Published: June 12, 2018
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
CHADDS FORD, PENN. – The Memorial Day weekend is the official start to summer, but nothing says “Memorial Day weekend” in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine region like the opening night party for the Brandywine River Museum of Art’s Antiques Show. The Friday evening preview party is known – in the words of a local regular – as “a great event and fun party.” While it is a must-attend on the local social calendar that was attended by a couple hundred people, the night also draws serious collectors and decorative arts curators, including ones from Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Everyone present seemed relaxed and happy to be starting the holiday weekend in the company of old friends, good food and great antiques. A few hundred visitors came through the gate throughout the holiday weekend, and the show benefits the museum exclusively. The weather cooperated this year, with only brief periods of inclement conditions that did not appear to have inhibited sales.
In speaking afterwards, show manager Peter Chillingworth thought attendance was up slightly from previous years, and particularly from the show in 2017. Chillingworth attributes the success of the show to its connection to a museum, which he said was now relatively unique in the world of antiques shows. Also contributing to its success is its small size and the quality of the material presented. He lamented the small number of young buyers, a common refrain these days.
Regardless of sales, exhibitors were unanimous in their praise of the show committee and volunteers who helped throughout the course of the show. Everyone enjoys the location, the small size of the show and the clientele, which most observed as being a combination of returning clients and new faces.
The show took over the courtyard and four floors of the museum. An atrium extends from the first floor to the roof, making booths on multiple floors simultaneously visible. Access to the ground floor could have been denoted more clearly; though, in general, signage for the show was otherwise excellent.
As far as antiques show preview parties go, this is up there with some of the better ones. Several showgoers commented that the shrimp cocktail – presented as a mound of shrimp on ice within steps of the door to the museum – is a perennial crowd-pleaser. An open bar in the courtyard and different food options on every level of the museum tempt potential buyers to explore every floor, ensuring that every level would see visitor traffic.
Twenty-five dealers from as far away as Akron, Ohio, and Yarmouth, Maine, participate in the show, with a heavy emphasis on traditional American and English furniture and decorative objects, though dealers of rugs, manuscripts, maps, antiquities and garden statuary are also available to sell to those so inclined. Twentieth Century and contemporary offerings are limited.
The spirit of the party was dampened by the news that regular participant James W. “Bill” Shaeffer Jr had passed away a few days before the show opened. In his 90s, Shaeffer had exhibited only a couple of weeks earlier in York, Penn. Show director Peter Chillingworth said that Shaeffer had not been feeling well after the York show, but that his death was nonetheless a surprise. Shaeffer’s booth space was given to his show neighbor, Rogers School House Farm Antiques, of New Holland, Penn.
New to the show was David A. Zabriskie Antiques, from Lake Placid, N.Y., who said he had been trying to get into the show for years before space finally opened. Zabriskie had one of the booths in the courtyard and was very happy to report that the show had been great. He sold a serving table attributed to John Seymour, a Philadelphia molded-top chest of drawers, a Jensen flatware set, a burl bowl and the large giltwood eagle that hovered over his booth.
The first booth inside the gate was that of Daniel and Karen Olson, of Newburgh, N.Y. Dan Olson reported they had a very successful show, largely as the result of selling early furniture. Furniture sales included a Sheraton sideboard from Virginia; a Chippendale tavern table; a tea table-size New England Queen Anne drop leaf table; an early New Hampshire two-door cupboard in old blue paint; a Shaker two-drawer cherry blanket chest; an early apothecary and cupboard in mellow old refinish; a Newburyport, Mass., candlestand; and a knuckle-arm Windsor. Other sales included an early Prior portrait and several smaller early objects. Olson said the show mirrored their experience the previous year, where they also sold quite a bit of early furniture. Both years saw connections made with new customers.
Another dealer in the courtyard was Greenville, Del., dealer James M. Kilvington. An unusual pair of wine coolers were front and center in his booth; he said they had not been on the market since 1925, and he had acquired them from a Philadelphia family that was living on the eastern shore of Maryland. They elicited a lot of interest from showgoers. He reported sales were up from the previous year, with one sale to a new client.
Elizabeth Ayscough, Elizabeth Ayscough Antiques of Chadds Ford, Penn., was the only dealer from Chadds Ford and has been doing the show for four years. This year, she focused on interesting smalls, and they sold to “lots of new buyers,” making it a very good show. She commented afterwards that, unlike some shows where the best things sell right away, she made good sales throughout the course of the show.
Michael Weinberg of West Pelham Antiques, Pelham, Mass., who has been doing the show for about five years, said the show is one of his favorites. In commenting after the show, Weinberg said it had probably been the best show he has had in about two years. He sold things to established customers as well as new customers. He was particularly happy to report that he had never had such good sales during a preview party; he sold three fraktur and two side chairs, as well as a tapered-leg sewing stand on the last day of the show. Weinberg said he always does well with ceramics. He felt his location in the courtyard was to his benefit, as he could talk to people as they came in to the museum.
Strong sales were not just about having an immediately visible booth. Mark Allen of Mark and Marjorie Allen Antiques, Laconia, N.H., reported having a very good show, despite being in the lower ground level. Allen said a good show is dependent on having the right things for the right buyer at the right time, something that has always been somewhat unpredictable, but particularly so in the past ten years. He admitted that what he specializes in is somewhat narrow in scope and early – Eighteenth Century or earlier – which tends to appeal to more sophisticated collectors, but he said younger collectors are receptive to learning about things.
A college professor for years, Allen said he enjoys giving booth talks, which he said he gets a great response from. He added that it helps him connect with buyers, including some new – and younger – clients. He said though the show was the smallest of the several shows he does annually, it is one of his favorites because the show staff interacts well with the dealers. Allen has recently moved into a new gallery space in Laconia, which he said offers about three times the amount of exhibition space. He has also recently launched an interactive virtual tour of his gallery, which he said no one else is doing, but that he’d received a lot of positive feedback on.
A few feet from Allen’s booth were Woodbury, Conn., dealers Harold E. Cole and Bettina Krainin. When reached for comment after the show, Krainin thought the gate was about the same and said that while the previous year had been a little better for them, they also had a lot of sales, including a pumper weathervane from a Newtown, Conn., barn, a chair and some smalls. When asked if they had sold to repeat customers as well as new clients, she said the buyer of the weathervane had been an existing client, but they had sold to new clients as well.
Teresa Puckett of Charles Edwin Puckett, Akron, Ohio, said she thought the preview was well-attended, and they had made some sales that night. She said Saturday and Monday were soft for them, but Sunday was better for sales. One of the few dealers at the show not to sell furniture and decorative arts, she said they sold across the board, from manuscripts and maps to botanical prints and antiquities, with more interest in the antiquities than they had expected. When asked what a good price band was, she said most buyers at Brandywine seem very comfortable with things priced under $2,000. She attributed some of their success to the fact that many items – like maps and botanicals – are priced at levels that younger buyers can afford.
Most of the furniture at the show is Eighteenth or early Nineteenth Century American or English, so dealers who bring mid Nineteenth Century furniture stand out. This was the case for Harley Trice, Pittsburgh, Penn., who said it was his second year doing the show. While his sales at the show were a little disappointing, he said he had enough interest in things that it might turn out to be a good show.
This was the first year at the show for Ruth Van Tassel, Van Tassel-Baumann American Antiques, Malvern, Penn. She has had much better luck at other shows, but she now has a better idea of the audience at Brandywine and will bring things more likely to sell next year.
The Hanebergs Antiques, East Lyme, Conn., also had a good show, about the same as the previous year. Bob Haneberg reported that they sold items from a bunch of different categories, specifying some miniature furniture, tea caddies, silver and a piece of furniture. They sold to a mix of old and new buyers and reported that they were busiest during the preview party.
On the main floor, the first booth inside the museum’s door belonged to Philip Dubey, Dubey’s Art & Antiques, Baltimore, Md. Commenting after the sale, Dubey said they had a few sales, including a Chinese export punch bowl and a pair of Chinese embroideries, but the rest of the show was slow for them. A winter landscape by Thomas Birch, which was hung at eye level on the outside wall of his booth, received a lot of attention, and he said he had enough interest that he was hoping to sell it afterwards. He finds items priced between $2,000 and $4,000 sell well for him.
Dubey’s neighbor, Tucker Frey of Woodbury, Conn., reported that with more than 20 sales, Brandywine was a “solid” show for him. He observed that unique or unusual things were selling, although he was glad to report that he was able to “move some traditional ‘brown’ furniture,” including a tiger maple highboy that he was able to sell on the last day of the show.
Doug Norwood, Norwoods’ Spirit of America, Timonium, Md., said the show “wasn’t bad.” They sold enough to make it worthwhile. He thought more expensive items were selling better than before and commented that they would made several sales on opening night. He has done Brandywine for between 12 and 15 years and loves doing it.
Wilmont “Bill” Schwind, W.M. Schwind Antiques, Yarmouth, Maine, occupied the booth in the corner of the atrium space, adjacent to the elevator and the stairwell. Schwind brings American furniture, but his top seller at Brandywine is jewelry, and he is just about the only dealer in the show to sell it. His selection is good, nicely varied and well-priced, and he sold it throughout the show, as well as a few “smalls.” Schwind appreciates the Brandywine-area clientele, which he dubbed “antiques-minded,” and was happy to make a few new clients. Schwind appreciates the antiques shows that raise money for museums, which used to be more abundant and for which he waxed nostalgic.
Showing on the second floor was Lee Hanes, Hanes & Ruskin, Old Lyme, Conn., who said he had been doing the show longer than anyone else, for 42 years, having started in 1975. When reached for comment after the sale, Hanes said, “we had a good show; usually, we have a great show.” He reported approximately 15 sales, including a carved and painted wooden cow with glass eyes that they “had for ages,” as well a carved folk-art flag, a low-back Windsor and some Eighteenth Century pottery and brass. Most of his sales were to buyers he had never met before.
Reporting a furniture sale to a younger new buyer on opening night was Jerry Brill, Brill’s Antiques, Newport News, Va. He was willing to do whatever it took to make the sale, including delivery of the piece – a chair-back bench – to the client’s home about 90 minutes from the show. Brill said he had a slightly better year than last year, selling some smalls in addition to the bench.
At the far end of the second floor was Boyd’s Antiques, from Flourtown, Penn. Priscilla Boyd brings things with a modest price point and does well with them. Speaking after the show, Boyd said she made 35 sales, with approximately 25 of them to new buyers, including a Belgian oil painting of a ship that she sold to a young Belgian woman who was attending the show for the first time. Boyd keeps an active shop, and only shows at Brandywine and the Washington Winter Show. At the encouragement of her daughter, she has become adept at Instagram and sells a lot from her Instagram page, saying, “you have to change with the times.”
The third floor of the show was bathed in natural light, both from the roof skylight as well as the windows that pierced the tops of the exterior walls. Spectacular views of the surrounding landscape were visible through the windows and provided a great backdrop to the antiques.
Ruth Rogers, Rogers School House Farm Antiques, New Holland, Penn., was doing the show for the first time and had partnered with Bill Schaeffer. Rogers said the opening night party was great and deemed it a “fair” show. In speaking after the show, she said she had sold several pieces of silver, a print, a primitive and a stoneware jug. She did not have any takers for the Christmas kugels she brought.
One of the highest priced sales reported to Antiques and the Arts Weekly was a room-sized Heriz rug, which Frank Shaia of Shaia Oriental Rugs, Williamsburg, Va., reported selling for “about $10,000.” Shaia has been doing Brandywine for twelve years and said this year, he had a “really good show,” when he normally has a “consistently fair show.”
Ian Simmonds, from Carlisle, Penn., specializes in American glass and was another new exhibitor. Among several things he pointed out as items of special interest were a Pittsburgh compote with crosshatched elongated oval decoration that he said was similar to pieces owned by Mrs. Andrew Jackson and the Harmony Society; a mid Nineteenth Century flame-ruby ball on stand by the Flint Glass Company; and a Bakewell celery vase, which he said had been made in the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century.
The Brandywine River Museum Antiques Show takes place every Memorial Day weekend. For additional information, www.brandywine.org/museum/events.com.
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