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.
First-time exhibitor Jonathan Boos was excited about the show. A half red dot (on-hold) was placed next to a painting by Robert Vickery, an acclaimed egg-tempera realism painter who died last year. Vickery’s light suffused wall, and the oversized hat of a nun create shapes and arrangements that can be discovered as simplified abstract (in anachronistic minds). Had the policy for the fine arts not extended to include any works by a deceased artist, the painting would not have been seen in the show.
As an exhibitor in many New York shows including the Winter Antiques Show and the Armory Modern show, Boos enjoys showing post-war artworks. However, his booth at this show has mostly pre-WWII artworks. He kept a delicate balance through his reading of the local market and tastes. One large winter scene painting by Redfield would surely attract local interests. Thus, it is tucked on a side wall. The front, however, is reserved for Guy Pene Du Bois bold (if not scandalous) painting “Country Wedding.” Painted in 1929, it attests Du Bois’ affinity to the movement toward simplified and idealized bodily beauty in the 1920’s of America, yet the absurdity of naked bride walking with the groom in the wedding gathering still arises to anyone who dares to look. According to Mr. Boos, du Bois meant that eyes from the crowd undressed the bride.
Moderne Gallery returned to the show after seven years absence. The lighter furniture displayed on their artsy floor has a distinct look in the show. Josh Aibel, the second generation of the gallery, said that he would not pass this hometown event this time around. “In the past, we mostly exhibited art deco period for this show, particularly French art deco. Now we can present our true specialty.” He pointed to a Nakashima long chair — “the best you can find!” An anthroposophical cabinet by Sigfried Pütz showcases the sculptural quality of the Dornach school. It may not go well with Chippendale, yet it belongs to the hot niche of the highly sought-after modern furnishings. Not surprisingly, according to Robert Aibel, the founder of the gallery, more of his clients are in their 40s.
Jeff and Holly Noordsy are another pair of new faces. Exhibiting extensively in New England and New York in the past, they see the Philadelphia Antiques Show a great way to expand. Noordsy’s interest in early glass has reached in great depth that touches both ends of the high-end antique business. Some are of the formal classical form while many are of the best folk art examples. To cater the local interest, they have brought a purple flask, made in Manheim, Penna around 1769 to 1774. Another stunning piece is a Columbia Eagle flask made around 1825 by Kensington Glass Works in Philadelphia. As the name has suggested, an Eagle and Lady Columbia are molded on either side of the flask. Of four known models, this is the only one in color (light blue).
Two local staples tailored their space to boost the essence of Philadelphia history.
The Philadelphia Print Shop, located in Chestnut Hill, has many Pennsylvania maps and antique books related to Centennial Exhibition. We have successfully challenged the famed Antiques Roadshow appraiser Donald Cresswell why Dallas could not be found in their Texas Map. It turned out the map was published a few year’s before Dallas was incorporated.
Schwarz Gallery showcased works from the Peale dynasty. Charles Wilson Peale’s Mr. Edward Burd, painted in 1820, was originally a wedding gift. Interestingly, the painting is used as an official portrait of Mr. Burd on Wikipedia. A small portrait of Franz Schubert, possibly based on an etching, was made by Harriet Candy Peale, the second wife of Rembrandt Peale. Harriet Candy married Peale in 1830’s, and the influence of her husband is evident in the porcelain-looking skin tone.
Another Philadelphia art gallery, Dolan/Maxwell, participated the show because of the extended guideline. They are the only gallery that exclusively presents modern and contemporary artworks in the show. A painting by Dox Thrash “Strike” puts an oversized black man in the position of rallying his urban neighbors in a time of social and economic strife. The Scottsboro Boys refers to an infamous series of trials wherein eight young African American men were tried and wrongly convicted of raping two white women. Considering the rising interests in the 20th-century African American art among museums and collectors, this rare watercolor signifies that the show has broadened its spectrum to allure serious collectors beyond mahogany.
The new location with its spacious floor plan seemed to have unanimous approval from the dealers that we spoke with; the new dealer rosters brought in fresh and different merchandise, yet the show needs one more building block to complete the new look: younger patrons. It is a tremendous effort for a show of this size and stature to overcome a hurdle to engaging younger “collectors” while maintaining its legacy and catering the loyal upper echelon clientele.
Young Collector’s Night was a move in that direction. Whether these young admirers become accumulators remains to be seen, however. Should they take the plunge, the changes reaffirm the position of the Philadelphia Antiques Show as the place for them to find all the right things.