Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Big Dance Part 2

So, we only made it to 3 shows. Just didn't have time for Antiques at the Armory or the Pier Show...just too darn much to do in NY for 4 days.

We started at The American Antique Show (aka, the TAAS Show or the Folk Art Show), which is always a good one. Strong country and folk, but not exorbitant prices. Great burl from Steve Powers, interesting tramp art from Cliff Wallach, and an exciting seed chest from Hill Gallery (to look at this seed chest, you'd think Soap Hollow, but it's northern Indiana). There were a healthy amount of red stickers, and even Martha Stewart was there.

The Winter Show (the BIG show) is always a treat to attend, though it had a much different flavor this year. In years past, Leigh Keno and Sumpter Priddy have flanked the show's entrance, but both have retired from this show. This year, you could buy anything from 17th century armor to an Egyptian sarcophagus to an American Indian pot to a Stickley chair. Great variety, great objects, very high prices (read: not quite as many red stickers).

My favorite show continues to be the Ceramics Fair, which is funny since we aren't ceramics collectors. However, I just find that a focused show like that provides the best opportunity to learn. And it's always good to see what treasures the Stradlings and Ian Simmonds have brought. The MESDA exhibit there included the cute, little NC turtle flask they just purchased, as well as another couple dozen animal-form Moravian flasks. Plenty of red stickers were seen there as well.

If you've not been to Americana Week, you should go at least once. It's a great opportunity to see some great objects, and the sales and shows are often a good barometer of the market and can set the tone for the coming year. Based on last week, I think 2010 is going to be a good year.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Big Dance Part 1

Andrew here, just having returned from Americana Week in New York. Four days that included previewing four auctions, attending two, and going to three big shows. So how'd it go?

At Christie's, the offerings were a bit sparse, but some quality stuff. Best thing was that the estimates were notably conservative. Unfortunately, the sale felt a bit off...a number of passes and objects selling below estimate. A notable exception was the wonderful double portrait by Ammi Phillips (pictured here) that exceeded its estimate, selling for just about three-quarters of a million dollars. As one might have expected, the Skull and Bones ballot box, made from a real skull, was withdrawn, and is probably already back in New Haven by now.

At Sotheby's, a stronger offering with more variety (including more and better silver and the Elinor Gordon collection of Chinese export porcelain). The sale proved a good one, including a mind-blowing new world record for a piece of American silver that brought nearly $6 million.

I also previewed the Bonham's and the Keno sales, which included some good Americana and marine art...we'll have to wait to see the results.

My thoughts on the auctions? It's tough to get the top-shelf consignments in this economy. Many collectors are holding on to their treasures in the hopes that the market will return to pre-recession levels. I don't know that the market will get back there anytime soon, and even if prices to get back in that general ballpark, I am not sure that the market can absorb all that will be thrown at it without some prices suffering. But I suppose we'll find out over the coming years.

Up next time--the shows....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fun things we've encounted...just by looking.

In our upcoming column, we talk about how important it is to just look and pay attention. If you spend any time in an antiques shop, show, or auction, and you're paying attention, you will find all kinds of nifty things. And it's this sense of wonder that makes this business so much fun.

So, without further are some of our favorite curiosities:

1. Andrew Clemens sand bottles. If you haven't heard of Andrew Clemens, then Google him. He was a deaf-mute in late 19th-century Iowa that created phenomenal pictures from colored sand. Look closely folks...these things were created grain by grain, with NO glue.

2. The Pugilistic Sheep of Ferdinand Brader. Brader was a German immigrant who roamed the Ohio and Pennsylvania countryside drawing "portraits" of farms. Immensely detailed and oh-so-charming. And if you look closely (really closely in this example, in the upper right corner), you'll find a couple of sheep, up on their hind legs, duking it out.

3. Mouseman furniture. A quirky British furniture maker who included a teeny tiny mouse carved on his work. Can you find it here?

What have you found just by looking? What nifty things have your sharp and observant eyes discovered?

We need to inject this kind of whimsy and fun back into this business. Let's move past the dollars and cents and just have some fun.

After all, collecting is suppose to be a hobby.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some sad news...

If you've bought or sold at Garth's in the past 4o years, then you probably know Tom Porter. Sadly, Tom passed away this past weekend after a brief battle with cancer. Tom was a bright light in the antiques industry for decades...he will be missed.

A Must-See in New England

A while back, early October to be exact, we visited a friend who is curator at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. Like most, you probably think of pottery when you think of Bennington...bird-decorated stoneware by Norton, or flint enamel glazes on molded pitchers and the like. And if these things are what floats your boat, then you'll have a ball at the Bennington Museum. But there is also a stellar collection of regional furniture and art (including the most phenomenal triptych portraits by Ralph Earl). Of course, you'll also see the famed Bennington Flag (do a Google search and you'll know what we're talking about) and some other historical objects. Add to that the largest collection of Grandma Moses works and you have one heck of a museum.

But wait...there's won't just see a bunch of static galleries filled with dusty artifacts. Along with rotating galleries (that regularly host traveling exhibits), the permanent galleries offer an interactive experience with an audio tour available via cell phone - you call the number on the label and, presto, there's a voice discussing the work upon which you are gazing. Our favorite part is that they're integrating this audio tour with projects at the local high school - what a great way to get kids involved in art and history and get them interested in connecting with a museum!

Plan on spending the entire day if you really want to take it all in. For more information: