Published: May 18, 2021
Review and Photos by Greg Smith
BRIMFIELD, MASS.- Just as a daffodil’s yellow bloom signals the end of a long, cold winter, the return of Brimfield Auction Acres May 12-15 marked the beginning of the end for a period of dormancy in the antiques show calendar.
It was near the end of March that many of the 20-some fields that make up Brimfield each decided to forego the May edition, the year’s first of three scheduled week-long shows. At that time, the Massachusetts State Department of Health had given show managers the green light to hold their May events, though they would be required to abide by additional restrictions. The consensus among most managers seemed to be that six weeks was not long enough to conform to the new restrictions, and they were not comfortable with the uncertainty that if cases rose in the interim, the state could cancel the event at any time.
All but one (or two), that is – husband and wife Rusty and Kate Corriveau of Brimfield Auction Acres (formerly J&J), who own the longest running field in all of Brimfield. The couple looked at their expansive lot with 22 shopping acres and saw open air and socially distant opportunity.
Among the restrictions placed on the event was a 325-person per square acre capacity limit, meaning they could have a maximum of 7,150 people on the field at any time, a number they were cognizant and attentive of and one they did not tip over. Shopping aisles were wide and eating areas were established as visitors could not walk around with food or drink.
The last rule, and one that applied to all, was mandatory masks. Shortly after opening, Rusty Corriveau was seen driving slowly among the lanes in a golf cart and megaphone in hand, issuing mask warnings at full volume to any offending individuals. Most everyone was compliant.
“What I’m so pleased about is everyone being cooperative about the masks,” said Kate Corriveau. “Everyone wants to be here. The shoppers are thanking us for having the show, which has never happened before.”
The field was laid out with 300 dealers who came far and wide to what was, no doubt, the largest antiques show in New England in the month of May.
The gate was a rambling brook, not terribly long when it opened at 7 am that Tuesday, but flowing well into the afternoon and the days afterward. Hours after the show opened, buyers were still arriving with their families and pouring into the show.
The aisles were filled with mini reunions everywhere.
“I’m happy that you’re here and I’m here,” one dealer said to another.
“Our first show in far too long!” another dealer remarked.
“Who’s next to hand me their money?” a barker yelled out.
“What shot did you get? The Pfizer? I got the Moderna. Any side effects?” a buyer said to a dealer he hadn’t seen in a while.
“We’ve got a beautiful day out here,” one dealer said, to which his neighbor added, “If only the wind would die down.”
The more things change, the more they remain the same.
People were exiting the field with paintings in each hand; a bench over their shoulder; bags on their back, in each hand and in their pull carts.
Many dealers told us that the opening hours didn’t progress at sell-out-the-booth speed, but they made good sales for good items. Buyer interest was there, as was an eagerness to make up for lost time.
Among a shelf with nothing but antique candlesticks and lamps in wrought iron, cast brass and other materials, Gray Dog Antiques of Adamstown, Penn., featured both American and European examples. The dealer’s favorite was a “Yellow Dog” lamp in cast iron. Appearing like a teapot with two spouts arising out of each end, the dealer explained they were used on oil rigs. “When they lit it at night, it would cast two lights, and the men would say it looked like a yellow dog with its head and tail.”
Woodbridge, Conn., dealer Sterling Adams featured a vibrant carnival or circus Weight Guesser’s Chair. It arose on tripod legs and featured a hanging chair, where the truth would come to light after the guesser made his approximation. The chair was attached to a scale at the top. The dealer also featured a selection of petroliana signs and other advertising.
Robert Lloyd Gallery recently vacated his space in New York City for the fresh air of Great Barrington, Mass. The dealer brought along a painted wood carousel figure of Superman, featuring the superhero with his arms outstretched. Lloyd said it came from a small traveling carousel and it was the only figure among them that wasn’t fully deteriorated – they always said he was made of steel, didn’t they?
Michael Buscemi Antiques of Northampton, Mass., brought along an armchair created by the J.S. Ford, Johnson & Company, circa 1904. An identical example is in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and a similar design resides at the Met. In a brown-stained oak, the chair is notable for its pierced curvilinear sides that cradle the sitter.
David Smernoff Fine & Contemporary Art, New Haven, Conn., featured “Dante’s Dancers,” an abstract painting by American artist Mary Polon (1917-2013) that Smernoff called “one of the nicest works I’ve ever seen by her.” Polon turned to painting full time in the early 1960s and had an exhibition in 1965 at an unknown gallery, where this work was displayed.
Ron Rainka of Cobalt Turtle Antiques, Warren, Mass., was holding down the fort with antique glass. Featured among his many bottles was a citron colored “Monitor” or “turtle” ink well by John and Isaac Elijah Moore, bottled in their factory in Warren, Mass., which Rainka presently lives in. “It was patented in 1865,” Rainka said, “people used to call it a ‘turtle’ because they didn’t know the proper name, but I found it in a catalog it where it was called a ‘Monitor’ after the Civil War gunship.”
A pressed fiberboard side chest with a fully fitted interior was sporting a sold tag for Past Cache, LLC out of Malta, N.Y. The buyer was Paul Norton of Hatco Trunks, who specializes in trunks of all kinds, but is actively researching those with fiberboard sides. “It was a revolutionary material in 1910,” Norton said, noting the applied trapezoidal moldings on the trunk were a signature of the company that made it, Innovation. Norton said he plans on writing articles on fiberboard trunks.
Kate Corriveau told us, “Usually the dealers are brimming, but they are really overflowing with merchandise this round.” She said many of them have trucks packed and ready to unload for the show’s second, third and fourth days.
Barring an increase in Covid-19 cases and a tightening of restrictions on gatherings, all fields have indicated they will open for a more expansive Brimfield summer show with dates from July 13-18.
For more information about Brimfield Auction Acres, https://brimfieldauctionacres.com/ or 413-245-3436.
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