Published: October 25, 2022
Review & Photos by Madelia Hickman Ring
GREAT BARRINGTON, MASS. – After a soft opening on July 1, The Berkshire Galleries of Great Barrington hosted an open house and launch party the evening of Friday, October 14, to welcome friends and clients to the Berkshire’s newest destination for antiques and fine art. Located on Main Street (Route 7) a few minutes south of Great Barrington’s center, the 5,000-square-foot showroom features nearly 30 dealers whose property is arranged in small, attractively arranged spaces not unlike what one would see at an antiques show. Open seven days a week, the venue sells American, English, European and Asian antiques, fine and decorative art, carpets, Midcentury Modern and more. Booth spaces are somewhat fluid, with one dealer’s good occasionally migrating to wherever it will be displayed to its optimum potential. The sprawling showroom is divided into two buildings joined by a central reception area with cases for jewelry and smalls that served as the primary focal point for the reception.
The space is owned by Christopher Nolan, who does business as Urbana Antiques and who has had his eye on the space for a few years. Previously the Great Barrington Antiques Center, the venue had needed a makeover, which Nolan has done superbly, creating a showroom that is bright, welcoming and charmingly elegant without pretention.
“Richard La Vigne was my first new dealer to come in, then Peter Murphy and Francis Nestor of Cottage + Camp. It was sort of a progression through dealers in the show circuit with us; we’re like a family. It was great because it was a known location, just a few minutes south of Great Barrington’s center, and I’d been looking at it for so long. Some of the dealers came because they recognized the potential of the space. We want it to be destination.”
Nolan commented that the dealers share an enthusiastic collegial attitude towards each other, one that benefits everyone and creates an environment that fosters learning from various dealers.
Most of the dealers utilize social media to promote their spaces; it’s a strategy that pays off. Nolan, who is on Instagram, said a production company in New York had purchased several things, including a Chesterfield sofa that sold the night of the open house. The brisk selling pace is also undoubtedly attributed to the prices of things. “The feedback on the pricing has been quite positive; many people think the prices we’re asking to be quite reasonable.”
Richard A. La Vigne, who aptly describes himself as a visual architect, has a gregarious personality and his enthusiasm for the new space is infectious. The owner of Knollwood Antiques along with Stephen Concannon, was instrumental in helping Nolan realize his vision and presented his things in the foyer of the main entrance as well as in the first space. During the opening night party, La Vigne fielded calls from potential buyers and mingled easily with guests.
“It’s so great. How can you anticipate a response as good as this?” La Vigne said when we reached him on a busy morning the week after the event. “The Open House had just the right amount of people, the right amount of selling, and the food was spectacular. We’ve had the most amazing month and it just keeps getting better. It’s worked out so well for all of us.”
“People appreciate the cleanliness, ample parking and location, that everything is tagged and that they can browse without people hovering. Visitors have commented on the variety of things, and the price points, from novice to collector to investment. We have a lot of people who come in and say, ‘We recognize your tags from Brimfield or Rhinebeck.’ So few galleries are opening these days; it’s encouraging to thrive and show everyone, from older shoppers to younger ones, that they can find something they can relate to.”
Bridgewater, Conn., dealer Hubert “Bear” van Asch van Wyck, Black Swan Antiques, had arranged his things to the right of the galleries’ reception area and several red sold tags were noticeable immediately. Just before the launch party opened, he had sold a large dining table so he had to swap in a smaller table to arrange a set of four Chippendale side chairs around. Continental furnishings and decorative smalls are his stock in trade, and he had things handsomely arranged.
“Great Barrington has a really sophisticated group living here,” said Hudson, N.Y., dealer Ronald Wells. “There are a lot of people moving to the Berkshires from Los Angeles who want to maintain the same level of quality and sophistication.” He said most of his business has been to online clients, but he was pleased to see how busy the Open House was.
“All just what I like” was how Wells described his inventory. One of the stand-out pieces in Wells’ booth was a rare 1983 Michael Elken Oregon burl box that had been made in Italy. Wells said he had found it in Great Barrington. He had sold a rare Eighteenth Century four-poster bed that he had found in a Delaware estate to a New York City designer.
Stockbridge, Mass., dealer Hilary Beadell specializes in upholstered furniture that she reupholsters herself. A particularly attractive piece she had done was an Eighteenth Century French provincial chair in a patterned fabric of gold, cream and red pinwheel circles on a brown ground. She was asking $950 for the chair.
Across the aisle from Beadell, Hillsdale, N.Y., interior designer and dealer James Coviello, James Coviello Home, was having an animated discussion with a few clients. When we reached him by phone after the event, he was effusive in his praise of both the event and the venue, which he moved into in early September.
“I thought the event was really fun. People were very excited and are really happy – and surprised at how it looks, the quality of things for sale. People in Great Barrington have been coming up to Chris and commending him on what he did. He saw a need and filled it.
“I specialize in early to mid-Nineteenth Century English and American but like things that are unpretentious. I prefer things people can live with and use, things that are lived in and are not precious or intimidating. It’s how I live myself.”
“This is exciting for me. I’ve been not just an antiques dealer but a customer here for many years. I loved it because it was diverse and one of the only ones around the Berkshires; I would stop in every couple of months. What Richard and Chris did was incredible; I noticed it right away. They understood the importance of having that space in the town, for shoppers, and for dealers as well. Chris said he was trying to curate a very special group of dealers; I told him I’d always wanted to do something like this. I’m primarily an interior designer and am shopping for clients all the time. Selling antiques is more of a hobby for me but this was a great opportunity to create a James Coviello showroom – I could sell retail but also for anyone in the trade who wanted to stop by. I’m really happy that I did this.”
According to La Vigne, there is a list of dealers who want to show in the space, a tribute to its success. One of the most recent vendors to join is Abbey Campbell, Inherited Goods, who offers, among other things, customized lamp shades, for which she charges between $120 and $500, depending on style and material options.
The Berkshire Galleries of Great Barrington are at 964 Main Street, Suite 6. The gallery is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 5 pm. For more information, 413-644-8848 or www.theberkshiregalleries.com.
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