Published: October 19, 2015
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos by R. Scudder Smith
RHINEBECK, N.Y. — Show revivals are tricky. Especially when the attempt is to bring back something once considered unique and compelling. Which the Rhinebeck show was. And is. And strives to remain.
Frank Gaglio of Barn Star Productions should know. He has lived for 15 years just down the street from the show’s longtime venue, the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, in this historic village, which itself is a destination place. On the three-day holiday weekends around Memorial Day and Columbus Day, its downtown is sure to be jammed with vacationers and New York metro-area second home owners strolling the gauntlet of store window displays or vying for tables at the charming Le Petit Bistro and other nearby restaurants.
In such proximity and an exhibitor himself at both the spring and fall shows for decades, Gaglio watched in dismay as the iconic event begun by Bill Walter back in 1976, first at Bard College then at the fairgrounds, went from assembling upwards of 200 exhibitors from across the United States into a downward arc over the past decade, losing both quality dealers and enthusiastic crowds. He will admit that the revival is a work in progress, but the trajectory is clearly in the right direction. “I thought the gate on opening day was fine and even the second day was phenomenal,” said Gaglio a couple days after the event on October 10–11. “We saw a lot of things leaving the show floor and the shipping service was busy.”
Bob Smith, who deftly combined Modernist fine art and antiques in his booth to good effect, had this to say about the fall Antiques at Rhinebeck: “Frank Gaglio has cast his magic spell over the Rhinebeck Antiques Show and is bringing it back with a roar! In reaching out to a select group of dealers, he is beginning to rebuild Rhinebeck with the help of a dedicated staff and dealers who have responded in kind, putting together a visually sumptuous show of diverse and wonderful objects spanning three centuries of color, form, texture and graphic design.” The Montrose, Penn., dealer tallied several sales over the weekend, including a “For Sale” sign, a midcentury steel wall sculpture, an Isabelle Parks “spill cast” sculpture, a surreal still life, a landscape painting and an early Nineteenth Century trade sign. “It is a beautiful show that needs to be put back on, or added to, the calendar of every person who truly cares about surrounding his or her life with beauty, culture and historical focus,” concluded Smith.
Echoing the notion that Gaglio’s team is the Medici to the show’s renaissance, folk art specialist Victor Weinblatt, South Hadley, Mass., was equally complimentary. “Frank continues to rebuild the Rhinebeck brand. A show manager’s show manager and a dealer’s dealer rolled into one, on pre-setup day Frank worked at the fairgrounds past 2 am and was back on site before 7 am.”
Weinblatt noted robust preshow buying and selling, with Saturday maintaining a strong and knowledgeable gate for most of the day. “Sold signs appeared all over my booth in my favorite of fall foliage color — red,” he said. “We sold a Nineteenth Century French tole campaign sink labeled Paris at opening. Other sales included a rare pair of 1930s ice cream sundae and soda props, a circa 1920s Boston polychrome ‘Dance Hall’ set a rakish angle; a circa 1910 Pennsylvania bakery case reverse glass gilded ‘The People’s Bread’ sign; a circa 1920 ‘Dining Room’ sign in the best dry oxidized gilding; a circa 1930s diner sign in applied letters on beveled glass — ‘Breakfast 35 cents, Lunch 50 cents, Dinner 75 cents’ — a circa 1940s Maine iron double-sided ‘Ralph and Dot’s Coffee Pot’ with an oversized image in the center; a set of five silhouetted iron carnival knockdown targets; a polychrome fishing bobber in the best dry surface with a Calder-esque wire structure; a diminutive polychrome Parcheesi and a host of smalls.”
Shoreham, N.Y., tribal antiques dealers Lee and Vichai Chinalai displayed stellar examples of Huayao textiles in the form of stitch embroidered skirt panels from China’s Hunan province, wonderfully wrought with stylized dragons by the artisans of this unique clan of the Yao ethnic group. The dealers also participated in the “5 Minute Expert” series at the show on Saturday, talking about what constitutes tribal art with examples that included the skirts, some jewelry and hair sticks. “We thought that it was a lovely show with good dealers that started off with a bang and indicates a definite Rhinebeck revival,” said Lee afterward. “We would predict that as the reputation of the show and the dealers spreads, Rhinebeck will be very popular and continue to draw more and more local and New York City designers as well as the usual collectors. Our own sales leaned heavily toward clothing and a wide variety of textiles.”
Sherman, Conn., dealers Anita and Ed Holden are still waiting for the old Rhinebeck magic to gel for their merchandise. They were showing, among other items, a Nineteenth Century shoe-foot table with pine top and base on maple shoe feet, which at 67 inches long by 34 inches wide would comfortably seat six people. Atop the table was a large spreadwing eagle on ball over a curved writing quill, an American piece from the early Twentieth Century. A change from the usually looming ancestor portraits was a diminutive pair of Nineteenth Century likenesses found in South Carolina on wood panel, 11½ by 14½ inches each, mounted in gold frames.
Citing soft sales for this outing, Anita Holden said, “Opening day crowd was pretty adequate, but they were, for the most part, not buyers. I think the show looked good and it certainly was well promoted. Maybe it was too nice a day, maybe there were a lot of fall community events going on. We did have some sales, just not the volume that Rhinebeck usually generates. We sold a Fairbury bull windmill weight, a Nineteenth Century theorem and a large ‘make-do’ bicycle, partially Nineteenth Century, a couple of pieces of blown glass and assorted smalls.” Nevertheless, the Holdens will “certainly go back to Rhinebeck and hope that it will regain its popularity.”
Also coming back next May will be Tim and Charline Chambers, collectively Missouri Plain Folk, Sikeston, Mo., although Tim commented that he wished that the opening day crowd had been as big and ebullient as it was for the spring event. “Frank is a masterful show promoter and is doing all the right things,” he said. “But this time it seemed that the crowd was bit more aloof. We saw many new faces, which is good, but you also need that longtime client to get you over the slow spots. That said, I thought the show looked gorgeous, the variety was great and the dealers are a wonderful group of people.”
Tim added that show-energy aside, the couple did make money before packing up and heading home. “We sold across the board — trade signs, a blue painted cupboard, New York blanket box, two great game boards, a bucket bench or plant stand and a sheet iron folk art dog, among other things.”
Susan Wechsler’s eclectic eye for great American folk art was once again in evidence as her business, South Road Antiques, presented a miniature Nineteenth Century shell and stone house from Gardiner, Maine, and a vintage Noah’s Ark, circa 1930, with 22 pairs of animals carved by William Hargreaves, a cabinet and coffin maker from England who emigrated to the United States. A folk art scroll-sawn cat, Twentieth Century, 22½ by 19½ by 8 inches, had been featured in American Cat-alogue: The Cat in American Folk Art by Bruce Johnson and was from the Barbara Johnson collection.
“The show was gorgeous, and filled with high-quality items,” commented Wechsler. “Frank has worked really hard to make Rhinebeck a significant show again… and it was like old times with many dealers from the past returning.” She noted that the crowd was thinner than in May, “but you would have to attribute that to the beyond-spectacular weather — if only it had rained!” Among her sales were two pairs of signs, a primitive sink and many smalls. “I met some locals who are measuring spaces and coming to my barn in Stanfordville, N.Y., to browse. Shows are always important for making contacts and getting the work seen.”
Fine art at the show was provided by several dealers, including David and Donna Kmetz, Douglas, Mass. “I’ve always been a big fan of Rhinebeck, so I’m thrilled that it is back and very happy with Frank’s management,” said Donna. “The quality of the dealers was, for the most part, better than ever, and if we can sustain this, perhaps we can attract an audience that will support this higher level. My weekend was okay and I believe I made a few people happy with some very nice deals. Of particular local interest, I sold a beautiful Impressionist painting of the Hudson River by Arthur Powell, a member of the National Academy who settled nearby in Dover Plains, N.Y.”
An even larger display of choice canvases was found at Art & Antiques Gallery where Worcester, Mass., dealer Bill Union stocked both wall and floor space with works by artists like Hudson River School’s George Loren Brown, Florida coast painter Albert “Beanie” Backus and Theodore Robinson. A striking portrait of “Francis,” 1935, by Luigi Lucioni (1900–1988), an Italian American painter known for his still lifes, landscapes and portraits, had an Alexandre Gallery label on verso.
Sanford Levy of Jenkinstown Antiques, New Paltz, N.Y., a longtime dealer at this show, said he has sold about 20 “T.B. Popes” over the years, referring to Thomas Benjamin Pope (1833/1834–1891), who lived in and focused his art on Newburgh, N.Y. Levy had a Pope on his booth wall, an oil on canvas depicting Moodna Creek South in Newburgh, and coincidentally there was not only an exhibition featuring the artist’s works at the Dorsky Museum in New Paltz, but Pope was also included in a cover article appearing in the October 2 issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly. Levy spoke about the regional artists at the show’s “5 Minute Expert” series of show-and-tell presentations. He also specializes in furniture from the valley, including kasten, such as the monumental Eighteenth Century gumwood example that took up much real estate in his booth.
“I had a good show at Rhinebeck,” said Levy, “selling both before and during the show.” Sales included an E.L. Henry (1841–1919) watercolor painting of a peddler selling his wares, dated 1902. Henry was a founding member of the Cragsmoor, N.Y., artist colony and was known for his realistic genre scenes. Also finding buyers was a painting by D.F. Hasbrouck, an antique bed, many smalls, including yellowware, stoneware and blown glass. “A few dealers came over to my shop on Monday on their way home and bought some more, so the weekend finished up well,” said Levy.
Karen Wendhiser, Ellington, Conn., sold mostly vintage Mexican and Modernist silver jewelry out of her three showcases set up in the booth she shares with husband Paul at the entrance in Building B. “Of interest, I sold a rare elephant design hinged sterling cuff bracelet marked “Taxco, J.C.,” which was made prior to 1948. I have repeat customers at Rhinebeck and they always come to my booth looking for a piece of jewelry that is unique. I am grateful for their business and always try to bring unusual pieces to sell.”
And while it was not a big weekend for selling their folk art, Judith and James Milne, Kingston, N.Y, dealers who have a business called At Home Antiques, were pleased to see six or seven sizable pieces of furniture leave their booth, including a bucket bench, grain painted chest of drawers, a low chest of drawers in blue paint and a zinc-topped table with an industrial base. “I think painted furniture may be coming back into vogue,” mused Judith.
Next up for Barn Star Productions is the Wilton Fall Antiques Market on Sunday, October 25, at the Wilton (Conn.) High School Field House, a benefit for the town’s historical society.
Antiques at Rhinebeck returns in May 2016. For information, www.barnstar.com or 845-876-0616.
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