Published: May 21, 2002
By Susan and Al Bagdade
CHICAGO, ILL. – Now in its fifth and best year, the Chicago International Antiques and Fine Art Fair held at the Merchandise Mart incorporated the Antiquarian Book Fair and Prints/Chicago on April 26-29.
According to John H. Brennen of the mart, “It is an honor to have so many members of LAPADA exhibit in the fair this year. Collectors across the world recognize the superior quality of antiques sold by the exclusive dealers of this association and their strong presence at the antiques fair is very important.” To ease expenses for these British exhibitors, the British Art Market Federation lobbied the relevant government department dealing with international trade to provide grants of $4,300 to each dealer traveling to the Chicago fair.
Once again, the Women’s Board of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was the sponsor and beneficiary of the preview gala. Approximately 1,300 guests attended the elegant preview party. “There were good sales at the preview,” according to Sandy Smith.
This year’s special exhibit was based on the new book, Magnificent Tiffany Silver by John Loring, design director of Tiffany & Co. since 1979. The exhibition drew a lot of attention and included a wide range of commissioned presentation pieces as well as works created by illustrious Tiffany designers. Tiffany silver has been considered a hallmark of silver craftsmanship throughout the past century.
Additional events included a “Cocktails with Tiffany” party that was well attended, plus a selection of 11 “My Favorite Things” booth talks given by participating exhibitors. These were both informal and educational and were appreciated by show attendees.
New this year was the addition of a designer special Monday where designers showing credentials entered free. This allowed an extra day for designers to shop with their clients and for “be-backers” to make that final decision about objects they considered during the weekend.
Seventy-four prestigious exhibitors participated in this vetted fair. According to Heather Francis, managing director of marketing at the mart, “Collectors, both experienced and novice, can purchase with confidence, knowing that all of the exhibitors are carefully juried to ensure that only rdf_Descriptions of the highest quality are represented. The show also celebrates the joy that living with antiques can bring, and the relevance of antiques to all décor and lifestyles, from traditional to contemporary to Asian.”
Smith reported that 100 people were waiting to get into the fair when it opened Friday morning.
“The opening gate was the best in five years,” he noted “It was also the best public relations campaign done by the mart in the five years of the fair, including television appearances. The mix of dealers was better this year, and the fair also looked visually better.”
Chicago’s Betsy Nathan of Pagoda Red sold a Nineteenth Century Northern China two-door veneered cabinet in Huanghuali and burl over elm, a pair of black wood mirrors, a pair of lacquered head rests, a Ming heavy lacquer dressing box, a porcelain cat pillow and a lot of Nineteenth Century blue and white ceramic urns and ginger jars. Nathan told us, “Three people were deciding about my Art Deco chairs. The show has definitely brought new people into the gallery [in Bucktown], which is the ultimate goal.”
Chicago’s Golden Triangle had its exhibit filled with red “sold” tags from the preview until the show’s closing. Some of the rdf_Descriptions going out were all of their Betel boxes, a Chinese coffee table, two British Colonial teakwood bookcases from Burma, two Chinese scholar bamboo long pipes, a Chinese red and black coffee table, two Chinese merchant armchairs with two drawers, a pair of Art Deco chairs, a Chinese elmwood side chest, a Chinese black lacquer over elmwood bookcase, a British Colonial cane and teakwood chair, plus pieces already taken home.
When we talked to owner Doug Van Tress he said, “I sold very little to collectors, just a few minor pieces. I sold to designers and individuals looking for pieces to beautify their homes.”
Van Tress continued, “Buyers wanted unique rdf_Descriptions, a demographic not reached by antique shows very well. My customers were not seeking a $50,000 English table. I am selling to 34-year-olds doing a nice home. They are not purists, but looking for something special. They shopped at Crate & Barrel, The Pottery Barn and Ralph Lauren and found that lacking. They want something unique and affordable. The Asian furniture looks well with their contemporary furnishings.”
Van Tress refers to himself as “Mr Entry Level.” He said, “I did specially constructed room settings this year. A more minimal approach or staged environment. People could see pieces more clearly.” He added, “Attendance was much better than last year.”
Chicago art dealer Richard Norton, who has a gallery right in the mart, sold a modernist work by Theodore Lukits, a Cubist gouache. Norton said, “I met a lot of new collectors and reinforced relationships with old ones.”
London exhibitor Mano Vayis “loves being in Chicago.” He felt that “people are here but are not spending money.” He did sell a fine pair of chairs and some garden urns. One section of his exhibit was devoted to an enormous selection of Aubusson pillows very attractively displayed in a daybed.
At the Nemati Collection from New York City, Dominick Direnzo sold a tapestry, a carpet and one of the Parviz Nemati books entitled The Splendor of Antique Rugs and Tapestries. “A ton of brochures were taken; we are getting the word out,” said Direnzo. There is a new Nemati book coming out in the Fall called Splendor of Shawls.
First-time dealer Leonard Stark from Naperville, Ill., described himself as “the best new dealer.” Stark has been a collector for 35 years. Now he has sold a biotech company and become an art dealer for the 265 paintings he has to sell. A handsome example was his Clarence K. Chatterton, an American painter from New York State. His 1925 oil on canvas entitled “Beach Scene” was $60,000.
Another newcomer was Town and Country Antiques and Accessories from Houston. Anne Bielstein felt the show was “well presented with a good mix of dealers and had good attendance.” Bielstein was selling tortoiseshell pieces and game rdf_Descriptions, but no larger pieces. She was surprised by what was selling in Chicago.
Vivian Kiechel Fine Art from Lincoln, Neb., was featuring the works of John Steuart Curry since she represents his estate. “These works have never been displayed in an outside venue like this since most of his works have gone to a museum,” said Buck Kiechel.
One special painting was “Rainbow and View of Madison, Wisconsin” from 1937, which was $500,000. Kiechel told us, “Tommy Thompson was going to purchase this painting for the [Illinois] governor’s mansion, but then got a spot in the Bush cabinet.” Kiechel also has one of the largest collections of Thomas Hart Benton works.
From Bath, England, The Billiard Room sold some prints, a scoring board and a wonderful billiard triple lamp. Paul McKeivor said, “I would like to come back, but it depends on Sunday and Monday.”
Kathryn Berenson from Washington, D.C., said she “loves the show and do well here. I make good connections with decorators and people who love textiles.” Berenson sold quilts, almost all her textile smalls and objects and an all-white wedding quilt from 1830-70 showing the art of broderie de Marseille.
Barbara Bako from Akron, Ohio, described “great attendance, but sales were not as exciting.” She did sell a Biedermeier loveseat, a Flemish needlepoint chair, a turn-of-the-century Scottish fly fishing reel, an Impressionist painting and some jewelry.
The Jade Dragon from Ann Arbor, Mich., reported selling to both old and new clients. Stuart Hilbert sold scholar’s desk pieces, jewelry, jade, porcelains, snuff bottles and Japanese satsuma. Hilbert said “There was great attendance; it was nonstop in my exhibit. I sell mostly to collectors, both serious pieces and accessories. Most of my pieces are not impulse purchases. I am selling well across the board. I have had serious interest from several museums in the city. I also have a lot of repeat customers. I give a lifetime guarantee, and in 20 years I never had a piece returned.”
Hilbert added, “There is a lot of competition in Japanese prints on the floor, though.”
Hallidays Ltd from Oxfordshire, England, sold a bureau plat, a pair of framed Seventeenth Century hangings, a pair of chairs, a pair of stools, an important jewelry box in the shape of a piano and lots of smalls. Edward Reily Collins said, “We are left only with the biggest pieces. I also have a lot of good leads to follow up.” We were surprised to see that a pair of Regency period cast-iron stags that each had a gilded coronet on stone bases that dated circa 1820 for $48,000 were still available. Collins was featured on the evening news with those stags and they attracted a lot of attention.
Dumont Jewelry from West Hollywood, Calif., sold a cross section of diamonds, French couture and Indian Mogul jewelry. Maria Dumont said, “People in Chicago buy the most outrageous pieces. They are not timid. They know what they like.”
Tim Mertel of L’Asie Exotique from New York City told us, “It’s better than previous shows. There is a lot of interest and not as much hesitation.” Mertel sold a Japanese clothing chest, Japanese figural bronzes, Chinese and Vietnamese ceramics.
Thomas French Fine Art from Fairlawn, Ohio, felt, “It’s a small show with very high quality. Sandy did a wonderful job. He turned out a monied, educated crowd. There are very bright clients going through. I was pleased to sell good pieces to collectors. The only hesitation is on the lesser things.”
Linda Michels of Legendary Jewels from Eugene, Ore., was selling retro bracelets from the 1940s and 50s. She said, “Our pieces speak to people.” What is selling now are pieces that can be worn from day into evening, so they have more than one use. “People are looking for pieces that are moderately priced, pieces with a uniqueness and a connection to history,” concluded Michels.
At The Silver Fund from London and New York, Michael Johns was pleased with sales of a tea set, candelabras, candlesticks and tureens. “We did more than double from last year,” said Johns. This dealer is the largest dealer worldwide in antique Georg Jensen silver.
Sandy Smith’s contract with the Merchandise Mart concluded with this fifth year of the fair. Now decisions have to be made whether he will continue to be the manager of this fair for the mart.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm