Published: June 13, 2017
Review by Greg Smith, Photos by R. Scudder Smith
RHINEBECK, N.Y. – Four buildings of treasures awaited visitors to the sun-kissed Memorial Day edition of Antiques at Rhinebeck that packed, squeezed and undid its top button to fit into the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. With a host of experienced dealers and quality material in nearly every booth, the May 27-28 show is flying on optimism as it continues to offer visitors the whole shebang – from contemporary all the way back to early primitives. And with diversity at its core, Rhinebeck carries a purse that holds all the cards.
“It is something to be proud of,” said Frank Gaglio, the show manager, from his office the following week. “Opening day had a huge uptick in attendance. I feel a tremendous amount of pride for this show, not only because I live here, but because I’ve done this show since it began.”
Gaglio has had a long history with Rhinebeck, exhibiting at the show when it started at Bard College, and has stuck with it, with a few off-years thrown in, until present day. A lot of things have changed in the meantime.
If one thing fuels the Rhinebeck engine more than anything else, it has been the diversification of material that embraces a new era of antiques shows aimed at attracting a larger audience. Niche material, which has historically been the foundation of antiques shows, is having trouble keeping up with the present.
“This year we featured the largest number of exhibitors that we’ve ever had in the show,” said Gaglio. “And they’re happy to see that it’s moving in a positive direction. Diversified offerings is the key to success going forward in our industry.”
Visitors to the show were regaled with a wide variety of merchandise that spanned traditional antiques in American furniture, folk art, Americana objects, advertising, primitives and pottery, while finding fine art through paintings, prints and sculpture that spanned centuries and styles, Midcentury Modernism, garden statuary and photography.
Those with an appreciation for 1960s and 1970s rock and blues music would have found a home in the special exhibit booth of Weston, Conn., dealer Michael Friedman. While some may know Friedman as an antiques dealer specializing in Western and folk art, hidden under his cool demeanor lies a past that includes managing the storied rock and roll musician Todd Rundgren. With a natural ear for talent and good music, Friedman went on to be picked up by Albert Grossman as an assistant and partner, where he managed Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Janis Joplin and many others.
In an exhibit that was as much a rock photography show as it was a retrospective on Friedman’s early career, the black and white photographs featuring Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Todd Rundgren, The Band, Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, Buddy Cage and Johnny Winter, among a handful of other greats, captured the energy of a bygone era that only he himself had the pleasure of wandering through. Whether it was back stage or center front, it seemed that Friedman always found the best seat in the house to photograph the artists as they exposed their soul through song, laughter or everyday life.
After his run with rock came to an end, Friedman moved onto other endeavors until he became an antiques dealer, a profession that he laughingly says “ruined his life.” His past was history until only a few months ago when the dealer was rifling through his attic where he unearthed a box of negatives. Inside was the photographic record of his early career, which he developed into a jewel of a never-before-seen photography exhibition at Rhinebeck.
“I never stopped talking for two days, said Friedman. “I was amazed at how many people had stories of their own that were connected to the artists I was showing. It was a surprise in a way, because it was an antiques show and I wasn’t sure to what extent people would be interested, but there was a fair amount of interest in these, both from a photographic and a nostalgic point of view. It was an important period of music.”
In the realm of traditional antiques, buyers were satisfied with a range of offerings from a fine assortment of well-established dealers who always have their own interpretation as to what an antiques show should look like. And that, right there, is what makes it all interesting.
“It’s funny, at most shows, it’s a combination of selling a bunch of things,” said Hubert “Bear” van Asch van Wyck of Black Swan Antiques, Washington, Conn. “But we’ve always concentrated on furniture and kept our smalls and artwork to a minimum. The booth isn’t cluttered, it makes it easier for people to focus in on what you have.”
That strategy seemed to pay off as the dealer found solid results in furniture sales. Van Wyck reported sales on a large, Eighteenth Century English gateleg table, a set of eight Yorkshire spindle back chairs and an Eighteenth Century Dutch side table.
“The client that bought the furniture, they said, ‘I didn’t come here looking for a table and chairs today, but I loved the way it looked,'” said Van Wyck.
Stockton, N.J., dealer Jim Grievo played it the opposite. The folk art and Americana dealer focused in on smalls and found success in the same place. The dealer chimed in with sales on a “mountain boy” weathervane, an early American sampler and several other objects, including stoneware, a decoy, toys, candy containers and a few quilts.
The addition of a fourth building this year signified the energy and allure of a growing show. Tucked into that building was Millwood, Va.-based dealer Peter Nee. Standing out in the corner of his booth was a large gilt fiberglass eagle, about 5 feet high, with his wings raised and head turned to the side while standing on a star-studded globe. The piece had very strong lines, which lent it an Art Deco feel, though Nee said it stood on a building for only the last 60 years or so. Other fine art offerings were on show, including a collage painting of a female figure by Columbus, Ohio, artist Edward Colston, as well as a large early Twentieth Century terracotta horse head with a flowing mane.
Bruce Emond from Village Braider Antiques, Plymouth, Mass., found interest for his offerings of Modern art and garden statuary. The dealer’s outdoor inventory included forest animals and planters, as well as a pair of glazed stoneware owls.
“They’re ruinous, but I can’t get enough of them,” said Emond, regarding the heavy owls, which stood a foot-and-a-half tall. “With the glaze over them, they’ll be able to stay outside forever.”
Modern art in wood could be found on two of the three walls in Emond’s booth. A silver-gilt assemblage signed Calio showed a wide variety of geometric patterns achieved through angled wood cuts. On the back wall was a pair of sculptural totems featuring contoured cross sections of a figure by New Jersey artist Reuben Karol.
Doug Ramsay from DBR Antiques, Hadley Mass., flanked his booth with two armchairs, one from coastal Connecticut and dating to the late Seventeenth to early Eighteenth Century with original paint and condition, and the other from Portsmouth, N.H., dating to around 1750 with a wicker seat. The dealer also featured a pair of cast bronze Nineteenth Century genie lamp finials that were likely made to top entry posts. “The surface is great and the form is very unusual,” Ramsay said.
A Nineteenth Century painting by Edward Adams featuring the New York packet Jacob Stampler hung on Justin Cobb’s wall of Captain’s Quarters, Amherst, Mass. “The Jacob Stampler had three phases of life,” said Cobb. The ship’s first phase found it nobly transporting immigrants to the United States. Following that, the ship took an immodest turn and went through a period where it was used for the wealthy men of Manhattan as a “pleasure boat” to engage in extramarital affairs. Finally, and presumably with new owners, the ship was used as a docked dormitory to house women working in the garment industry. Adams’ painting found the ship in its better days, likely depicted in its first life, sailing at full mast on a choppy day and cloudy skies above, readily bracing for the stormy seas ahead.
Bright colors and fun offerings were on view at Mary and Josh Steenburgh’s booth. The Pike, N.H., dealers brought along a Pennsylvania pie safe with a bright yellow original paint. “I try to mix it up so I’m not too heavy in one area,” said Josh, as he looked around his booth following an industrious presale. The dealer also featured a pair of large rooftop “Restaurant” signs that had a nice verdigris patina and were probably well built enough to withstand a hurricane.
Terry Smith of Blue Line Antiques carried a wide variety of American folk art, paintings and furniture. It was the first time doing the show for the Port Leyden, N.Y., dealer, and he led off with a pair of mid-Nineteenth Century portraits featuring a little girl and her brother. The little girl wearing a red dress sat holding her fluffy white dog, while her brother, fitted in a dark suit, was holding an apple outward in his hand. Beneath the pair of portraits was a two-seater country Windsor settee, circa 1860. The piece had warm wear down to the wood with traces of its original black paint. In his display case, Smith pointed toward a small Nineteenth Century squeak toy in the form of a pig. He considered it rare, having never seen another and thought it was possibly a one-off. The pig’s hinged jaw would squeak when moved and it still had excellent paint on it.
Richard Davis was having a fair show by early Saturday afternoon with his standard fare of Asian art, tallying a few sales, including a Chinese porcelain lamp and a carved wood screen. The New York City dealer also featured a porcelain famille verte Buddhistic lion from the Kangxi period, modeled as a lioness coddling her cub on a rectangular plinth. Lining the walls were a selection of Japanese screens, including a Nineteenth Century four-panel example depicting “The Thirty-Six Immortal Poets” and another from the Kano school depicting peasants by a stream.
While counting up a bevy of sales and postsales, advertising dealer Victor Weinblatt exclaimed in his review of the show, “Watching Frank Gaglio’s reinvention of the Rhinebeck show in these curious times has been a rare privilege. While most shows have slid into decline, like a phoenix, this show has grown and strengthened. The good and great, both dealers and customers, have reappeared: Rhinebeck is back!”
With a wealth of options for collectors, decorators and casual buyers, Rhinebeck has found its home in the midrange amid a wealth of color and class from all corners and crevices of this business. It will be back for its fall edition at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds October 7-8. For more information, 845-876-0616 or www.barnstar.com.
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