Published: January 27, 2009
A host of antiques shows have gone missing from the roster of scheduled events for 2009 over the past few weeks, with the most recent announcements coming from Massachusetts-based promoter Marvin Getman and New York City-based Stella Show Mgmt Co. Some of the events have been cancelled outright, while others have been postponed with the hopes of reviving the shows down the road.
Promoters allude to the “economic downturn” as the underlying reason for the shows not coming to fruition, citing a lack of participation from sponsors, exhibitors and the buying public.
For collectors and dealers alike, the question remains in regard to when it will end and what will remain of the marketplace once the dust has settled.
Anna and Brian Haughton, directors of Haughton International Fairs, were among the first to abandon a 2009 event with their announcement this past December of the cancellation of the International Asian Art Fair. Their fair typically leads Asia Week in New York City in mid-March. The firm’s website carried a posting that read: “Due to the present global economic situation, we have regrettably taken the decision to cancel the International Asian Art Fair for 2009.
“The Asian fair was scheduled for March 11 at the Park Avenue Armory, Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York City. Many of the dealers who had contracted to take part are not in a position to go forward in the current climate and, as such, we have decided a fair would put an untenable strain on their resources. We hope to be able to re-launch the fair in 2010 and look forward to working with our exhibitors again,” the website said.
Marvin Getman of New England Antique Shows is the most recent to fold his tent with the announced cancellation of Boston Antiques Weekend scheduled for April 18 and 19. “We built it and they came, and then we hit the wall of the biggest economic downturn the country has seen in modern times,” stated Getman in a released statement. “There’s little any promoter can do to convince dealers to pay good money to participate in a show when they have no idea if the public will be in a buying mood,” he said after announcing his decision to his dealers at his January show.
“Based on my projections, the show would have been about 50 percent of the size of last year’s show and after two years of building a world-class show, this was unacceptable,” said Getman. “My reputation is more important to me than the financial loss I will sustain by cancelling the show.” The promoter further explained that the facility had already been paid in full and that there is no such thing as a “bad economy” clause in his contract that would allow for a refund. “This was one of the most difficult decisions in my 30-year career of producing shows,” he said.
Stella Show Mgmt has also been among the recent promoters to revise its schedule with the cancellation of three shows, one the result of its own decision, another due to a scheduling conflict and the third thrust upon it by the owners of the show. The three affected shows are Americana at the Pier that would have normally been conducted this past week, the Modern Show scheduled to open on February 27 and what was to be the tenth annual Chicago Botanic Garden Antiques and Garden Fair that would have opened on April 17.
Noticeably missing from the roster for this year’s Americana Week in New York City was Stella’s Americana at the Piers, a show that has enjoyed a great deal of popularity in the past. While the show was not officially cancelled, it, too, became a casualty. Several of the Pier dealers relocated across town to Antiques at the Armory, although by the promoter’s calculations, there were more than 100 fewer dealers exhibiting in Americana Week this past week as opposed to last year.
The decision not to promote the show came about when Stella received the 2009 dates for the Winter Antiques show back in March and was subsequently informed by Pier management that the facility was booked for those dates. Stella commented that there were no plans to bring Americana at the Piers back for 2010; instead the firm will focus its Pier plans on the March and November shows at the facility.
In regard to the Modern Show, Stella commented that the decision to cancel was based on both the state of the economy and the number of exhibitors that had signed contracts for the spring show. “We know that the market is not good right now for Modern, and we only had 40 dealers signed up. Other dealers that we contacted to fill the show were either not interested or not able to participate,” said Irene Stella, “so we decided to call it off and put all of our efforts into the fall version of the Modern Show.”
“We have never cancelled a show that I can remember,” stated Stella, who also reasoned that “maybe it is good to take a hiatus.” The promoter was optimistic about the upcoming show at the Piers. “We are putting our eggs in the Pier basket,” said Stella in regard to the show that will open on March 14.
Chicago’s Botanic Garden show was a carpet that was yanked from under Stella’s feet. “We got the message from Chicago early last week,” stated Stella in regard to the show’s cancellation. “And with our being in New York at Antiques at the Armory, we have not had much of a chance to think about it,” she said. The promoter commented that Chicago Botanic Garden had lost a major sponsor for the show and there was concern that the economic climate would prevent buyers from attending the benefit preview, the Garden’s major source of revenue from the show.
A posted bulletin on Chicago Botanic Garden’s website stated: “The Garden has postponed the 2009 Antiques & Garden Fair and Preview, originally scheduled for April 16, 17, 18 and 19, with the hope of bringing it back in 2010. The Garden would like to thank the fair’s many devoted committee members, attendees, sponsors, vendors, dealers, employees and volunteers.”
Stella seemed uninterested in returning to Chicago to promote a future garden show there, but commented that dealers are “begging us to do a Garden Show somewhere else&probably somewhere on the East Coast,” she said, “and this is something that we will address in a meeting later on this week.”
Sanford Smith and Associates has been looking toward the future with a positive spin. A recent letter to the Maine Antiques Digest from promoter Sandy Smith revealed his realistic attitude, as did a notice on his company’s website. “With the recent announcement of the cancellation of the Asian Art Fair, we want to reassure our exhibitors and our clientele that all of our shows this spring Works on Paper (February 27) and the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair (April 3) are going ahead as planned.
“Dozens of our exhibitors as well as non-exhibiting dealers tell us that there is very little traffic in their galleries. Private dealers without open spaces see scarcely any clients. If you are a dealer and this is what you are experiencing, it’s going to be more important than ever to participate in and to attend fairs.
“We completed three fairs in November: The IFPDA Print Fair, ART20 and Modernism: Centuries of Style and Design. All experienced decreased attendance and sales from prior years due to the current economic situation. Even so, 4,500 to 5,500 people attended each show. These were serious people: dealers, collectors, curators, designers, decorators and art consultants. They displayed genuine interest in the material and many made purchases. In this market, collectors and dealers cannot go into hibernation. Great value is out there for collectors and a lifeline is there for the dealer at fairs,” the statement concluded.
In closing, Irene Stella related one dealer’s comment from the Antiques at the Armory show this past weekend. “I think Nancy Wells said it best. She told me that the downturn that was being felt by the antiques business ‘is not a fatal disease, it is curable and we will get better.'”
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