We returned to Baltimore Antiques Show after eight years of absence. It was a repeat of our 2010 visit—after touring the show we headed to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Of course, both the museum and the show have changed in eight years. In 2010, the show was called the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show. Now it’s the Baltimore Art, Antiques and Jewelry Show. More subtly, the show has evolved to become artsier (midcentury mania seems to be fading) and more Asian, accommodating new collectors and new interests.
The show also seemed a little smaller. One dealer agreed, saying dealers were getting older. As age advances, it becomes easier to sit one out. Still, there were plenty of dealers we had not seen before.
At Haig’s of Rochester, we spotted a Chinese robe brought in a few minutes before. The embroidery design of this crimson red silk robe makes use of many traditional Chinese motifs such as flowers, mountains and clouds—centered by a majestic dragon. Paul Haig, author of Chinese Textiles from Ming to Ch’ing, called it a wedding robe. The asking price was $4,888, a perfect number for any potential Chinese buyer, as eight symbolizes fortune. We immediately texted our friend who thought it might also have belonged to the wife of a top cabinet official.
Another Asian dealer, TK Asian had two booths at the show. We were impressed by some Dali dreamstones they brought from their Manhattan store in 2009. But since then, their business has relocated to Williamsburg, Virginia.
We spotted a pair of 18th Century Chinese export porcelain cups. Bearing blue enamel, thin lines of gold and stylized flower heads, they feature typical designs for the American-market. But the exquisite entwined handles, borrowed from western metalwork, are in pristine condition. The often ill-fated thin handles still bear some gold paint. The asking price was $475 each.
It used to be that Asian objects were likely to be offered by Caucasian dealers. This year Chinese dealers were offering Asian antiques at the show. Located near the end of the aisle, one dealer had minimal lighting. I mentioned it was difficult to see. The dealer remarked that people who care more about lighting than objects might not be the best customers. I walked away, unconvinced.
If you ask me how the Baltimore Antiques Show differs from say the Philadelphia Antiques Show or the Winter Antiques Show, I would say those shows feature more dealers specializing in folk art, American flags, or Chinese export porcelain. In Baltimore, the backbone of the show comes from dealers who have good eyes, years of experience, scouting the earth for whatever they deem the best quality.
You know their eye, not their specialty.
In one booth, James Ekerling Antiques of Chicago offered a charming primitive portrait of a young boy from the 1830’s. A beautiful folk art frame from the 20th century held the work. Also offered by Ekerling was a large ambrotype plate featuring a couple on their honeymoon, in front of the Niagara Falls.
Button Box of Cedarburg, Wisconsin offered an English tea caddy with original mixing cup. Tea caddies are plenty if you look around antique malls. But the complete sets with original cups are harder to find.
Fine art is growing in the show business. After all, you can only have one sideboard or maybe two sofas, but any house has enough walls to hang a few paintings. Robert M. Quilter, a local gallerist, brought a work by Charles E. Marks. Although we know little about this Pennsylvania Academy-trained artist, we were captivated by his Bridge in Saint Louis. The gray sky echoes the towering bridge (probably Eads Bridge built in 1874) in its purple gestural rendering, a nostalgic reminder of the industrial heyday of the city.
From London, David Brooker brought a painting by a young temporary painter from Montana. Richie Carter painted his Paris at Night while studying in Europe. The warm luminosity from the half-lit balconies of those 19th Century Parian buildings was a show-stopper.
Close to the 7 p.m. show close, we made our way back to have a second look at some of the objects we noted. We did not get the second chance to see Carter’s painting, because it was gone.