Published: December 24, 2019
By Laura Beach
NORTHWOOD, N.H. — The Antiques Dealers’ Association of America (ADA) has named Karen and the late Ralph DiSaia the winners of its 2020 Award of Merit. Karen DiSaia will accept the prize on the couple’s behalf at a dinner planned for Friday, April 24, at the Philadelphia Show.
Over their nearly 39-year marriage, Karen and Ralph DiSaia developed and operated Oriental Rugs Ltd., a nationally known source for fine antique Oriental rugs and carpets. Active on the antiques show circuit from its inception, Oriental Rugs Ltd. currently exhibits at events in Washington, DC; Hartford, Conn.; Newport, R.I.; Manchester, N.H.; and Wilmington, Del. The DiSaias also maintained shops in Mystic, Old Lyme and Niantic, Conn.
A related business, DiSaia Management, grew out of the couple’s sustained experience as exhibitors and deep commitment to volunteerism. DiSaia Management, which along with Oriental Rugs Ltd. is continued by Karen, manages, singly or with partners, the Washington Winter Show, Objects of Desire, the Connecticut Spring Show, the Antique Garden Furniture Fair, the Philadelphia Show, the Newport Show and Antiques in Manchester. A director and former officer of the ADA, Karen, with Ralph’s help, also managed the ADA/Historic Deerfield Antiques Show, postponed in 2019 pending identification of a new venue.
“I am deeply honored, as Ralph was, to be chosen for this award. Our work made us strong together. Our volunteerism on behalf of the Antiques Council began in the 1980s with the altruistic belief that dealers could collectively manage their affairs for the betterment of the entire industry. We loved what we did and particularly enjoyed putting the ADA shows together. We hope the fair will soon find a new home,” Karen DiSaia said. The ADA shared its award decision with Ralph before his death on November 22.
“We are proud to finally honor one of our own for this award. Presently I cannot think of any other members more deserving than Karen and Ralph. For decades they promoted the antiques and art business as dealers, as ADA members and as show promoters — and as ambassadors of professionalism, kindness and having a good time while you’re hard at work,” ADA president Steven Powers said.
“The DiSaias are generous, kind and compassionate — a truly amazing couple. They are hugely deserving of this award,” ADA vice president Arthur Liverant said.
“Honoring Ralph and Karen DiSaia with the ADA Award of Merit this year is poignant and right on target. They have contributed enormously in bringing a sense of community and in expanding the commercial footprint of the antiques market through their management of antiques shows and their own business, Oriental Rugs Ltd. Ralph’s presence at the Philadelphia Show will be deeply missed this year. We are fortunate to have Karen’s continued oversight this year with Diana Bittel,” said Huntley Platt, Philadelphia Museum of Art manager for show.
“To me, Karen and Ralph embody all that is good in this field. They conduct their personal antiques business with integrity and honesty, and are experts on their subject matter…and always willing to learn more. And then they take that work ethic, and use it in their antiques show management business to create successful venues where other dealers could succeed in their businesses, too,” ADA executive director Judith Livingston Loto said.
The ADA Award has been presented annually since 2002. Past recipients 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, Peter Tillou, Brock Jobe, David McCullough, Victor and Joan Johnson, Patricia E. Kane, Peter M. Kenny and Laura Beach.
Its name recently shortened, the Philadelphia Show, featuring roughly 60 specialists in antiques, art and design, returns to the city’s Navy Yard April 24-26. A gala preview party benefiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art is planned for the evening of April 23.
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