By R. Scudder Smith
WASHINGTON, CONN. — Want to pump up an antiques show, turn it completely around and give it life and pizzazz? Then give Lou Marotta a call. Lou, a complete novice in the field of antiques show management, stepped into the roll of chairman of The Washington Connecticut Antiques Show and the rest is history. “I had no idea it would take so much time,” Lou said, “but I had a few thoughts in mind and put them to work.”
Step one, he did not invite back any of the dealers who had taken part in the 2001 show, with one exception. “I kept Jeff Cooley in the front booth,” Lou said, “for I wanted those folks, the old standbys who do not like change, to think all was the same as years before.” But that was the end of the similarity between past and present. That is not to say The Washington Show did not have a selection of well-known and reputable dealers in the past. There have been many successful years, but “it was time for a change” Marotta said.
Bunny Williams, well-know decorator, agreed to be the honorary chairman of the event and an impressive list of speakers was engaged for the lecture series. The selection of exhibitors focused on not having too much sameness.
Exhibitors and visitors polled by this reporter shared equal praise for the show, calling it “fun and exciting,” “brighter than years past,” “an appealing mix of dealers” and “filled with lots of interesting things.” And indeed it was. Only four or five of the 23 exhibitors fell into the “brown furniture” ranks, American folk art was available in one booth, as was a selection of drawings and prints, while objects for the patio and the garden were sprinkled about the show. Some highly decorative pieces turned into fast sellers, Oriental objects filled a couple of the booths, and the Twentieth Century was not overlooked.
Marianne Stikas of New York City was singing the praises of the show on Sunday, calling it “the best for me in a long time.” She spoke of the appreciation people seemed to have for the new look and mentioned that “many came here with every intention of buying.” Among the rdf_Descriptions sold from her booth were a pair of steel tables, a large round French white-painted table, a zinc wreath, a pressed brass sign, a pair of sconces and a pair of palm tree table lamps, and three capitals. And about the only things left on the walls of the booth was a bunch of black screws. A pair of chairs and a French server were the only two pieces of furniture returning to New York with her.
Mary Sams of Ballyhack Antiques, Cornwall, Conn., said, “I am not sure about the rest of the show, but this section here has been doing very well.” A two-piece Chippendale corner cupboard in cherrywood, Pennsylvania or New York State, circa 1810-30, high bracket base, 91½ inches tall, sold during the preview and before the show closed many more things left the booth, including a horse weathervane and a sailor-made monkey. Featured against the back wall was a pair of painted window shades, Nineteenth Century scenes of Corning, N.Y., with animals, water and buildings. They were backlit to bring out the strong colors.
One of the furniture dealers in the show was Cunha/St John of Essex, Mass., with an American Classical chest of drawers with three long drawers between a pair of columns in the lower section, two short drawers with a two-tier deck above having drawers and a shaped gallery. It all rested on turned feet and dated circa 1835. A bow front sideboard in mahogany with ebony inlay and raised geometric molding turned legs, brass rail, English, circa 1820, was shown against a side wall of the booth. Wayne St John said, “This has been a great show and we have sold a good cross section of the things we brought.”
A cast-iron base with a swan motif once supported a piece of marble, “but we changed it to glass so you could see the swans,” Wayne said of the table in the middle of the booth. It caught the attention and the pocketbook of a preview patron who returned the next day to consider purchasing the four chairs surrounding it. He was too late, however, as the chairs had found another home, as had a Georgian barrel back chair, a Regency papier mache tray table, a stand in the form of an elephant and a good number of other things.
Paulette Peden of Dawn Hill Antiques, New Preston, Conn., profited from the sale of the four chairs in the Cunha/St. John booth, as the customer came upstairs and bought four circa 1940 garden chairs from her. “The show has been fine for us,” she said, adding, “if people seem interested in things we have here, we suggest that before leaving the area they stop by our shop that is only three miles away.” An interesting pair of green-painted cast-iron gate posts, about seven feet tall, had a red sold sign attached. A large section of the wall was taken by an oil on canvas, a Nineteenth Century colorful floral design for a tapestry.
It was necessary to pass through the booth of Dawn Hill, on the second floor of the building, to view the offerings of Margaret Doyle from Cornelius, N.C. Michael Lamb, who was attending to the booth, mentioned that the show “has been good, but it is a long way to travel.” Sales included a Regency card table, tole, wood carvings and several paintings. An interesting figure of a papier mache bull, French, dating from the Nineteenth Century, and a large carved wooden eagle on a finial designed base, Italian, did not sell.
“We set a goal for each show and we have done much better than we planned,” Richard Lavigne of Knollwood Antiques, New York City, said. He noted that “the show was very professionally run, the committee treated the dealers very well, and we have met people who are coming to our showroom in New York City and hopefully will be come clients.” Knollwood sales included several lamps and hanging fixtures, a North Chinese Shaanzi table in elmwood, an Eighteenth Century Italian library chair and a cast aluminum armchair, circa 1920.
“This show has been very exciting to lots of people and I am finding that visitors are showing an interest in higher priced things,” Gary Sergeant of Woodbury, Conn., said. His booth consisted of a small room at the end of the exhibition space on the second floor, and he had turned the area into a comfortable and well-furnished sitting room or den. Actually, the room looked larger than it actually was with the help of a large painting depicting another room with a winding staircase.
One corner of the booth was filled by a Chippendale bureau-cabinet in mahogany, with pagoda waist molding on ogee bracket feet, English, dating circa 1755. It measures 86 inches tall and has five drawers in the lower section. A George III Regency gilt-wood hanging shelf, circa 1800, had a pagoda canopy over a trellised crown dentil molding. Sales included a center table, a Regency brass inlaid work table, some delft, and a rare Dublin plate food cover, dome shaped. “I had never seen one of these food covers before and just picked it up recently on a house call,” Gary said.
A silk brocade hanging was against the back wall of the booth of Koko Chinese Antiques, New York City, a backdrop for a figure of a Buddha dating from the Ming dynasty. The Buddha was 27 inches tall, wood with lacquered gold gilt surface.
“Everybody wanted to buy it,” Greg Randall of R.T. Facts Antiques, Kent, Conn., said of his large two-handled bowl in the center of the booth. Highly polished aluminum, and filled with highly polished green apples, it was an instant eye-catcher and sold at the opening gun of the show. While the show was not a roaring success for him, “I did OK and have certainly picked up a good number of people who will be coming to my shop as a result of the show,” he said.
At the opposite end of the aisle, Brennan & Mouilleseaux of Rochester, N.Y., was having a grand show. “We had no ideas of what to expect and were pleasantly surprised by Sunday night,” Tim Brennan said. One of the first things to leave the booth was a large green and white cupboard with diamond panels, along with a pair of cast-iron urns, a French cast-iron table, and sculpture for the garden.
The show marked the centennial celebration of the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum and a series of lectures was planned. Speakers included Albert Hadley, Juan Montoya, Penny Reynolds, Jack Staub and Gary Sergeant. “The lectures were well attended and it brought people into the show,” Lou Marotta said.
“Will you be here again next year running the show?” Lou was asked as the closing hour arrived on Sunday. “I really did not intend to do it a second time,” he replied, “but Albert Hadley told me I must come back, so I will.” Sounds like both the show and its new manager are heading in the right direction.