Published: April 3, 2007
Founded in 1947 to preserve the architectural, historical and cultural heritage of the wealthiest of the Colonies’ port cities, Historic Charleston Foundation celebrated its 60th anniversary with fanfare.
Its annual Spring Festival of Houses & Gardens took visitors behind the scenes to azalea and camellia-filled private gardens and inside the stately homes that line block after block of this antiquarian’s paradise by the sea.
Between March 15 and April 14, Historic Charleston Foundation hosts dozens of parties, lectures, tours, concerts, plantation excursions, picnics, oyster roasts, and an antiques symposium featuring leading dealers and scholars from around the country. All help pay for the city’s ongoing restoration.
The belle of the ball is the Charleston International Antiques Show, launched four years ago by Historic Charleston Foundation and organized by Keeling Wainwright Associates.
“Charleston is a town of only 100,000 people, but it is rich in every way,” said Josh Wainwright, who manages the fair with his wife, Sandy. “Increasingly, Charleston is a winter retreat for people from the Northeast, Midwest and West who love antiques and historic architecture. It is an ideal place for a show.”
With only 32 exhibitors, the Charleston fair is what Wainwright calls an “upscale boutique” show. Many exhibitors are the only specialists in their categories here. Most enjoy the fair’s charming waterfront setting near the historic Battery, balmy weather, fine hotels and restaurants, and opportunities to visit museums and historic homes in the area. The foundation’s gracious hospitality is also a plus.
“We feel very good about this show,” Josh Wainwright said after wrapping up the event, which opened with a lively preview party on Thursday, March 15, and continued through Sunday, March 18. “Attendance increased considerably this year except for on Saturday, when the town’s huge St Patrick’s Day celebration interfered with traffic. Next year, the show is before St Patrick’s Day so there won’t be a conflict.”
The two-day setup was on the short side, but the show was immaculately groomed by the 6 pm opening. A single-floor, U-shaped plan makes the small presentation seem spacious. For booth walls, exhibitors chose from a selection of Sherwin-Williams’ Historic Charleston line of paints. Last year, buckling paper was an issue. Stacy Exposition Service of West Warren, Mass., fixed the problem this year, creating an attractive matte backdrop for antiques.
Charlestonians have well-formed tastes. Exhibitors respond by bringing material they know will sell in this market: formal American, English and Continental furniture; silver; Chinese porcelain; maps and prints; and fine art, both paintings and works on paper. Not surprisingly, buyers favor Southern antiques. Garden furniture and outdoor statuary also sell well, as does vintage clothing and jewelry.
“Charleston’s a smart town. There are some very good collectors here,” said Sumpter Priddy III. The well-known specialist in Southern furniture made several sales and placed two pieces on approval with regional museums. “For Southerners who are truly interested in the South, Charleston is where it is happening in Dixie. I see people down here who I don’t see in New York, so this is an important venue for me.”
“We’re thrilled to be here with such an illustrious group of dealers,” said Ann Silliman, owner, with her husband, David, of A. Fairfax Antiques. The King Street, Charleston, dealers specialize in Southern furniture. Their many sales included a Virginia sideboard and a cellaret, a Mid-Atlantic server, a pair of gilded neoclassical mirrors, an Eighteenth Century map of Carolina and Bermuda, and a Virginia valuables box.
“Half of our sales were local, the other half were to collectors from Connecticut, Virginia and elsewhere,” said David Silliman.
Rifton, N.Y., silver dealer Jonathan Trace parted with several Charleston rarities, among them a gold reward of merit for a Citadel-educated cadet and a pocket watch in a silver case.
Mark Gaines, a silver specialist from Baltimore, Md., sold a set of New Orleans coin-silver mint julep cups, a South Carolina agricultural society silver cup and a South Carolina sideboard. On hold was a pair of Kentucky tablespoons.
“We love being here,” said Lori Cohen, gallery director for W. Graham Arader III, Philadelphia, which offered important early maps of South Carolina and prints of local birds by Audubon and Jacques Barraband. A standout was William Faden and William Gerard de Brahm’s 1780 map of South Carolina and part of Georgia, $240,000.
“We sold nine pieces last night and a number of things today, so we are pleased,” said John Copenhaver of Fletcher/Copenhaver, Fredericksburg, Va., fine arts dealers who brought several collections by individual artists. Columbia, Mo., dealers Melissa Williams and Douglas Solliday reported similarly strong sales.
“We could have sold our Philadelphia recamiers five times. They’re perfect for Charleston,” said Audrey Rebollo of Christopher T. Rebollo Antiques. The sofas, probably by Quervelle, were $12,000 for the pair. “They are going into a lovely Charleston home with a nice fireplace. They’ll be perfect.” The Mechanicsville, Penn., dealers also sold a Maryland Federal mahogany chest of drawers, a girandole mirror and a Philadelphia Federal campaign desk.
Judd Gregory arrived in Charleston fresh from a show in Alexandria, Va. One of the Vermont dealer’s first sales was a Massachusetts demilune card table. “I’m delivering it back north,” said Gregory.
Gary Young, a Maryland specialist in English furniture, got off to a brisk start, selling a Regency penwork table, a pair of Marlborough chairs, a pair of shellwork sconces and a pair of long walnut carvings. A handsome bureau bookcase that Young first offered in January at the Washington, D.C., show recently sold at Winnetka.
New to the show, Chinese art dealers Edie and Joel Frankel of Manhattan said that, as expected, they sold blue and white wares, especially export. They were pleased enough with their first outing to come back next year.
According to Wainwright, others who did well included Mary Helen McCoy, an Alabama dealer in French furniture who sold to collectors from Texas, California, Illinois and Washington state; Maine dealer William Schwind; and Jerry Hayes, a majolica dealer from Oklahoma. Stella Rubin, who deals in quilts and jewelry, and Katy Kane, the vintage couture specialist, also reported robust sales.
“We’re all very positive about the future of this show,” said Josh and Sandy Wainwright, who look forward to being back in Charleston in March 2008.
For information, 843-723-1623 or www.historiccharleston.org .
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