PHILADELPHIA, PENN. — Brock W. Jobe, the ADA Award of Merit winner for 2014, addressed a question on many minds: whither the antiques field? At a dinner in his honor at the Philadelphia Antiques Show on Saturday, April 26, the scholar, educator and indefatigable booster for American decorative arts told guests that the future has arrived and it needs our enthusiastic backing.
“I would like to take a moment to salute the students who are here tonight,” said Jobe, Winterthur Museum’s professor of American decorative arts since 2000. “They are the future. They share our passion for the field, but they don’t have an easy task. In the years to come, they must find a way to engage the public; to make art and history meaningful, exciting and relevant. They can’t do it alone. They need our help.”
Nearly 200 guests turned out for the event organized by the Antiques Dealers' Association of America, including dozens of Jobe’s protégés, past and present. Keynote speaker Louisa Brouwer, the Israel Sack Inc Archives Fellow at Yale University Art Gallery, stressed Jobe’s gift for identifying and developing individual potential. She recalled, “My parents didn’t believe me when I told them that Brock perpetually levitated two inches above the ground, usually when he was under furniture. He has something special.”
Noting that Jobe, who will retire from Winterthur in 2015, has touched lives with his scholarship, vision and energy, she concluded, “Brock, we commend you and request that you not stop crawling under furniture just yet.”
Another former student, ADA President Judith Livingston Loto, said Jobe’s 1993 book Portsmouth Furniture: Masterworks from the New Hampshire Seacoast stimulated her interest in antiques. Jobe’s greatest gifts, she said, were his ability to share knowledge, make others smile and instill passion in others.
Tom Savage provided color commentary. “You may be surprised that Brock and I were both born in Virginia,” began Winterthur’s director of museum of affairs, who kept the audience in stitches with a comical presentation likening the affable professor to John-Boy in the hit television series The Waltons, also set in Virginia.
“We had the pleasure of working together at Colonial Williamsburg with Graham Hood, who inspired and encouraged so many young scholars,” said Savage, who met Jobe in the late 1970s on the campus of William and Mary College in Williamsburg. Later, at Historic New England, Jobe was among the first to champion the study and conservation of historic upholstery, said Savage, lauding his colleague’s “gentlemanly charm, generosity of spirit and enthusiasm for the decorative arts.”
Accepting the award, Jobe singled out his friends in the trade, among them auctioneer Ron Bourgeault; Jack O’Brien and Gary Sullivan, who collaborated with Jobe on the 2009 book and exhibition Harbor & Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710–1850; and dealers Clark Pearce, Arthur Liverant, Stephen and Carol Huber, Peter Eaton and Sam Herrup.
“My hat goes off to all of you for what you have meant to this business,” he said.
Jobe also acknowledged Barbara, his wife of 47 years, and their two sons. “I can’t tell you how pleased I am that they put up all those years with a father obsessed with museums and historic houses, a father who always wanted to look at one more piece of furniture,” he said.
Instrumental in organizing the annual dinner, Liverant acknowledged, “It’s like having a bar mitzvah every year. Sometimes the weather cooperates, sometimes it doesn’t.” Past winners include Albert Sack, Elinor Gordon, Wendell Garrett, Betty Ring, R. Scudder Smith, Satenig St Marie, Dean F. Failey, Joe Kindig, Philip Zea, Jane and Richard Nylander, Morrison H. Heckscher, the American Folk Art Society and Peter Tillou.
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