show has a new look. Certainly the brand new Pennsylvania Convention Center better serves the show with its central location and super-wide aisles, but more importantly the vetted show has adopted a more flexible standard on what can be brought in. Many new faces, together with “newer” merchandise liberate the show from its traditional polished brass formality. Continue Reading »