Published: October 31, 2000
GREENVILLE, S.C. – When the Greenville County Museum of Art was looking for an annual fundraiser 15 years ago, a group of supporters put their heads together and came up with the idea of an antiques show inside the museum itself.
Mary Lawson, one of the original organizers of the show and presently the head of development at the museum has played a crucial role since the beginning. “There were not a lot of antiques stores in Greenville in the 1980s, so bringing together a group of good dealers under one roof seemed like a good idea.” Since then, dedicated volunteers, collectors, staff and generous benefactors have carried the concept forward, raising over $2 million in the process. Last year the show netted $190,000. This year Lawson predicted that the net for the museum’s biggest fundraiser would be close to a $200,000 goal.
The show opened with a preview on October 12 and ran through October 15. Twenty-two dealers set up booths in the light and ample space of the main floor that was transformed into a perfect backdrop for the antiques show. Three days earlier, paintings by Morris Louis, Jasper Johns and Kenneth Nolan hung on the same walls and dividers. By October 12 they were replaced with a wide selection of material including antiques American and European furniture, silver, folk art, Oriental rugs, linen and accessories.
The weather was perfect and several other activities in downtown Greenville competed for an audience, including one of Tina Turner’s farewell concerts, a bike race and the Fall for Greenville festival. Not withstanding the stock market, the Middle East, the USS Cole, and the election, there was some concern that the gate would be smaller than usual.
W. Malcolm Perry was not worried. “The show always has a good response from the public.” He and his wife are among a handful of exhibitors who have been with the Antiques Show since its beginning. Familiar with the wide range of interest and taste of the show audience, the Perrys brought a group of formal pieces of furniture from their home base in Leslie, Ga. to the exhibit. A handsome chest of drawers, an American settee, a George III side chair priced at $895 and a corner basin stand priced at $1,850 were among the rdf_Descriptions. Mrs Perry focused on antique jewelry, including a nice collection of jade pieces. Mr Perry was correct with his prediction. By the close of the show on Sunday, he had almost sold out.
Like the Perrys, Miriam’s Oriental Rugs has also been in the show for the last 15 years. Miriam Owens concurred with Mr Perry. “It’s always a good show,” and added “The volunteer committee works harder than any show promoter.” Owens has developed a faithful clientele of Oriental rug collectors. “Color and design are everything and rugs in hues of red are the most popular today.” One of her clients was so delighted with the roomsize rug she purchased that she came back to the booth, gave the dealer a hug and volunteered to have a coffee for her next year.
Georgetown, Ind. dealers Parrett/Lick have carved a special niche for themselves over the last 15 years. It turns out that rustic hickory furniture is perfect for clients with a second home in nearby Blue Ridge Mountains. They shared much of their knowledge in a talk Saturday afternoon “Elevating Craft to Art: A Look at Decorative Folk Art.”
Lectures are just one of the special features at the Greenville County Museum show. The core of dedicated volunteers works hard to find just the right speakers. The talks are well attended particularly the “Southern Style” by this year’s keynote speaker, Mark Mayfield, editor of Southern Accents magazine.
“She’s got everything,” commented a visitor to the booth of Chris Janke, one of the owners of Accents from Williamsburg, Va. The collection of tabletop accessories included 12 Steiff sterling water goblets with gold wash interiors priced at $2,400. Sales of unusual sterling pieces were brisk. Napkin rings and inkwells sold as did flatware including asparagus eaters, spoon rests, olive spoons, mint spoons, personal nutmeg spoons, strawberry forks or chipped beef forks.
Tongue-in-check, Janke volunteered, “If you don’t know what to give your boss for Christmas you can always give a can of olives and an olive fork.” If coin silver was your main interest, you could certainly find it at Past Pleasures, a Fairhope, Ala. dealers. Ladles, sets of teaspoons, and unusual serving pieces covered long display tables. If Georgian silver was your main interest, Augusta House from Palm Beach, Fla. was the booth to visit.
Although Atlanta dealer Bob Walker focused on mid-Nineteenth Century American furniture he also showed an eclectic mix of porcelain, including a complete Limoges game set with the large platter and 12 individual plates, each signed by a registered factory artist and an English oak wall shelf filled with an assortment of English ironstone and Chinese export porcelain. Most unusual was a wonderful pine and birch huntboard, 48 inches in height, of pegged and pinned construction that he had acquired at a plantation near Washington, Ga. “The huntboard is a tall buffet set outside on a porch so that hunters would not have to dismount for food.”
Hutchinson House Antiques offered another Southern huntboard, circa 1820, for $2,850. It kept company with a New England four-drawer chest with bonnet drawer priced at $3,650 and worked well with a collection of Quimper and decoys in the Barnesville, Ga. Dealer’s booth. Leighton Adair Butts of Tryon, N.C. had another handsome New England piece, a slant-top yoke front desk, circa 1780, priced at $16,500.
Two sisters from Charlotte, N.C. who own the Crescent Collection have been exhibitors for over five years. Although this show is half the size of the Nashville Antique and Garden show they like it better because as Anne Bowers explained, “In Greenville there is a good source of people. The people here are so nice and so helpful.” A finely grained Eighteenth Century English chest of drawers of Paducah wood was a particularly handsome piece of furniture that set off botanical prints and a large collection of majolica, including a large complete cheese bell priced at $3,450.
The 15-hour drive from Bethel, Conn. that Marjorie Burriac-Rapp makes each year is well worth it because her shop, Linen Ladies, never ceases to please all the Southern women who love beautiful linen and laces. There are always a number of antique napkins and towels and pillowcases for those clients looking for a specific initial already embroidered on it.
Savannah dealer Fran Campbell did well also. “It’s a small show. A nice group puts it on for a good cause,” according to son Carter who staffed the booth. Half way through the show, he was pleased with the results, counting among his sales a Federal mirror, a Georgian chest and a Chinese altar table. Chinese export, Imari pieces and tortoise shell accessories worked well with the other pieces of furniture, including a four-drawer Federal mahogany chest with cookie corners priced at $3,900.
The Charleston Renaissance Gallery opened in Charleston, S.C. in May of 1999. Many readers may be familiar with the name of the founder, Robert Hicklin whose gallery in Spartanburg has been a source of fine Southern traditional art for many years. The acknowledged expert on paintings by William Aiken Walker, Hicklin was a witness for the FBI during the recent cases involving fake paintings by this popular Nineteenth Century genre artist.
An added feature at Hicklin’s new gallery will be the exhibition of contemporary realist artists like West Fraser who love the Charleston environment. Hicklin not only moved his exhibition space to the Coast, but he played a major role in the organization of the Charleston Fine Art Dealers Association. The organization was formed to celebrate the city’s vibrant arts community and to promote the city as a national arts destination. In a short sentence, to create a SoHo of the South.
Carolina Fine Paintings and Prints also from Charleston and Knoke Gallery from Atlanta, rounded out the paintings exhibitors. The latter offered mostly South and North Carolina views with the exception of a wonderful painting of a North African group by Martha Walters. Generally speaking, fine arts dealers, whether in the South, the West or the East are not disappointed if they do not sell during a show. Follow-up after the show and subsequent sales are expected.
One section of the antiques show emphasized antique furniture and restoration. French polish and replaced period-style brasses were apparent in the booth of first-time exhibitor Robert Burrows, who brought a number of case pieces from his home base in Lebanon, Conn. Including a large mahogany chest with rope twist columns, probably Boston, circa 1830, priced at $4,200. Burrows did well at the show.
More restoration and refinishing was apparent in the inventory of two dealers from the neighboring town of Spartanburg. John C. Morton’s Saturday morning talk, “Nails, Screws and Pegs: The Nuts and Bolts of Antique Furniture” used case studies drawn from his collection of American antique furniture, including a Charleston chest, a New England chair and a Spartanburg chest. A secretary/bookcase with a Tennessee provenance, evidenced successful restoration and was priced at $8,500 and a New England Mahogany Sheraton chest was priced at $1,850.
The eye-catcher in the neighboring booth of Alan Christopher, who also does restoration in Spartanburg, was an Eighteenth Century Georgian bookcase priced at $12,500.
Provincial Antiques from Rome, Ga. have taken part in the show for four years. Owners Sue Anne and Bill Davidson have put their entire inventory of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century furniture and decorative accessories on-line at www.provincials.com. They brought predominately French country furniture to this year’s show that sold very well.
One of the most unusual pieces was an early painted celadon terracotta jardiniere with bulls on base Sue purchased from a dealer in the Pyrenees. Another exhibitor from Alabama, Emily Dearman Antiques, also exhibited an unusual piece of French furniture that she had acquired in her home town of Montgomery. The pine monastery table had one straight end and one rounded end could seat as many as 12 people.
Staffordshire dogs and pour vases shared ample space with an English ironstone platter on top of a large Eighteenth Century cherry tavern table on view at To the Point. Carrying a Farquier County, Va. provenance and an $8,000 price tag, it was set off by a fine Federal mahogany inlaid bowfront chest from Portsmouth, N.H. priced at $6,800. Sales occurred during the course of the entire show and literally minutes before it closed on Sunday, the Richmond, Va. dealer sold a handsome Queen Anne drop-leaf table.
Interior designer Doris Ross exhibited many beautiful accessories including a large collection of Nineteenth Century English bamboo furniture. “I’ve been carrying it for 27 years. There has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in the style, She had a lovely canterbury priced at $1,295, a hall stand and a table with anaglypta shelf. Also noteworthy were English reception bells and an English fireplace ornament in the form of a black cat, circa 1895, priced at $495.
Newcomer Aly Goodwin had two spaces. There is a certain mystique about her inventory. Items she exhibited are rare Americana pieces – somewhat reminiscent of inventory you might find at New England dealer Fred Giampietro. Where else can you find a rare Madison County, N.C. three-piece rhododendron/mountain laurel root set from the late Nineteenth Century priced at $11,500 or a Nineteenth Century painted Lichen? Most unusual were two “spirit” jars. We had not seen these before but as the dealer explained, “These were memorial pieces made only of objects belonging to a deceased person. The jars were made throughout the Appalachian South between 1900 and 1920. Tradition had it that if anyone touched the piece, it would be bad medicine.”
She continued, “the belief was held so strongly that even jewelry could be placed on a jar without having to worry about it being stolen. Sometimes the spirit jars were placed on graves and some were filled with ashes.” Perhaps most unusual in this North Carolina dealer’s space was a 2/3 life-size wooden sculpture with traces of original paint depicting a Micmac Wise Woman. A Micmac Indian from Moeme Province in Quebec carved it more than 150 years ago. In today’s market, it was priced at $14,600.
Greenville, S.C. lies on I-85 halfway between Atlanta and Charlotte. The Greenville County Museum of Art is the home of a collection of 24 watercolors and one tempera by Andrew Wyeth, that Wyeth has described as “the best collection of watercolors in any public museum in the country.” It is also the home of the Southern Collection that focuses on American art from the Colonial era to the present.
Proceeds from the antiques show are used to purchase works for this growing special collection of “milestone” artistic figures that have a relationship with the South – whether as natives, visitors or teachers. For example, Georgia O’Keeffe who taught at Columbia College in South Carolina between 1915-1916, and George Bellows, who taught in Virginia, are both represented in the collection. This year two paintings have already been selected to be purchased and were on view during the antiques show. “Cypress in Winter” by Alice Ravenel Smith and “The Aristocrat” by Elizabeth O’Neill Verner will be added to the Southern Collection.
If success is measured in terms of community support, there is no doubt the 15th annual antiques show succeeded. Besides a wonderful turn-out, benefactors and generous support of corporate underwriters, First Union and Deloitte & Touche, were critical and greatly appreciated in this major fundraising event. If success is measured in terms of the dealers, then the numerous sales throughout the three-day event and wonderful treatment provided by the committee confirmed this measure.
And if success is measured in terms of a living museum, the Greenville County Museum of Art meets this criteria through the dedicated volunteers and staff and its novel approach to developing its Southern Collection.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm