Within the past several years, Chicago collectors have suffered a double whammy of losing two major antiques shows. In 2014 the Merchandise Mart International Antiques Show, a solid annual antiques and art fair (we had covered it since 2007), closed, and in early September 2016 the Chicago Botanic Garden notified exhibitors that its annual spring show, which had focused on garden antiques for 17 years, was over. Those who mourned the double demise had no way of knowing that another ambitious show was already in the works.
When Dolphin Promotions, through its president, Rosemary Krieger, announced this winter its intent to launch a prestigious new show, plans had been percolating for about a year. Dolphin’s new event, the Chicago Antiques + Art + Design Show, would be housed in a dedicated exhibit space on the seventh floor of Chicago’s venerable Merchandise Mart.
Located alongside the Chicago River in the heart of the city, the Mart area offers parking, hotels, restaurants, and other amenities for exhibitors and showgoers.
Dancing lights and scintillating surfaces beckoned in the booth of Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, dealer Bruce Horton. The 1930s theater lights, 54" long x 20" wide x 18" deep, were priced at $38,000 the pair; the copper, brass, and aluminum stunners with glass rods came with a period photo showing them in their original setting. The American Art Deco demilune chest at center was $5850; the wood and chrome lamps atop, also 1930s, were $2450 the pair; and the 1925-dated painting by Valentine Lecomte, The Bubble Dancer, was $24,500.
Ophir Gallery, Englewood, New Jersey, brought this circa 1910 Daffodil lamp by Tiffany featured on the show catalog cover. It is on a $22,000 Gallé set of nesting tables. No way would Edo Ophir give us the sale price on the lamp, and we tried mightily. In back is a $28,000 pair of étagères holding Tiffany glass. The $18,000 Majorelle desk has ormolu mounts. Dolphin photo.
According to Douglas Morse of Pasadena, California, this wooden swan child’s bed is an 18th-century Continental design carved in the baroque style, and the interior retains its period silk lining. Placed front and center on a dais in his booth, the $85,000 oversize piece stopped traffic.
No novice to the antiques show industry, Krieger had worked at all levels of promotion for decades. Having risen to president of Dolphin Promotions and with the company already heading two antiques shows in Houston, Texas, three in Hillsborough, California, and one in Sarasota, Florida, plus two Modernism shows in Palm Springs, California, and one in Los Angeles, California, she was no dewy-eyed novice. And as a Chicago resident and having run shows here, Krieger knew the pits and perils involved in unsuccessful past efforts to keep a major show in the city.
Before the show Krieger and her team estimated that 70 dealers would participate. We’re happy to tell you that 80 signed on for the first show, and what wonderful goods they brought. At the next show she expects 100 national and international exhibitors.
As one dealer raved, “What a beautiful show Dolphin brought; they could not have done more to make it a success.”
Physically, the event hit all the high points. Booth spaces were spacious, aisles were wide and easily marked for ease of browsing, there were flowers and plenty of seating, and, best of all, merchandise was varied and top quality. Everyone, from management to dealers, brought their “A” game. The work of Krieger’s team, media director Gordon Merkle and show manager Charlie Walter, showed.
Art Link International, Lake Worth, Florida, asked $32,500 for this Dale Chihuly “Cerulean Blue Macchia with Orange Lip Wrap,” circa 1993. The 26" x 33½" piece of handblown glass art is impressive.
Putting aside how one feels about conservation, you have to admit that the 1885-90 English 14k gold necklace featuring real hummingbird heads with glass eyes is a stunner. This wonder with beaks and feathers intact was $36,000 from N. Green & Sons.
Shoppers chuckled when they spotted this feature in the booth of N. Green & Sons, Chicago. Dealer Jeff Cohen told us that on occasion, viewers do spot a piece in the case and ask about buying it.
According to Krieger, about 3300 people attended the show, held May 18-21. Granted, many carried targeted comp cards admitting two; it was a welcome bargain, what with admission set at $20, and it certainly brought people in. The only snafu we encountered was that a single elevator carried passengers to the seventh floor, and it was not clearly marked. That led to a lot of elevator hopping and dark humor about a secret, hidden antiques show. Next year, said Krieger, the exact lift will be marked.
Krieger described the show as “Amazing! It could not have been better. Many people stopped to tell us how great it was to have a quality show again at the Mart.”
From our point of view, all was indeed rosy, but the selection of the preview party beneficiary, i.e., an effort to rehabilitate the downstate Illinois Executive Mansion, was less successful. With Illinois in financial crisis and residents fleeing in droves, promoting the rehab of a building emblematic of the state’s woes was not a popular theme.
Krieger assured us that “a major Chicago hospital institution is already on board for opening night of the 2018 show.” The second show is already scheduled for May 17 through 20, 2018.
As with all shows, some exhibitors in this year’s event did well, while others did not. Englewood, New Jersey, dealer Edo Ophir told us, “We had a very good show and sold across the board, from a Tiffany Studios circa 1905 matchstick holder to a nice Tiffany Narcissus paperweight vase.” Plus, we add, the Tiffany Studios Daffodil table lamp pictured on the show catalog cover.
This contemporary and whimsical $16,500 ceramic hippo came with Pascoe Gallery, North Miami, Florida. Made in South Africa by Ardmore Ceramic Art, Hippo Rider (note the figures atop) measures nearly 3' long. At right is one from a pair of $24,000 Ardmore urns. That’s Ed Pascoe or Tom Munro behind, wrapping a purchase. Booth activity was brisk.
Jeff Bridgman of York County, Pennsylvania, brought his selection of historic flags and significant Americana. Dolphin Promotions photo.
This circa 1870 Louis XVI-style commode of marquetry and gilded bronze from The Art of Time Gallery, Lake Worth, Florida, had a $153,000 price tag. A description explained that the 19th-century gilded bronze figures on top, $27,700 the pair, were allegorical figures of day and night.
In his view, “What sells is anything high. It must be high-end and rare, the best of the best.”
Ophir cited the rise of a kind of new collector, a buyer not bound by the traditional rules of collecting. Old enough to have serious money, this is a cross-category collector who buys what he/she likes, selecting from many categories and styles—but always only the best.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, dealer Katherine King lauded Dolphin, saying, “They brought us a good show with good clients. The crowd was also good, including museum staffers that came to buy.”
“I did better at this show than I have done at other Mart shows,” she added, citing a $45,000 Keith Haring colored pencil on paper and a Sam Francis painting tagged $12,000. A small Andy Warhol ink on paper of a Coke bottle was $12,000. Three gouache on paper works by Bela Kadar sold at $4000 to $6000. Differing types of art sold, especially early 20th-century works on paper.
Their success validates Krieger’s vision. “We bring you into a venue where you can view, handle, and learn,” she told us. “This is the highest-end show I’ve ever seen. We raised the bar with this show.”
Starting a high-end show in Chicago has to be a killer. Making it last is even more difficult. We’re putting our money on Dolphin Promotions.
For more information, check the website (www.chicagoantiquesartdesign.com) or call (708) 366-2710.
Of late, Chicago collectors have not seen much of New York City dealer Nula Thanhauser, so it was great to view cases filled with her eclectic collection of women’s bags, purse frames, fashion jewelry, and accessories. Dolphin Promotions photo.
This oil on canvas by Jean-Pierre Cassigneul, Femme Allongée, was $185,000 from Guarisco Gallery, Washington, D.C.
This Mexican silver necklace from Loana Marina Purrazzo of San Francisco, priced at $1100, is stunning.
Originally published in the August 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest