Published: May 11, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Show Dealers
PHILADELPHIA & ONLINE – For the second year in a row, the Covid-19 pandemic necessitated a virtual event for The Philadelphia Show, the annual antiques, art and design event that has been a fixture in the show calendar for nearly 60 years. This year, however, show organizers and dealers were better prepared and the show took place on a customized online platform from April 23-30, with a VIP preview the evening of Thursday, April 22, for shoppers who wanted – and would pay for – early access to the goodies on hand with more than 50 dealers. A total of 171 visitors paid for access to the preview evening, which benefited the education and public programming departments at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The show, long known for its focus on American art and antiques, has, in recent years, broadened its scope and welcomed several dealers who specialize in English, European and Asian influences. In a website custom-designed by London-based ArtLogic, the show provided sleek digital booths for up to 20 items from each dealer. To imitate the programming often seen in a live event, additional digital content was provided to simulate dealer and designer talks and included Zoom and Instagram talks and dealer videos.
A tradition since the show’s founding, the loan exhibition was themed “All Creatures Great and Small” and included works being sold by show dealers that featured animals across various media and stylistic periods. A welcoming video by Philadelphia Museum of Art director and chief executive officer Timothy Rub, and virtual walk-throughs of the museum’s newly refurbished American Wing, provided ample fodder for show patrons who wanted to see more than just works available for purchase.
A new feature of the show was a “Tastemakers Series,” in which friends of the show with a background or interest in design, antiques or fine art, would curate selections from across the event’s offerings. These included Main Line native Emma Bazilian of Schumacher (formerly House Beautiful) who was one of the first people to use the term “grandmillenial” to refer to people in their mid-20s to late-30s who have an affinity for a traditional – as opposed to modern – design aesthetic.
Other tastemakers in the series included David B. Devan, the general director and chief executive officer of Opera Philadelphia; University of Pennsylvania’s art history associate professor Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw; honorary Show Chair Anne Hamilton and Show Committee member Angela Hudson. Designer and author Eddie Ross; lifestyle guru and businesswoman Martha Stewart and Decorative Arts Trust executive director Matthew Thurlow rounded out the slate.
“The Philadelphia Show’s new virtual platform and programming celebrate diverse interests and encourage participation across all generations of enthusiasts and collectors,” Show Chair Lynn Gadsden commented. “My advice to new and younger collectors is to visit the show and learn about what appeals to you. Be sure to participate in the Dealer Talks on Instagram Live; the education provided by the show’s experts will guide you for years to come.”
Show manager Huntley Platt was in good spirits after the event. “We had a great turn out for the virtual show. I am thankful to the dealers for their tremendous effort in presenting a beautiful show and am humbled by their support. We learned a lot about virtual experiences from the lectures, the website and social but look forward to next spring and to being in person.”
The statistics were impressive, giving Platt even more reason to be pleased. More than 10,000 people clicked on the show’s website, and nearly 5,000 of them registered. Most of those registered visitors hailed from the United States – about 90 percent – with 23 percent of those being from Pennsylvania. Nearly one-fourth of registered visitors spent more than 30 minutes on the website, with virtual attendees averaging 25 page views. People who worry that shows fail to draw a young audience will be pleased to know that 71 percent of the registered visitors were 44 years of age or younger; that number increases to 77 percent if preview night attendees – who tend to be older – are excluded from the tally.
When it came to sales, 73 percent of exhibitors reported making a sale, with most selling more than one piece. The results of a survey circulated among the dealers after the show indicated that 40 percent of exhibitors said that they are still following up with interested parties. Repeating a pattern that is often noticed, sales were made in the first few days of the show. Several exhibitors noted sales to clients who frequently attend the show, but encouragingly, 54 percent of dealers reported making new contacts during the event, many of which resulted in sales.
The technological aspect that makes a virtual show possible is not failsafe and there were a few small glitches that Platt had rectified as soon as she could, most notably a 38-minute period right after the show opened when visitors were not redirected to the virtual booths. For the most part, dealers were positive in their assessment of the show’s digital platform, noting it was easy to navigate, looked great and had hyperlinks that took visitors from their show booths to their shop websites. Clientele who in the past may have been reluctant to buy from a photograph have become increasingly comfortable with doing so, particularly if they were familiar with the dealer.
Woodbury, Conn., folk art dealer David A. Schorsch and Eileen M. Smiles had a banner show, transacting sales for nearly a dozen works across a variety of price points. “We’ve been very fortunate and have had a good show,” Schorsch said, speaking with Antiques and The Arts Weekly by phone a day or two before the show closed. “We sold both our most expensive work – a circa 1822-36 painting by an anonymous folk artist titled ‘Cannon Salute To An American ship of the line In New York Harbor,’ as well as our least expensive piece, an early Nineteenth Century vinegar grained rectangular document box from New England.” His sales included furniture, paintings in oil and watercolors, a basket, a Shaker rug, an iron table clamp in the form of a bird, and a carved and painted wood and iron bird Ferris wheel. While his sales were to existing clients, he noted he had several inquiries from people he had never worked with before, including one from the Middle East for a folk art painting of a pig.
One of the things Schorsch mentioned he had done was to set up his Woodbury gallery with things that were in the show so that people who wanted to see things in-person could. “We set it up so it was essentially our booth and several people came by our space. I’ve been vaccinated, most of my clients have been vaccinated and visits from people were enjoyable.”
Folk art dealers Olde Hope also had a good show, with two blanket or dower chests, a decoy, a toleware tray, a slide-lid box and a Berks County fraktur watercolor papercut among the items marked as sold during the event. “A few things are pending as well as few things from our (gallery) website,” Ed Hild said when we spoke with him during the show. “I thought the show’s website was very easy to navigate. We made some sales on the preview night, to people who usually attend the preview. Our sales were to existing clients from the show who are around the country, not just in Pennsylvania, though we’ve sold to those, too. As head of the dealer’s advisory committee, I have to commend Huntley and the Women’s Committee, who have done a spectacular job.”
Hild’s partner, Patrick Bell, also made the comment, “The affiliation with the Philadelphia Museum of Art lends a sort of Good Housekeeping seal of approval to the dealers, instilling confidence and trust to collectors shopping the show. We sold several furniture pieces from the online show in the four to five figure range, along with some fine accessories.”
“I was very, very pleased with the show,” New Oxford, Penn., folk art and furniture dealer Kelly Kinzle said after the event wrapped. “The online presence in that show is well appreciated.” Among the pieces he closed the deal on were a Connecticut tall case clock, a pie-crust tea table, a miniature chest of drawers from Reading, Penn., by John Cunnius (1733-1808) and a Pennsylvania tavern table; the outlier among his sales was a mid-Nineteenth Century seashell-work picture with the motto “O Salurius Hostia,” a section of the Eucharistic hymns written by St Thomas Aquinas for the Feast of Corpus Christi.
Additional sales of furniture were evident throughout the show. Philip Bradley sold a painted chest of drawers from Maine with vibrant faux graining, while Alexandria, Va., dealer Christopher H. Jones wrote up an octagonal work or sewing table attributed to Albemarle County, Va., a late Eighteenth Century Providence, R.I., secretary bookcase and a pair of Baltimore fancy painted armchairs. A Connecticut William and Mary child’s slat-back chair in black paint with turned pommels and an early upholstered seat frame, circa 1730, left the booth of Colchester, Conn., dealer Nathan Liverant and Son, and Woodbury, Conn., dealer Charles Clark had enough interest in a Classical Boston easy chair that it was marked “on reserve.”
Harrodsburg, Ky., dealer Jayne Thompson was one of two dealers of English furniture; early in the show she found a buyer for a mid-Eighteenth Century English walnut drop leaf table with hoof feet. Rachel Kerr of Hyde Park Antiques said she thought “the online presentation was one of the best that I have seen for a show being produced in this new Covid world we are in.”
Jeffrey Tillou closed the deal on an Eighteenth Century Northwestern Native American oblong carved burl wood and black ash bowl and a copper and iron rooster weathervane, while Gemini Antiques found buyers for a circa 1930 painted Chinese checkerboard and a late Nineteenth Century hooked rug with geometric and floral motifs. Paul Vandekar made a sale of an American cast iron sculpture or boot scraper in the form of a cat, from the 1920s.
“We try to do mostly smalls,” Grace Snyder commented after the show. “We did better than we expected. We sold a number of things on Saturday and we made connections with new clients; three of our sales were to new clients, which surprised me. I thought the website more approximated a real show, more so than any other online show we’ve participated in.” Among the sales closed by the South Egremont, Mass., dealer was a pair of Seventeenth Century English needlework panels, a pair of early Georgian tapersticks and a pair of early brass candlesticks, a fine-tine steel meat fork, a large oil on board satirical depiction of a Quaker meeting, and a silk on silk needlework picture of two sisters done in New England or New York in the early Nineteenth Century.
“I thought the show looked good and worked well; I had one new client,” Amy Finkel said in a phone call during the show. Needlework offered by the Philadelphia dealer also sold, including a sampler worked by Hannah Hartshorne in 1793 while at the Ann Marsh school in Philadelphia. Betsy Farnum’s silk on linen pictorial sampler depicting an endearing scene done in the tradition of samplers made in Eastern Massachusetts also sold, as did a piece done by Martha Ferrall of Fairfield Township in Columbia County, Ohio, in 1822. A small bamboo sewing table with mirror inside the hinged lid dated to circa 1900 also found a buyer. Finkel is very active on Instagram (@antiquesamplers) and does a brisk business from her website.
Old Saybrook, Conn., sampler dealers Stephen and Carol Huber made a similar number of sales, including an 1831 embroidered picture worked at Saint Joseph’s academy in Emmitsburg, Md., by Margaret Jane Wood (1812-1841). A mid-Eighteenth Century English canvaswork picture depicting a vase of flowers on a red background and worked in wool and silk on linen also traded hands. As did two Pennsylvania pictures done in 1820 – one in silk depicting Maria and done in Philadelphia, the other worked by Eliza Ann Prouty of North Central Pennsylvania at the age of ten.
William R. and Teresa F. Kurau were exhibiting at The Philadelphia Show for the first time and marked several sales, including a Pearlware historical bust pitcher, a Staffordshire plate by Enoch Wood and Sons that featured sporting dogs duck hunting, a canary-yellow silver resist pitcher and a pink Sunderland luster hunt pitcher with equestrian and dog decoration.
Arlie Sulka at Lillian Nassau LLC also sold pottery, namely a Newcomb Pottery vase with dogwood motif by Sadie Irvine, and a scenic vellum vase with harbor scene that Sallie Coyne did for Rookwood Pottery in 1910.
Marcy Burns was the only exhibitor exclusively showing Native American works and had sales, including that of a San Ildelfonso black on black pottery jar signed “Maria” for Maria Martinez, which was probably painted by Julian Martinez.
Asian works of art were in modest proportion but ample variety. Polly Latham Asian Art deemed it “a rather successful show due in large part to not only the prestigious show platform but also to the link that directed visitors to our website, which exhibited additional offerings. The Boston dealer put virtual red dots on an American ship teapot and tea bowl, a Kangxi charger in vibrant blue, a dish charger, also in blue that featured figural decoration, and a pair of English armorial reticulated undertrays bearing the arms of Snodgrass, for Thomas Snodgrass in service to the East India Company. Ralph M. Chait Galleries, Inc., of New York City found a new home for a pair of large Chinese Fahua glazed porcelain fu lions and a pair of powder blue bottle vases.
Alison Tolman wrote up a Japanese woodblock print by Sadao Watanabe. She commented that she met new people and made sales to new clients but was looking forward to seeing people in person again. The Susan Teller Gallery had a couple of sales and a few things on hold by the time the show closed; a 1966 wood engraving by Ansei Uchima titled “Silvery Flow” was from the estate of the artist and was one of the sales from the New York City dealer.
Several fine art dealers brought works that were painted by Pennsylvania artists, or which had a regional connection. Arader Galleries, which has offices in Philadelphia, had several prints or works on paper, including an engraving of Philadelphia by Thomas Holme, a view of Philadelphia from Camden painted in gouache on paper by Nicolino Calyo, George Jacob Beck’s watercolor and gouache on paper depicting McCall’s Ferry on the Susquehannah, among other engravings.
One of the engravings sold by the Old Print Shop was George Heap’s “East Prospect of the City of Philadelphia, in the Province of Pennsylvania,” a 1761 copper plate engraving that had been published in the London Magazine, or Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer. A plan of the City of Washington, an 1800 engraving on cloth from an unknown publisher and engraver also found a buyer.
Wharton Esherick’s “Pennsylvania Landscape,” Kenneth Nunamaker’s “Delaware River View,” Jean Halter’s “Parry Mansion, New Hope,” and a view of the Delaware Water Gap by S. George Phillips were all on offer with Gratz Gallery and Conservation Studio. Paul Gratz said he was pleased to have sold a rare framed mirror, crafted by Frederick Harer, who was known for his frame making and for being part of the New Hope Circle of Pennsylvania Impressionists. “As a gallery, we were thrilled to be part of the 2021 virtual show, we were impressed by the efforts and creative work the team at The Philadelphia Show put forth into making this a wonderful event under the challenging circumstances of being entirely virtual. This is our second year being part of the show, and both events have had to be executed virtually. We believe in the significance of keeping The Philadelphia Show active and relevant for the next time we can all gather in person again. To that, we found the team to have done a wonderful job in creating variety and interactive opportunities to keep the audience engaged and interested. We hope to be part of the 2022 show and look forward to being there in person.”
It can be difficult to gauge the interest in – and volume of sales of – traditional fine art as comparatively few works were marked as sold during the show; that may be a result of higher asking prices that may dictate a longer time required to close a sale. Dixon-Hall Fine Art reported making three “significant” sales from the show, two to clients in the region and one in the Midwest. Questroyal Fine Art, who was exhibiting in the show for the first time, found a buyer for a pastel on board rendering of Celia Thaxter’s garden in Appledore on the Isles of Shoals by John Appleton Brown. Philadelphia’s Schwarz Gallery, a long-time participant in The Philadelphia Show, sold a few works, including – for local interest – a view of Anglesea, N.J., by Frederick de Bourg Richards and “The Parkway, Philadelphia” by Ella Boocock Hoedt. Herman Herzog’s “Alpine Mountain Scene” and “Rocky Mountain Landscape, Colorado” by Henry Arthur Elkins were also sold, proving that interest was not limited to regional works.
A couple of fine art dealers noted that there was interest in works by women and artists of color, a trend that is reflected in recent museum acquisitions throughout the United States.
Benjamin Miller at S.J. Shrubsole, Corp. said, “We consider it to have been a good show, with a number of inquiries and one significant sale. Not good by the standards of in-person shows, but good by the standards of virtual shows – and with a lot less effort and expense required.” One of the pieces in the New York City dealer’s booth was a set of four silver-gilt frog-form salt and pepper shakers, cast in London in 1970 with Tiffany English hallmarks. Jasmine Doussiere of Silver Art by D&R also thought that the event did well for an online show. She sold three pieces, all related to sugar, including a sugar bowl by Paillard Freres and two from her website that was a result of a virtual talk she gave during the show.
An American coin silver shaving mug, marked by R&W Wilson of Philadelphia and dating to the second quarter of the Nineteenth Century, was one sale with Spencer Marks, who also sold a Tiffany sterling silver “walrus” punch bowl that was the Southampton, Mass., dealer’s loan exhibit piece. It celebrated the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia and featured handles with walrus heads.
The Twentieth Century design element of the show was well-represented by Lost City Arts of New York City and Philadelphia’s Moderne Gallery. The studio of modern furniture craftsman George Nakashima (1905-1990) was in New Hope, Penn., and his works are perennial favorites among collectors, represented by both galleries. Additional works by Harry Bertoia, Whitney Chadwick and Bo Kristiansen were on show at Lost City Arts. Moderne Gallery also featured the forged steel works of L. Brent Kington (1934-2013).
Lynn Gadsden said the show committee would be meeting with museum officials in the coming weeks to make a decision as to whether or not the 2022 Philadelphia Show would take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Regardless of venue, dates for the show have been announced as April 29-May 1, with a preview on April 28.
For additional information about the Philadelphia Show, www.thephiladelphiashow.com.
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