Published: February 26, 2008
In a world of look-alike fairs, the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show is unto itself †half antiques, half gardens (& etcetera), and 100 percent over the top. Mounted on an imperial scale at the capacious Convention Center in downtown Nashville, it takes three days to construct and a day and a half to dismantle the show. The fair opened to a crowd of 1,300 previewgoers on Wednesday, February 13, and continued through Sunday, February 17.
Italy’s classical gardens provided the theme for the 2008 event, a how-to guide to living la dolce vita complete with opulent furnishings and textiles from around the world, traditional works of art in all media, and romantic garden furniture and ornament. Planned and executed by a battalion of experienced volunteers, this year led by Sandy Sangervasi and Cathy Shell, the Antiques and Garden Show is, with 150 exhibitors, the largest fair of its kind in the country.
A lure for designers and decorators, as well as a magnet for dealers with formal inventories, the 18-year-old expo owes much to Albert Hadley, a prominent New York designer originally from the area. Hadley devised the distinctive floor plan that places antiques and fine art to the right of a central garden allee. Vintage, reproduction and new wares, as well as designer booths, are to the left. It makes for a lively, unexpected mix.
After serving as honorary chairman for many years, Hadley passed the torch to his colleague Bunny Williams. Alexa Hampton, the energetic president of the Manhattan interior design firm Mark Hampton, LLC, was this year’s honorary chairman and host of a Young Collectors’ Party on Friday.
From its inception, the Antiques and Garden Show has drawn well-known speakers from the United States and Europe. Frances Mayes, author of Under The Tuscan Sun and Bringing Tuscany Home ; interior designer David Kleinberg, who trained at Parish-Hadley before starting his own firm; and Renny Reynolds and Jack Straub, owners and operators of the must-see Hortulus Farm, a historic, 100-acre garden and nursery in Bucks County, Penn., were this year’s lecturers.
The Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville has historical ties to the New York design trade, as well. One of the show’s two beneficiaries, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum, is the former Nashville home of the Cheek family, founders of Maxwell House coffee. New York residential and landscape architect Bryant Fleming oversaw the design of the house and its extensive gardens, completed in 1933. Cheekwood opened to the public in 1960.
Nashville may be the home of country, but its decorating tastes run to formal French and English. Woodbury, Conn., dealer Gary Sergeant’s formal display in muted greens and golds showcased a rare Queen Anne walnut sleeping chair with original ratchet back mechanism. By repute, the circa 1705‱0 chair was owned by the Earl of Weymss.
David Lindquist and Elizabeth Lindquist, father and daughter dealers from Chapel Hill, N.C., matched a circa 1830 walnut Restauration-style banquet table, 199½ inches with all of its leaves in place, with a set of eight George III-style dining chairs dating to the fourth quarter of the Nineteenth Century.
Another Chapel Hill dealer, Robert Burrows, supplied a painted Portuguese bow front corner cupboard whose open top was fitted with shaped shelves for displaying porcelain. Burrows was asking $85,000 for the circa 1750 piece that resembles examples at the National Palace in Sintra, Portugal, and Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.
One of the most striking pieces of American furniture on the floor was a labeled J. & J.W. Meeks of New York breakfront bookcase, $52,500, offered by Butte’s Antiques of Thomasville, N.C.
While most displays were traditional, Ontario, Canada, dealer Richard Rumi paired formal Continental furniture and accessories with mid-Twentieth Century abstract oil paintings on canvas.
And while there is not much of it, Modernism does sell at the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville. In fact, one of California dealer Patrick Aumont’s first sales was a pair of Jacques Adnet “Equestrian” armchairs upholstered in hand stitched lipstick-red leather. The chairs were priced in the five figures.
Stanford Fine Art’s showpiece was “A Spring Morning at the Chateau-Gaillard” by Nineteenth Century French landscape artist Paul Lecomte. The signed oil on canvas measuring 77½ by 69 inches was exhibited in the 1902 Paris Salon. The Nashville dealers paired the lushly oversized canvas with six small Emil Bisttram abstract works on paper.
In the “Brava Italia!” spirit, Lyons Ltd Antique Prints of Palo Alto, Calif., featured Italian landscape views on paper.
French dealer Jean-Yves Lhomond arrayed gouache on paper designs for tapestries and textiles. A centerpiece of his display was an exotic Far Eastern garden design measuring 80 by 113 inches.
The Antique Boat Center of Cincinnati, Ohio, gave the outdoor theme a playful tweak, presenting Chief Waramaug , a 1927 Chris Craft Cadet, priced $93,900.
Garden ornament specialist Kate Alex is an eight-year veteran of the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show. Highlights of the Warner, N.H., dealer’s stand included a circa 1900 blackamoor torchere, $4,400; a set of six polished steel chairs, $1,850; a circa 1900 bronze equestrian medallion; and a pair of well articulated iron flower and snake decorative window grates from Philadelphia.
A cheeky selection of garden tables, most combining glass tops with wrought or cast metal bases, and matching sets of chairs proliferated at Iron Renaissance of Maine. The vintage pieces were made before 1940 and were restored to their original French verde finish.
The Antiques and Garden Show’s dates change slightly from year to year, meaning that exhibitors sometimes run into scheduling conflicts. The show’s sole folk art dealers, Elliott & Elliott of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., solved the problem by setting up both here and at the nearby Heart of Country Antiques Show. With offerings ranging from a brilliant Navajo Moki revival weaving of circa 1890 to a winningly minimalist cat hooked rug, the dealers made a piquant contrast to the fancier fare on the floor.
The Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville has a devoted following. It is easy to see why.
“People love seeing this show. It is like a walk in the park,” said Elizabeth Papel, marketing committee chairman.
The 2009 Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville is planned for February 5‸. For information, 615-352-1282 or www.antiquesandgardenshow.com .
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