Published: June 11, 2019
Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
RHINEBECK, N.Y. – When Frank Gaglio’s Barn Star Productions took over management of the storied Rhinebeck Antiques Show four years ago, he took it as his mission to rebuild the brand of the destination event that takes place twice each year – Memorial Day Weekend and Columbus Day Weekend. This spring, on May 25-26, his firm’s endeavor continued its march towards that goal as Antiques at Rhinebeck filled all four exhibition buildings at Dutchess County Fairgrounds with 153 dealer booths and a vast array of antiques, fine art and decorative arts. “It’s a work in progress,” said Gaglio afterwards. Still, he was able to fill the detached Building E with nearly 30 exhibitors and drew a record spring crowd that he estimated was 25 percent larger than previous years under his management. “It was an unbelievable crowd,” he said of Saturday’s gate, “and the consistency of the crowd was great. There were a lot of younger people, couples pushing baby carriages. Even with fabulous weather, they came to shop.”
“Rhinebeck was good,” said Anne Wilbanks of Find Weatherly, a Stamford, Conn., dealer specializing in marine and folk art and Eighteenth-Nineteenth Century American furniture. “I sold my most expensive painting – an enormous Robart’s Hereford bull farm sign – to a lovely retail couple with a home near Rhinebeck who were crazy about him. They hung him in their great room on a two-story stone fireplace wall over the mantel – perfect home!
“Funny thing was that the Robart’s granddaughter called me about the sign when she saw it in the paper,” Wilbanks continued. “She remembered the sign clearly from spending summers with her grandparents on their cattle farm, which was outside Hartford, Conn. She wanted to buy it, but offered me less than I paid for it. If she had been close to my purchase price, I would have been thrilled to reunite it with a Robart family member.”
Find Weatherly also sold a few smalls. “I would have loved to sell more pieces, but was very glad that one of the sold pieces was that great trade sign. I also bought several wonderful pieces of unusual metal from a few dealers who we only see at Rhinebeck. There was a huge crowd on Saturday; Sunday seemed lighter and more of a ‘family outing’ crowd. My observation was that many dealers sold their best pieces.”
Wilbanks’ observation was borne out by Plymouth, Mass., dealer Bruce Emond of The Village Braider. “I usually sell my less expensive pieces at this show,” said the dealer. “This time it was my most expensive ones that sold.” That included three large clown lithos by Ford Beckman (1952-2014), an artist who rose to prominence in the New York art scene of the late 1980s and died at 62 of a heart attack. Also on offer in The Village Braider’s booth was a Tramp Art-style dining set, a soaring continental birdhouse and curious green-painted wooden cage on legs that Emond’s partner David Erskine described as a breeding cage for small animals. It featured a wooden barrier that could be slid in position to separate the animals until that “romantic” moment arrived.
For folk sign specialist Victor Weinblatt, South Hadley, Mass., his signs were of the times. “In these horrific political times, bringing a sign addressed to ‘Politicians’ risks rubbing salt in the wound. All the renowned collectors and dealers studied and admired it. As fate would have it, the most renowned collector of Americana, a former colleague and dear friend for some 40 was the buyer. In the meantime, more than a dozen potential buyers returned too late,” said Weinblatt.
Two signs from the legendary Durgin Park Restaurant sold early on, “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Live Music,” as did a Waterville Maine bottling Company sign in exquisite green with two rare folk art painted renderings of Coca-Cola Bottles. A diminutive “Frankfurts” sign went back to Ohio. Two round ice cream parlor “Hand-Dipped” signs went to Cape Cod.” A diminutive wood and iron flag stand with flags went to New Jersey,” said Weinblatt.
There were more. A Maine sign from a late dealer’s collection, “Shop,” which could be dubbed “America’s Mantra” – at least prior to the tariff wars – also sold at opening. Several pieces from the Cherry Tennis folk art collection sold – a sign, two pairs of bookends and a chocolate mold. A pair of early rag carpets in vegetable dyes were headed for California. A pair of Seaside Heights, N.J., carnival knock-down figures also sold.
“One of the joys of a Barn Star show,” Weinblatt added, “in addition to working with the incomparable Frank and Lynn [Webb] duo, is all the reunions with dear friends.”
Modern art specialist Bill Hamel took advantage of the strong traffic and buying mood of Saturday’s crowd and made all of his sales on that day. Colorful Vasa Mihich acrylic sculptures were a highlight in his booth, and he sold a triangle Vasa piece. “There was considerable and sustained interest in those Vasa works throughout the show,” he said. I also sold candlesticks, bookends and other objects. Frank announced that attendance broke a record for the show since he has taken it over and I felt it on Saturday. Sunday was much slower other than a brief post-brunch rush.”
Scott Ferris, a Boonville, N.Y., dealer who specializes in Americana and works by Rockwell Kent, said he was glad to be back at this show that his father regularly exhibited at more than 20 years ago. In his booth were two panels made by Tiffany New York, as one banner and presented to the Albany Regiment of Washington Riflemen, circa 1846. On the left was an eagle and a portrait of George Washington was on the right. “The ‘Albany Washington Riflemen’ now have a home within a splendid folk art collection out on Cape Cod. The other large object sale was the 1948 Surrealist landscape ‘Rapporti’ by Adriana Celli: That went to a Hudson Valley, now Connecticut collector. And another piece that I especially liked was a half-plate ambrotype of a village-whereabouts unknown: though a sign on one building informed us that there was a community blacksmith. Other photography, and other smalls sold, so it was a good J&R Ferris Antiques-returns-to-Rhinebeck, since the days when my father regularly did the show.”
As always, choice pieces of stoneware were on offer by Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., including an S.B. Bosworth, Hartford, Conn., 4-gallon churn with “gooney bird” decoration and a rare 5-gallon churn with two fat-tailed pheasants, made at the pottery of J. Norton & Co., between 1859 and 1861. The information tag accompanying the latter churn read: “This same churn can be found on page 90 of The Birds of Bennington by Steve Leder and Fred Cesana.” Also on offer were a grain painted and stenciled child’s chair, 1830-40, which had been fitted with later rockers, a pair of Sheraton fancy chairs, circa 1830s and a War of 1812 Massachusetts roster. “Saturday was a very good day,” said dealers Lorraine and Greg German. “We sold a variety of things, including stoneware, vintage Christmas, folk art and even some furniture. We were very pleased. Sunday was much slower, but we were okay.”
A lime green late Eighteenth Century Hudson Valley four-door cupboard with original hardware and interior commanded space at Jenkinstown Antiques. New Paltz, N.Y. dealer Sanford Levy reported that the large crowd on Saturday had “lots of interest in many things.” Among sold items over the course of the weekend were a blanket box, a mahogany Pembroke table, one-drawer stand, a carved swan, stoneware, a number of paintings and other smalls.
Fans of English oak and period furniture always know to head for the booth of Jan and John Maggs, Conway, Mass., dealers who make annual shopping trips to England to bolster their inventory. Available here was a Jacobean two-drawer chest on stand from England, circa 1680 or later. It probably once was the upper half of a four-drawer chest, the couple opined, but now sat with well executed barley twist legs. An exceptionally long English oak bench, circa 1900s, with four turned legs and medial stretcher would make a striking and functional addition to a dining room or at the foot of a bed. And with all the recent auction postsale fervor over Monet’s “Haystacks,” who wouldn’t want an unsigned oil painting on canvas, probably Belgian, circa 1880, of the same subject for considerably less money? “We had a very good show,” said the Maggses afterwards. “We had sales in all categories – furniture, paintings, jewelry and smalls. The crowd seemed very strong to us, and Rhinebeck appears to have reestablished itself as one of the finest shows in the Northeast.”
Hubert “Bear” and Susan van Asch van Wyck of Black Swan Antiques, Washington, Conn., took advantage of an outward facing booth wall to display some of their own creations. They are mostly known for their collection of Delft tiles and continental furniture and decorative arts, but here was an American mid-Twentieth Century tall case clock in two parts that they had decorated with shells. Having been in their home for some years, they decided it was time to offer it to the public, along with some shell sculptures on marble bases and a console table that Bear had covered in white rope. A charcoal and pastel work, “Friends,” by Susan was on view above the console table. “The show went well,” the couple reported later. “We sold furniture and some smalls and hope to hear from some designers on other pieces. The shell clock had a lot of interest – including Leigh Keno – but as of this moment, it is still available. Frank Gaglio really does a great job promoting the show.”
There were some compelling pieces of folk art at South Road Antiques, including a great primitive amusement park game wheel from 1930s Pennsylvania. Dealer Susan Wechsler said she recently renovated her barn in Stanfordville, N.Y., since closing her shop in Hudson. “It’s a great barn. The house was built in 1825, the barn is more recent but has two stories. I’m planning to open by appointment and have some special exhibitions and sales. Many local people who visited the booth expressed an interest in coming to my barn to shop. Shows are always a good way to meet new potential clients.”
Wechsler added that she enjoyed the high energy and good crowd on Saturday. “I think the show has once again become a premier event, with really good dealers and interesting booths,” she said. “I sold the big primitive game wheel, some signs, a group of Korean box sculptures, painting, folk art cart, table and hunt board and various smalls. Looking forward to the fall show.”
Antiques at Rhinebeck returns for its fall edition, Columbus Day Weekend, October 12-13, at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. For information, www.barnstar.com or 845-876-0616.
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