Published: October 22, 2019
Review and Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Fall Show is a “must-attend” event, not just for those who plan their lives around the San Francisco social calendar, but for anyone in the United States serious about antiques, art and design. For those that keep track of such things, the show fielded 17 exhibitors based – or with an office – in California, 19 from the United States, five from the United Kingdom, three from European countries and one each from Canada and Mexico. Arguably one of the best shows on the West Coast, this annual event features four days of non-stop lectures, panel discussions, book signings and, of course, antiques, art and design dating from antiquity to contemporary.
The city has always had an international flair, and, with its DeYoung and Legion of Honor museums, the SFMoMA and the Asian Art Museum among many other museums, it is a world-class destination for the arts. The show attempts to draw a similarly sophisticated crowd but mixed sales suggest it occasionally missed that mark. The preview party the show puts on has a great reputation on the show circuit and can compete with the lavish preview parties thrown in New York City. Francis Lord, Milord Antiques, said that the opening preview party was a crucial moment to meet and connect with the local design trade and their clients, that it is a serious crowd shopping the floor that night.
Show chair, Suzanne Tucker, said, “The San Francisco Fall Show is one of the oldest and most revered shows in the country, if not the world, with both national and international dealers exhibiting. For anyone interested in the decorative arts from contemporary to antiquities – buying, collecting or simply learning – the show is not to be missed.”
Vera Vandenbosch, who oversees public relations for the show, reported that not only were the show events well-attended but that attendance saw an increase over the previous year, even on the last day of the show, which she said is historically a slower day, was busy and people were buying. “Suffice it to say, we were extremely pleased with the show. It was well received on many different fronts: our dealers, the visitors, our cultural partners, our lecturers, our vignette designers, our sponsors and of course also the show’s beneficiary Enterprise for Youth, which is coincidentally celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. But honestly, what thrills us the most is the feedback from the dealers: sales have been good and I have heard from more than one dealer that they seem to have tapped into a new buying audience: younger buyers, designers that did not work with antiques in the past are now reaching out…all of this is very encouraging!”
There were a few changes to the show. In keeping with the latest trend among art and antiques fairs nationwide, the decision was made to drop the word “antique” from the title of the show but nonetheless kept it as a clear focus. The show has typically taken place later in October but the show management moved it up to the first week in October, a move that was not universally popular with dealers, many of whom saw fewer sales than expected because regular clients were away and could not attend the show.
Among the new exhibitors at the show were Mexican dealer and curator Rodrigo Rivero Lake and antique rug dealer from New York City, Mansour. Other new exhibitors include two jewelry dealers: DKF from Sharon, Conn., and Los Angeles-based Jogani.
Ten of the show’s exhibitors are based in the Bay Area, including Montgomery Gallery, which specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century American and European fine art. Peter Fairbanks had brought several works with local interest, including “A 1927 view of Chrissy Field, San Francisco” by Christian Siemer and “Golden Gate, San Francisco” by John Ross Keys. But the marquee pieces were Gustave Caillebotte’s “La Seine a la Pointe d’Epinay,” which was priced at $1.2 million, and Louis Valtat’s “Vase of Flowers,” for which the gallery was asking $100,000. Reporting only one sale at the show, Fairbanks commented, “the show was moderate this year. I would have thought San Franciscans would have been interested in those local views. There were fewer people asking questions; there was more of that in the past but over time it has diminished. The change in date hurt. San Franciscans tend not to go away in the summer; they tend to take their holidays in late September and early October. So, having the show then was difficult.”
San Francisco antiques dealer Daniel Stein, who has been doing the show since 1986, was one of a few decorative arts dealers who sold well. Stein reported more than a dozen sales of furniture, smalls and flat artwork, ranging in price from $2,000 to $85,000. “We did have a good show, including multiples sales at a higher level. The sweet spot for us – for furniture – is always between $5,000 and $10,000. The major sales were to existing clients, though we did have some new clients on some of the smaller things. Most of our sales were to California clients, with decorators being a large part of our clientele. I think San Francisco has changed; tech people are not buying traditional antiques.”
Collier Gwin of Foster Gwin Gallery, San Francisco, has been doing the show for 37 years, the longest of any current exhibitor. Gwin sold a very good painting by a Midcentury Bay Area artist, which is largely what he deals in these days, mixing it with early Italian furniture.
With its close proximity to the ocean, San Franciscans have an affinity for marine and maritime culture that often extends to collecting interests. In an attempt to capitalize on that appreciation, several exhibitors brought works with a marine or maritime aesthetic.
China trade pictures and English sailor’s woolies’ are regular features with Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge Inc. Paul Vandekar also pointed out a group of four hand colored engravings of sea birds by Prideaux John Selby, who he said is often called the British Audubon. Also, of note was an oil painting of an American clipper by Antonio Jacobsen. After the sale, Vandekar said it had been a pretty good show, with the Jacobsen on hold and sales across the board, including several of the sailor’s woolies and a sailor’s valentine.
Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas, brought a fantastic selection of American furniture and folk art, marine art and decorative arts. The center of his booth made no bones about his New England base, centering a Dunlap school chest on chest between a pair of Andrew Winter seaside views on one side and two ship pictures by James Buttersworth on the other. When asked what his best things were, Freitas pointed to a spectacular painting of the yacht America racing off Sandy Hook in 1870, painted by James Edward Buttersworth. When Antiques and The Arts Weekly caught up with Freitas a week after the show, he had just sold a painting that he added to other sales of paintings, a chair and a couple of Tiffany lamps. “Compared to past years, it was OK. Moving the show dates hurt me,” Freitas said. “Clients who are usually there just did not show up.”
“We tend to bring modern pictures to Palm Beach and Nineteenth Century pictures to Chicago,” said Trinity House Paintings’ Zachary Hall, who oversees the firm’s New York City and Chicago offices. “But for San Francisco, we always bring marine pictures.” Hall showed off a painting of the Henley regatta painted in 1930 by Raoul Dufy (French, 1877-1953), which the gallery had acquired a week prior to the show. The painting was just one of several water-oriented pictures by artists such as Montague Dawson, John Steven Dews, Henry Moret and Hilda Clements Hassel. Karen Beale, who oversees the local office in Tiburon, Calif., said the gallery had “a good show, not great.”
“I love the San Francisco show because I have such a wonderful space there, with 12-foot walls, right in the wide-open center of the show, that always allows for a dynamic display. I work harder on that show than any other one of the year,” said American flag and folk art dealer, Jeff Bridgman. The York, Penn., dealer had brought numerous flags as well as works on paper related to California and women’s suffrage, but perhaps the most visually eye-catching was a giant format 1908 Buffalo Bill Wild West show poster, which he had “just got in.” In a follow up phone call, Bridgman confirmed he had sold it to one of his New York City clients who has a house on the West Coast. He also sold to his most important West Coast client. Other sales reported included a California flag and a suffrage piece. When asked if the local audience wanted his California material, Bridgman said “Thirty-one-star California flags are very rare and very expensive; I’ve been going to that show for 12 years and it is easier for me to sell them on the East Coast, which I think is interesting.”
While admitting this year was not the best year of the 20 years he has been at the show, Tony Buccola of Antonio’s Bella Casa said, “We met a lot of wonderful people and had a good show, and there seemed to be more active decorators and larger crowds. We sold a few paintings and a couple of pieces of furniture in the booth. We have a great deal of photos and information out with clients, so we are hopeful as in the past, there will still be more sales as a follow up. There was a great deal of interest across the board on all items, from art to antiquities. Antiques are trending back up, and the art has always been a strong point for us, and we enjoy presenting the mix.” Buccola said the preshow marketing and advertising was so good that items he had advertised sold before the show opened.
“The crowds were amazing, and a lot of credit is due to the lectures and the amount of PR done by the San Francisco Fall Show staff. We invited many clients, and many showed up,” said Danish silver dealer, Greg Pepin. He reported sales included a Georg Jensen silverware set, a modern Henning Koppel bowl, an Art Deco vase and a Georg Jensen single candelabra. Pepin, who had taken a brief hiatus from the show, has already announced plans to participate next year.
The theme of the show was “Wanderlust,” and the entrance to the show featured four vignettes created by local designers around the four points of the compass. If there was a prize for the exhibitor that best adhered to the theme, it is this reporter’s opinion that honor should go to the Zentner Collection, Inc, of Emeryville, Calif. Specializing in Asian antiques, the gallery created a dramatically lit jewel-like booth with wonderfully exotic things. Two monumental Seventeenth or Eighteenth Century Edo period Japanese bronze temple lanterns created a spectacular entrance to the small space, which was dominated by a Chinese export canopy bed that evokes ethereal dreams of travel and a Japanese Norimono palanquin that lent a sense of exoticism. Sales on opening night included a bronze rain drum and some snuff bottles.
Another gallery specializing in Asian works of art is Lotus Gallery, which hails from Austin, Texas, and has been doing the show for six years, in addition to shows in Houston, Santa Fe and Charleston, S.C. When asked if the gallery’s clientele was primarily Asian, Jonathan Tung said they also had designers and individual collectors. He showed off a Japanese Edo period six-fold screen depicting “Sparrows and the Three Friends of Winter,” which he explained were pine, plums and bamboo, and also a Twentieth Century Chinese black and gilt lacquer painting table.
Some of the iconic American, English and European artists of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century were represented by Haynes Fine Art, which has been participating in the San Francisco show for at least more than ten years, has offices in both London and The Cotswolds. The back wall of the booth was centered by “Two views of mother and child sculpture,” an original drawing by Henry Moore; Bernard Buffet’s “Lys et Iris Dans Un Vase de Gallé,” and “Windy Day” by Eugene Boudin. These were flanked by two original drawings by Peanuts author Charles Schulz and an Andy Warhol ink on paper titled “Clock.” These works added modernity and to the colorful landscapes, still life, marine and sporting pictures that populated the rest of the booth.
Red dots were spotted on a pair of blue and white vases in the booth of David Brooker on opening night. After the show, the Woodbury and Westport, Conn., dealer, reported he had a good show, selling both Nineteenth and Twentieth and Twenty-First Century paintings in equal amounts. “What was interesting…it was mostly to new clients. I thought the party was great and the attendance was much improved on previous years. I also thought the show looked amazing…as was the staff,” Booker said in an email after the show closed.
The San Francisco Fall Show is the only show in the United States that British dealer Henry Saywell does, and he has been doing it for four years. Guarding the corner of his booth was a 13-foot-tall sheet copper figure made in 1963 by Ernst Eisenmayer. Saywell said he thinks it’s a warrior and had recently acquired it. He also showed a series of harmonograms by Ivan Moscovich that he said had been previously exhibited at San Francisco’s Exploratorium in 1969.
Michael DeAngelis specializes in Twentieth Century furniture and decorative arts and heads the show’s vetting committee in that category. He has done the show for several years and said afterward it was a good show, and while it was not the strongest show he’s had, he commented that the press coverage and attendance were strong all weekend and is looking forward to next year. Sales included three Danish mirrors, an Italian dining table, Abercrombie bulldog and a brutalist lamp.
The only Canadian dealer at the show, Francis Lord of Milord Antiques, has been doing the show for five years and were among the first ones to show Twentieth Century furniture and works of art at the show back when the exhibitors where prominently showing traditional antiques. “It took a while for the San Francisco clients to connect with this other universe, but in the last three years, we have noticed a growing interest in the desire of this clientele to acquire high-end strong pieces of Twentieth Century furniture, lighting and decorative art. This year we made important new connections with design firms that committed to important pieces on behalf of their clients, lighting, furniture and wall decoration as well as art. Not quantity but quality.”
New York City exhibitor Guy Regal was returning to the show after making his debut last year and waxed enthusiastic. “The show was quite good for me this year. Last year was the first time I did the show, so my comparisons are limited…however, I certainly had a better show than last year! I sold multiple items. There was a lot of interest in both my traditional antiques, as well as my Twentieth Century items and my contemporary pieces. The audience was quite knowledgeable and excited about what I was presenting.”
“We always bring great things to every show we do,” said Jeff Russack of Lawrence Jeffrey Jewelers, “but for San Francisco, we bring the best of the best.” The Litchfield, Conn., dealer was debuting a collection of pendant necklaces as part of the approximately 500 pieces he had brought to the show. On opening night, his wife, Sandy, and their two assistants, were modeling French and English tiaras and petite crowns, which Russack said were not for sale, but which conveyed the important message that fashion and jewelry are closely linked. Having done the show for 16 years, Russack said this year compared very favorably to previous shows and had been a great show. “Our best sale was a really large gold bracelet, but we had a lot of interest in our display of individual talismanic pendants and fobs, which follows the trending fashion for multiples.”
Debuting jewelry dealer, Dana Kraus, gave a glowing report after making several significant sales of earrings and rings. “We had a terrific San Francisco show. The committee does a great job with lectures and adjunct events, which bring in steady traffic. We have a core group of loyal clients in the Bay Area and they all came to support us, as well as clients from Chicago and L.A. They got to enjoy the opening party and we got to enjoy their company. The show was beautifully appointed, the weather was stunning, and we look forward to returning.”
One of the few vendors to exhibit ethnographic works is Rainforest Baskets from Portland, Ore. Jennifer Kuyper deemed the show, “excellent for us.” She reported not only did they have more sales at the show this year- more than 30 masks and more than ten baskets – but said she will have designer sales throughout the year from people who attended.
The dates for the 39th edition of the San Francisco Fall Show have not yet been confirmed. For additional information, www.sffallshow.org.
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