The summer doldrums were whisked aside by a lively one-day Rhinebeck Summer Magic Antiques Fair at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds on July 26. Despite a fragile economy, about 130 die-hard optimists (otherwise known as antiques dealers) filled three huge buildings with their creative displays. Some dealers came from as far away as Maine, Florida and Missouri.
Summer in the quaint village of Rhinebeck continues to draw vacationers and day-trippers. Dealers selected their offerings accordingly, offering a wide variety of goods and not too much furniture. Customers calling to ask if there would be a certain type of antique at the show usually got show promoter Bruce Garrett’s answer, “Come and find out.” And they did. Show attendance was good. “The turnout for the fair was about the same as last summer,” said Garrett, not without some relief. “We must be doing something right.”
The eclecticism of the show has become part of the draw, simply because no one can predict what dealers will bring, although one expects good primitives. Who could predict that you could buy a set of eight all-original French marionettes circa 1915‱920 at the booth of Doodletown Farm? Or how about the impressive 35-by-50-inch (interior dimensions) Nineteenth Century frame with its original gilded finish and massive 9-inch molding at Jenkinstown Antiques priced at $11,000? A large silver dirigible model floated high at the booth of Michael Haskins, a see-saw in red paint was ready for play at the booth of Debbie Turi, and old street signs of Manhattan Drive and Ward Street sat on the floor at the booth of Michael and Lucinda Seward. Painted life-size cow and calf plywood cutouts hung on the back wall of Praiseworthy Antiques of Guilford, N.Y. If variety is the spice of life, then Rhinebeck is a whole spice cabinet.
As for textiles, there were great hooked rugs all over the show, a few exquisite samplers, lots of eye-popping quilts, a booth of Oriental rugs and a smattering of coverlets, along with more exotic things like the intricate Nineteenth Century Chinese 72-by-72-inch resist dye panel offered for $975 by Steve Smoot of Lancaster, Penn.
Rhinebeck dealers are terrific at setting up displays of antiques that take on aesthetic appeal through visual repetition, contrasts in texture and an appreciation for form. American Gothic Antiques had a graphic grouping of saw blades, harrower blades and gears. If you put enough of one type of antique together, the sum is greater than the parts. Another example was the Catskill collection of wire baskets at the booth of Philip and Kathleen Seibel.
Move over Marcel Duchamp. Found objects as objets d’art are a big part of Rhinebeck. Joshua Lowenfels demonstrated his “antique aesthetic” with his bowl of swamp-distressed tennis balls displayed artfully in a wood trencher. The industrial welding machine in the corner of his booth had the adroit personality of the robot R2D2.
Nutting House brought game boards, a large hooked rug of a landscape and moderately priced paintings. Hartman Antiques displayed great country furniture, including a “hired man’s bed,” a good-looking apothecary and several mirrors. Fed on Lights brought old wooden wall vanities faced with mirrors and vintage lighting. Philip Liverant’s booth stood out because it had a feel of the Old West to it, anchored by two large George Catlin prints that were priced at $2,250 for the pair.
Marc Witus brought an Eighteenth Century banister back rocker with a rush seat at $2,450. An early carved and gessoed polychrome putto with glass eyes was $2,850. Witus had a humorous paint decorated carved wooden deer head, $950, with expressive bug-eyes that he titled “Caught in the Headlights.” A bone-white carved wooden sheep’s head looked much older than the deer, had a beautiful peaceful air about it and was priced at $3,450. Chocolate molds in teddy bear form were ready to march into the hands of collectors.
Witus has been in the business for 37 years and drove up from New Jersey for the show. “Rhinebeck is soup to nuts. It has always been successful because of the mix and range. The management, crew, help, porters are the best in the business,” he said.
Millcreek Antiques had country smalls †Shaker baskets, candle molds, stoneware, silhouettes and miniatures, a chest in old paint, a brilliant red and yellow quilt and a quilt with four large birds.
There were more birds at the booth of Diane and Keith Fryling †shore bird decoys that were moderately priced. A mid-Twentieth Century game wheel was $1,175. A large hand painted sign advised, “Don’t Start Vast Projects With Half-Vast Ideas.”
Bruce Emond, Village Braider, like many of the dealers at Rhinebeck, brought a mix of things from different centuries. He had a carved stone sculpture from the University of Pennsylvania dental school of a dentist extracting a tooth, circa 1915. An elegant modern metal sculpture hailed from the 1970s, and two wooden carved foliate frames, shown by themselves without art, were from the 1950s. On the outside wall of the booth were Nineteenth Century Chinese panels that were decorated on both sides.
Seaver & MacLennan brought several framed fashion sketches by Joe Crosby. There were advertising signs, colorful game boards and loads of textiles at the booth of Susan Parrish. An unusual painting portrayed a man in a hat crossing the tracks in front of a steam engine at Parrish’s booth. Mario Pollo had some nice weathervanes. There was an metal cutout weathervane of a bull, an Indian on a horse that had a few bullet holes and a full-bodied verdigris rooster. J.D. Query brought a collection of mocha ware and other ceramics. Missouri Plain Folk had an assortment of humungous geodes on the floor, gigantic liquor bottles (empty) and a pencil that easily measured 5 feet long. Good country primitives filled their booth.
Tori Hill of Washington Valley Antiques had a charming display that was wowing fellow dealers and shoppers. Perhaps the most irresistible corner of her booth featured an apothecary with Steiff animals popping out of the drawers. She also had majolica, ironstone and a huge variety of smalls.
A frog band, carved of wood and paint decorated, entertained showgoers at the booth of Robert Baranowsky. He had help from his teenage daughter Michaela and wife Kathy. They also exhibited an Elmer O. Stennes banjo clock featuring a naval battle between British and American vessels, a Meriden Britannia Company silver jewelry box and three amber glass decanters with silver overlay in the Art Nouveau style. A paint decorated cast iron Cape Cod lighthouse doorstop was priced at $2,700.
Pioneer Folk of Bar Harbor had an adorable child’s riding toy of an elephant on wheels, circa 1910′0s. On the wall were hung horse ornaments in celluloid with heart emblems that horses might wear in parades.
An X-rated whirligig at the booth of One Good Eye Antiques kept dealers tittering. Also at that booth, a large fanciful textile monogrammed RAP had Indian elephants, appliqué insects and mythical creatures. A Gargoyle Mobil Oil shelf for oil cans looked like it could last forever and had industrial chic. An industrial metal wall cabinet sold early.
The Norwoods’ Spirit of America featured two fabulous hooked rugs †a “home sweet home” rug showing the hearth with a cat, and one featuring lobsters, killer whales and a narwhale. William Lohrman of New Paltz brought a model of a yacht, an old National cash register, a large wood mantel, tole trays, a good wood trencher and stoneware. Books of all sorts could be had at B&G Gventer Books.
Worden Antiques and Art had a brilliant display of industrial furniture and elements. A standout at its booth was a heavy duty coat rack in Deco style with two types of metal †a nickel colored metal shaft and brass accents for the hooks and peg feet.
A choice sampler by young Sara Ann Collins featured a wonderful Garden of Eden with a snake at the booth of Bill and Elaine Koster. The Kosters also had a terrific black cat boot scraper for $250, dolls, silhouettes and a circa 1860 New Paltz navy and white quilt.
J. Gallagher can be counted on to bring a gleaming assortment of brass andirons, fenders and fireplace tools and it never disappoints. Tucked here and there were choice pieces of dark wood furniture to complement the brass. Also shown were a New York City rosewood hall tree with a cast iron shell basin to catch the drips from wet umbrellas that was circa 1830 and several brass trivets for hearth cooking/heating.
Joan Bogart filled her stand with tole wreaths, Hollywood Regency, brass tie-backs, wicker and an array of cake stand/étagère pieces. Bob and Ellie Vermilion of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., brought a great collection of baby and children’s Victorian footware. Also at the Vermillion booth, an 1880 folk art hanging wall cupboard came from the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with great carving. Raccoon Creek Antiques brought a great selection of redware and a hooked rug of an elephant. Lake Ridge Antiques had a large, wire trilevel demilune plant stand set on wheels.
A pre-Civil War militia drum, circa 1830, with its original sling, early powder horns, an 1840 flintlock musket, early hearth cooking implements, pewter and a Rockingham pitcher with a “silky” surface all gave the Dark Moon Antiques a warm, Americana appeal. The booth also had sheet iron canisters for $65 each, a reflector oven with a hand forged spit, a few wicker fishing creels, a cutout iron peacock weathervane with bronze paint and a multicolor generously long flat-woven runner rug.
Margarita Poutouridou had a magnificent collection of vintage Mexican silver jewelry dating from the 1920s to the mid-1960s that included designers such as Spratling, Margot de Taxco, Los Castillo and lesser known jewelers like Matilde Poulat and Los Ballesteros. All the pieces were handmade and gorgeous.
A full-bodied eagle on top of a ball and arrow weathervane with verdigris could be bought at the booth of Thomas Longacre. A painted iron cobbler’s swivel, Nineteenth Century, was $165 and made a great sectioned dish for smaller collectibles, like the marbles he displayed. A geometric hooked rug had a sophisticated, simple look.
A 4-foot-tall paint decorated standing cutout of Uncle Sam made a whimsical appearance at Antique Jungle’s fabulously dense display of antiques. A wonderful 1904 framed textile of Uncle Sam with applied wispy hair and beard holding a Declaration of Independence was at the booth of Judith and James Milne, New York City; it was stamped as having once belonged to the Mastai Collection and was priced at $575. Dennis and Valerie Bakoledis had Uncle Sam in their booth as a pinball top.
After the show, Dennis Bakoledis said, “The crowd was much better than last summer †more retail oriented. Sales were good. There was a little bounce.” In addition to the pinball Uncle Sam, they sold four pieces furniture. Indeed, what furniture there was at Rhinebeck seemed to be selling rather well.
A majority of the dealers reported having a “good” show based on Garrett’s postfair poll. “This summer we had 60 percent reporting good sales. As long as we are between 60 and 70 percent reporting ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ sales, we are doing well,” he said. Garrett noticed that the crowd was not just cruising the aisles. Instead, they were asking questions in the booths, talking to dealers and really looking. “We’re not bulletproof,” he said. Last year, Summer Magic took up all four buildings on the fairgrounds. Attrition due to higher gas prices, slow business and a desire to concentrate on the larger spring and summer Rhinebeck fairs kept some familiar faces away and provided room for some new faces at the show.
Joan Fader had been on the road for about a month doing different shows when she reached Rhinebeck. It was her first experience at the fair. “I am an Art Nouveau dealer. I thought, ‘Oh no, this is a primitive show.’ I thought I was doomed.” Fortunately, her expectations proved wrong. She sold a very fine early Tiffany vase that was from Tiffany’s personal collection, as well as other things. “A large number of people asked if we would be back. I was very surprised because the crowd that came to the show was very versed on art glass and on Tiffany,” she said.
Rita Grimshaw handles high-end jewelry and shared a booth with Fader. “I had a wonderful show,” she reported. “The crowd was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. I was busy all day.” Grimshaw has residual sales pending as well.
There were cascades of colorful quilts at the booth of Marie Miller, Dorset, Vt. “It was really good. There was a crowd all day long,” she said. “We sold quilts, furniture, a bunch of smalls †a little bit of everything at all different price levels.” Miller has been doing the Summer Magic show since the very beginning †for ten years now. “Rhinebeck is one of our favorite shows. It is very consistent,” she said. In addition to traditional quilts, Miller featured a large crazy quilt, a circa 1869 three-gallon stoneware jug from Weston and Gregg of Ellenville, N.Y., at $1,295, Quimper pottery and a Kentucky or Ohio cherry/walnut/tiger maple corner cupboard.
Donna Kmetz American Paintings, Douglas, Mass., brought her normal mix. She had a lot of smaller paintings in the $2,000․3,000 range and some less expensive pieces, as well as a few more expensive works. The centerpiece in her booth was a landscape with puffy white clouds by William Kalilai. “The show was fun. I always like Rhinebeck. I had some pretty decent sales at the show,” she said. “I was really happy because spring has been pretty slow.” Kmetz does advance mailings to customers. Some of her New York City clients made it to Rhinebeck for the first time and some New Jersey clients came up on the thruway.
“Every booth is very different. I don’t think any other show is really like it. It is visually interesting. Your eyes don’t glaze over because it is not homogenous,” said Kmetz. “From a dealer’s point of view, Rhinebeck is a very professional show. It’s amazingly smooth and easy for such a big event.”
October 11 and 12 are the dates to circle on your calendar for the fall show. For information, www.rhinebeckantiquesfair.com or 845-876-1989.