DARIEN, CONN. — The Darien Antiques Show marked its 46th consecutive year on March 2 and 3, with a well-attended gala preview party totaling more than 200 patrons on March 1. The show, hosted by the First Congregational Church of Darien, continued over the weekend, with good traffic on Saturday and Sunday, and most of its 34 dealers reporting good sales. “My sense was that fine art was doing well,” said show co-manager Janet Soskin. “I saw a lot of paintings go out the door.”
Indeed, Douglas, Mass., fine art dealer Donna Kmetz had a nice sale during preview when she wrote up an invoice for one of the special works she had been saving up for the show — a scene titled “Haystacks” by Carleton Wiggins. “I had a nice show at Darien, and felt the interest was high,” said Kmetz. “Since I make a point of saving special works for this show, it was fun to see how they were received.” A painting titled “Spring Thaw” by John Bentley was understandably getting a lot of show patron “love,” as the winter-weary crowd looked for signs of spring. “I was pleased with sales, and also with meeting new buyers,” concluded the dealer.
First-time show participants Steve and Doris McKell of Tradewinds Fine Art, Narragansett, R.I., were also glad to have signed on. They sold two Charles Gruppe paintings at preview, then continued writing up slips on Saturday for a William Merritt Post landscape, a Connecticut coastal scene by William Chadwick and an unsigned landscape of wildflowers. “The people running the show did a good job — everything from the food to the mix of dealers,” said Steve McKell.
The displays, which begin on the main floor of the church’s school facility, wind their way through several classrooms on the second level, offering everything from antique prints and oil paintings to American folk art, painted and classical furniture, antique carpets, Chinese Export, sterling silver and early American glass.
This small but energetic show was led and co-managed this year by Soskin and Patricia Hedlund, while co-chair positions were held by Molly Watkins and Judith Sinche.
Soskin said that the gate on both Saturday and Sunday seemed steady, with approximately 700 people passing through.
Those shoppers, moving through the maze of classroom spaces upstairs, could not miss the colorful vintage posters on display by Art Finkel of Vintage Poster Art. The Monroe Township, N.J., dealer, who was doing the show for the first time, said, “I had an interesting sale on Sunday. A customer walked over to the table and was enticed by a poster of a man playing a tuba. Since he himself played the tuba and had wall space, he purchased it and happily walked away. I had a sale to a New Jersey couple who purchased their first poster from me in 1998. Overall, the show met my expectations as a first-time dealer.”
While furniture, as is the norm these days, was not a big seller at the show, there were several exhibitors who offered some very fine examples of American antique pieces, including Hanes and Ruskin, Old Lyme, Conn.; Martin Ferrick, Lincolnville, Maine; Black Swan Antiques, Washington, Depot, Conn.; and William Nickerson Antiques, Orleans, Mass. His second year participating in the Darien show, David Perrelli of Old Beautiful, Clinton, Conn., said, “I enjoyed my experience there once again. The volunteers who put it together turn out a polished and high-quality event, and the dealers who participate are wonderful as well. I will certainly do the show again next year.”
As was the case last year, Perrelli sold a lot of smalls — particularly ceramics, including export porcelain and some English and French wares as well. “I also sold smaller scale furniture, including a Connecticut Chippendale side chair with a heart cutout in the splat and a George III mahogany breakfast table. Larger furniture seems slow to find buyers, but that is simply a reality of the marketplace in general these days. It’s not for lack of variety, quality and value however, so hopefully this trend will reverse at some point.”
Some classical European furniture did well, leaving the booth of Tanya Yacoub, White Plains, N.Y. At preview she sold an oval Irish mirror, circa 1820–40, of gilded mahogany and decorated with crystal beads, along with a large mahogany quilt rack in bobbin form, circa 1850. Additional sales included a floor lamp, regency chest of drawers and a pair of chairs. “The ladies of the show committee did a wonderful job, year after year and they deserve all the credit for bringing out the public,” said Yacoub. “I look forward to next year, my sixth consecutive year.”
Ann Wilbanks’ husband manned the couple’s booth, Find Weatherly, Stamford, Conn., while she tended to her dad who was having surgery the Friday of the Darien show — “Dad’s doing great,” she reported. “I teased him [my husband] that he is no longer my ‘ silent partner,’ as he had strong sales. Truly a labor of love. We sold a Nineteenth Century Maine folk farmyard oil on canvas painting at the preview party, a painted Pennsylvania bench and Cape Cod themed hooked rug on Saturday, with another marine painting and America’s Cup case model selling Sunday after the show.”
The show also went well for Joe Collins, a Middletown, Conn., dealer, who with 25 or so dealers, was set up in the series of upstairs spaces. “I sold more than ten times the booth rent,” he related, with sales, including a Sheraton child’s chest, George Hathaway painting, an American pine canterbury, circa 1815–20, French table, three pieces of jewelry and other assorted smalls. “There was a good crowd, even on Sunday,” said Collins. “Church volunteers make this very pleasant to do.”
Collins’ “neighbor,” antique frames specialist John Gould, Yorktown Heights, N.Y., also reported a very good show — “best I’ve had in awhile,” he said. His sales included a half hull boat, two painted yellow half-spindle chairs, a hanging corner cupboard, an oil on canvas marine painting of a Cape Cod scene, child’s chest and cupboard, barber pole, coverlet and blue and white candlesticks. The hanging cupboard that was among his sales was an especially nice example, made circa 1820–40 in pine and from an old farmhouse in Maine. An unusual feature was a hinged door on the bottom of the cupboard instead of the usual drawer.
A nice set of Van Cleef & Arpel ring and earclips exemplifying a midcentury floral design in mother of pearl, 18K gold and diamonds was among the jewelry highlights at Brad Reh, Southampton, N.Y., and 37 carats of diamonds blazed in a 1940s French bracelet featuring beautiful workmanship.
For additional information, www.darienantiqueshow.org or 203-655-0491.