Published: June 12, 2018
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
RHINEBECK, N.Y. – It used to be that four buildings at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds were packed to the gills with antiques, fine art and collectibles for visitors over Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends. Barn Star Productions and the show’s promoter Frank Gaglio made it happen again.
With an impressive roster of well-regarded dealers and lively material in nearly every one of the 143 booths (some spaces were shared), the May 26-27 show served to illustrate Gaglio’s rebuilding of the Rhinebeck brand as a premier showcase with the gamut of material culture across centuries and continents.
Or, as Boston dealer Stephen Score said following the event, “Once again, Rhinebeck included everything for which the show is famous and fun: the excitement of dealers setting up booths with items you never expected to see and be able to buy, all in the relaxed fairground setting of a beautiful, old-fashioned town that is a pleasure to walk through and explore.”
Added Score, “Customers, old and new, came through to buy folk art, textiles, paintings and decorative accessories – many displayed for the first time. Big crowds and lots of corners to turn.”
Turning the corner – and getting a pleasant surprise – is a challenge for many shows these days. Rhinebeck, with its twice-a-year tradition around Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends, has always combined great antiques and collectibles with a holiday getaway sensibility. Gaglio said that several dealers and visitors liken it to the former New York City Pier shows, a gratifying comparison in terms of quality of merchandise, and he is hoping that, like a bottle of fine wine, Rhinebeck will keep getting better with age.
“I’m thrilled with the way the show went,” said the somewhat exhausted promoter from his office days afterward. Turns out that his shipper was a no-show, necessitating procuring a rental truck and delivering larger merchandise purchased at the show himself. “I’ve made about 12 deliveries and I’m still making them,” Gaglio told Antiques and The Arts Weekly on the phone, “but I didn’t want any of my dealers to lose a sale. Yesterday, I drove up to Utica, N.Y., to deliver some tiger maple furniture, and I’ve got to make a trip to Bergen, N.J., to deliver a garden bench and Chesterfield sofa to a young couple’s home.”
The silver lining for the show manager was getting a first-hand look at merchandise leaving the fairgrounds and “seeing some of the great collections that the pieces are going into,” he added.
“Clearly, the numbers were up from last year’s spring show, and we noted that between 30 and 40 percent of the people coming through the gate were younger shoppers.
“This was the biggest show we’ve ever had; the actual number of dealers may be 146 or 147 because some shared booth space. We had big, beautiful signage pointing shoppers to additional dealers in the E Building, and we dressed it up inside with mini-gardens and benches.”
The wide variety of merchandise on offer was a mix of everything from traditional antiques, American “brown” furniture (which sold well, according to Gaglio), folk art, Americana and advertising, to primitives and pottery, midcentury, garden and architectural material and more. Fine art ranged from paintings, prints and sculpture spanning centuries and styles.
Folk art was well represented in the booth of Susan Wechsler, South Road Antiques, Hudson, N.Y. “The show was very good for me,” said Wechsler. “I sold some major pieces, including a Moravian Star, the “Eat” sign, the “Hired Man’s” bed, two tables, two drawings, a couple of game boards, one from an ad placed for the show. I even sold something from a booth picture posted on Facebook. I had sales both days, which was somewhat unusual, and I recognized many of the people who stopped by. I think there are definite regulars who attend each year; the show appears to be developing a positive reputation. Saturday was very hot, and I think that was reflected in both the crowd size and attention span of some buyers. However, I noticed that some people came back second day – as was the case for a couple of sales.”
Victor Weinblatt, South Hadley, Mass., another folk art dealer, concurred that summer antiques shows are always at the mercy of the weather. “Saturday’s heat put a damper on the mood of the gate,” said the dealer. “All told, we sold across the board, including a Lester Stevens estate canoeing scene painting; a large oval Ice Cream sign in the best dry robin’s egg blue; a Home Cooking sign and a Cones 5 & 10c sign from the same Rhode Island collection; the only Ladies sign with its key on a carved wood tag from Maine I have ever seen; a collection of sap cans in the best dry yellow and red color; an office calendar/schedule with rotating wheels dating to the 1850s and gilt and black decoration; a collection of figural chocolate molds, including a violin, a fish and a rooster; and a graphic Positively No Credit sign.”
Sunday’s cooler, cloudy weather brought in a strong and well-heeled crowd, added the dealer, and “for the first time in our 39-year career, our followup sales on Monday were the strongest of the weekend.”
Ed and Lilly Miller of Pioneer Folk Antiques, Ellsworth, Maine, credit Gaglio with “covering all the bases and the result, in our view, was a spring 2018 home run!”
The Millers reported having a successful show, selling a wide array of antiques to dealers and collectors alike. “Our folk art sales included a fabulous metal seahorse weathervane and two carvings of bathers. Among the several paintings that we sold was a small abstract work by a listed Mexican artist. Also leaving our booth were a number of unusual garden pieces, including an Italian metal bench, a set of graphic iron trellises, a small frog fountain, a pair of concrete foo dogs, a pair of diminutive iron pagodas and a large wire dog-design topiary. Several midcentury sculptures, vintage signs and unusual Maine buoys also found homes.”
In the realm of traditional antiques, buyers seemed to like what they saw in the booth of Sanford Levy’s Jenkinstown Antiques, New Paltz, N.Y. He reported sales that included an Eighteenth Century lowboy, an early Nineteenth Century candlestand with a drawer, an Eastlake easel, an Eighteenth Century cherrywood chest on chest, several pieces of stoneware, pewter and blown glass, as well as some paintings featuring Hudson River views. This last category got a boost from the dealer’s newly published catalog, Paintings at Mohonk: Visions of Our Surroundings, that depicts and describes the storied mountain house’s collection of artworks devoted to the area’s scenic treasures. Indeed, Sanford had a painting by one of the artists, Henry Van Ingen, on offer at the show, a view of Magdalen Island on the Hudson, ancient site of Native American habitation.
“I thought that the Rhinebeck show this spring had some great energy,” said Levy. “There was activity on setup day and both Saturday and Sunday, with interested crowds. I sold things on all three days, I had a very positive response to showing my Mohonk catalog and was happy to share that with both dealers and old and new clients.”
Epitomizing Rhinebeck’s fun vibe was a carved circus lion in park paint, displayed on a steel stand at Holden Antiques, Naples, Fla. Furniture pieces here included a Pennsylvania pine hutch table, circa 1840, and a nicely proportioned circa 1825-30 Sheraton secretary desk in mahogany that had been found in midcoast Maine but believed to have been from eastern Massachusetts. Said dealer Ed Holden, “I thought the appearance of the show improved from the fall and prior spring. This was the result of a better roster of dealers with a broader range of interesting material. I think this better mix also contributes to a bigger and better mix of attendees, which did seem to occur. There were also dealers from places away from the area, which helps make the show more interesting.”
Holden said that while the show’s gate seemed larger on Saturday, it held up nicely on Sunday, and the Sunday crowd were also buyers not just viewers. “Of interest was the larger number of younger attendees who showed a lot of interest and were also good buyers,” he said. “They are not generally traditional Americana buyers but the diversity of Rhinebeck helps to draw them in compared to other shows.”
Overall, the Holdens said they sold 44 separate items, most the first day but a good number the second. “The dollar volume although not great was the best at a Rhinebeck show in several years. So in this new ‘reduced’ antiques economy we live in, the results were quite good and we were pleased.”
Over the winter the Holdens had collected a large number of carved wood birds and ice fishing decoys. “They were fresh to the market and did exceptionally well with the buyers,” said Ed Holden. The dealers also sold a Nineteenth Century Odd Fellows Heart-in-Hand staff and a complete and fully functional Nineteenth Century brass tobacco honor box. “We also sold two nice pieces of furniture, always a pleasure today and many other varied items both for collectors and furnishers, including a Nineteenth Century Chinese screen, a nice pair of tall blue curved top shutters and two good early Northwest Coast totem poles.”
It was good to see Jan and John Maggs back at Rhinebeck. The Conway, Mass., dealers had been absent from the show circuit while rebuilding their Nineteenth Century barn/showroom and business after a devastating tornado hit the previous early spring. They recently successfully hosted their first annual show in the newly built structure, and the material on offer at Rhinebeck was fresh to the market. Highlights included an English oak server, circa 1690, with pot board, two drawers and pleasing barley turned legs; a pair of framed portraits of a couple in oil by an unknown artist, probably American, circa 1820, depicting a man in a suit and woman a blue dress and embroidered bonnet; and a Dutch pair of repousse wall sconces with convex and attached reflectors, circa 1690-1710.
Over in Building E, Steve and Doris McKell of Tradewinds Fine Art, Narragansett, R.I., were greeting clients with a varied selection of works in all media. A key piece on display was a color-saturated work by Malcolm Farley (b 1957), an original oil of the “Americas Cup Trials, Newport, R.I.” The acclaimed international artist is renowned for his visions of color applied to sporting events and live musical performances. The painting has hung in the McKells’ home for many years, as it was a special commission by the artist. Now, the dealers said, it was ready to find a new home.
Rhinebeck will return for its fall edition at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds October 6-7. For information, 845-876-0616 or www.barnstar.com.
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