Published: September 13, 2011
The preview party crowd glittered and the made-to-order risotto was divine, but it was a core group of outstanding exhibitors and a dynamic management team that made the Newport Antiques Show shine.
The glossy, 42-dealer fair returned to St George’s School over the weekend of August 13‱4, boasting robust preview night attendance on August 12, followed by disappointing sales for many exhibitors.
Dealers praised the hardworking show chairman Anne Hamilton, show manager Diana Bittel and facilities manager Ralph DiSaia, but wondered what more could be done to stimulate business at the fair, launched five years ago at the start of the recession.
One of the most elaborate shows on the summer circuit, the Newport Antiques Show kicks off with an unforgettable party for exhibitors and sponsors at a private home in the coastal resort. This year’s party was at Miramar, a 30,000-square foot neoclassical French mansion built for Philadelphian George D. Widener, who perished on the Titanic .
“It was right out of F. Scott Fitzgerald,” said one reveler. “Newport’s famous cliff was lit up under a full moon. Lobster dinner, coat and tie. Spectacular.”
“This show has been good for us, but not this year. I don’t think that it’s just the economy. The stock market dropped 500 points before the opening of the Nantucket Antiques Show on August 4 and we still did well there. Nantucket gets people from all over. It’s very cosmopolitan. Newport is much more insular,” said a dealer who exhibits at both events.
Since its debut in 2006, the Newport Antiques Show has raised more than $1 million in net profit through sponsorships and ticket sales for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newport County and the Newport Historical Society. Newport Historical Society spokesperson Elizabeth Sulock put this year’s gate at 2,500. The Newport Historical Society loan show, “Their Manners Pleasing, Their Education Complete: Newport Samplers 1728‱835,” sponsored by Woodbury Auction, was a special treat.
Presenting sponsor William Vareika Fine Arts, Ltd, organized two additional loan presentations, “William Trost Richards: Masterpieces of Land and Sea, at Home and Abroad” and “John La Farge: An American Master.”
Additionally, an 1879 oil on canvas winter landscape by La Farge was a centerpiece of Vareika’s booth.
“I’ve wanted it since the 1970s, when it was first published in American Impressionism by Richard Boyle. I acquired it after all these years,” said Vareika.
The Newport dealer is one of a handful of outstanding specialists in American art who do the show.
Quester Gallery of Rowayton, Conn., brought boldly scaled marine paintings, including Montague Dawson’s “The Stone Jetty,” listed at $325,000; John Stobart’s “Blackball Packet Orpheus departing New Jersey,” at $350,000; and Antonio Jacobsen’s “The Dauntless , America’s Cup Trial, 1871,” $185,000.
Walker-Cunningham Fine Art of Boston featured “Japanesque,” an oil on canvas portrait by Marion L. Pooke of 1913. Blue Heron Fine Art of Cohasset, Mass., showed “Under the Oaks” by George William Whitaker, 1903, while Essex Antiquarians of Essex, Mass., offered “The Durham,” a William H. Yorke portrait of a masted ship.
The Cooley Gallery of Old Lyme, Conn., hung a stylish 1920s portrait of Philadelphian Morris Clothier Maxwell by William McGregor Paxton, 1924, priced at $145,000, and “Summer in Paris” by Chauncey Foster Rider, $85,000.
Roger King, who has maintained a gallery on Bowen’s Wharf in Newport for 31 years, sold eight paintings as a result of the show. “It’s a way of getting our gallery out there in front of a live audience,” King said. Gallery highlights included “American Frigate in a Storm,” $95,000, by James Buttersworth and “Clearing the Land, Lords Hill, Connecticut,” $30,000, by Henry Ward Ranger.
“I sold quite a bit,” said Massachusetts dealer Bruce Emond of Village Braider, a garden décor specialist whose many transactions included limestone sculptures of Diana and Actaeon from a Newport estate, a Chinese marble sculpture, a rare bronze bench, armchair and other seating, and Eighteenth Century sconces.
“I sold statuary, art and doorstops,” said Aileen Minor, a Centreville, Md., dealer who is also well known for garden antiques.
Missouri dealers Melissa Williams and Doug Solliday wrote up several pieces of English furniture.
“Last year, I sold a whole houseful of Chinese pieces. This year, we were selling flat weaves,” said Karen DiSaia of Oriental Rugs, Ltd, in Old Lyme, Conn.
“It was a very elegant show, managed beautifully and without any obvious hitches,” said first-time exhibitor Joy Ruskin of Hanes & Ruskin, who sold an English coaching picture first thing. “We were all hoping for be-backers on Sunday, but for us they never materialized.” A ceramics expert, Ruskin is currently working with two colleagues to catalog the ceramics collection of the Florence Griswold Museum in her hometown of Old Lyme, Conn.
Many Newport Antiques Show exhibitors mingle marine and China Trade art and antiques with English and American furniture.
“I had a decent show and met some new people,” said Stonington, Conn., dealer Roberto Freitas, who topped a tiger maple serpentine front chest of drawers from coastal Massachusetts, $145,000, with a Chinese Export porcelain punchbowl, $12,000, and a William Trost Richards shore scene, “Rockaway Beach,” of 1894. Already spoken for was a marine barometer by Charles Hobron of New London, Conn.
“It will go to the Theta Charity Antiques Show in Houston in November if it doesn’t sell here,” Long Island, N.Y., dealer Doug Constant said of ” The Brazos ,” Antonio Jacobson’s 54-inch-long portrait of a square rigged vessel owned by the Mallory family and the New York and Texas Shipping Company.
The Hanebergs Antiques of East Lyme, Conn., paired an American bonnet top desk and bookcase with fitted interior, $49,000, with Antonio Jacobsen’s oil on canvas portrait of the Aransces , $16,500.
Chinese Export porcelain specialist John Suval included an undertray for a sauce tureen decorated with the arms of Morgan of Hartford, Conn. “Two services were made within a year of each other for Elias Morgan and for John Morgan. This is from Elias’s service and dates to 1790,” said the Virginia dealer.
Management is currently reviewing suggestions for next year.
“We are thinking about new dates, looking at the marketing mix and considering ways to bring more people from afar. Right now we get a very loyal group and some major collectors from Boston, Philadelphia and places like Little Compton. We love St George’s School and will be back next year,” said Diana Bittel.
For information, 401-846-2669 or www.newportantiquesshow.com .
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