Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Spring Show - Another Art Fair

I am afraid that I must agree that there are just too many art fairs but like movies and books nobody knows which will catch on and which will not.

The Spring Show is put on by the Art and Antique Dealers League of America.  They had done a show for a few years at the downtown armory but people did not want to go there.  It did not catch on like Chelsea and the piers did for the contemporary events.  So last year they tried again, putting on an upscale show in a far better location, the Park Avenue Amory, where all the better non contemporary fairs take place.

They have allowed non Association members and even foreign dealers to join them at the Armory.  The show includes 63 galleries showing a varying quality of pictures  and works of art.  One and all agree that it needs some culling and upgrading.

These days when you go to a fair the Public Relations department has come up with an App to help guide you through.  These can be quite rudimentary as it was for the Spring Show or fairly elaborate as it was for TEFAF, but they all have the basic information, a press release, ground rules for the show, such as, vetting, and a floor plan.  The illustrations can be limited or extensive.  There might even be previous press coverage.  Obviously, all these possibilities are quite new and they will evolve depending on the financial possibilities of the fair organizers, the cooperation of the dealers and the skill of the IT people hired.

I visited the Spring Show twice.  Once for the opening where I stuck my head into every booth (to tell the truth, I just walked by some), chatted with the dealers that I knew, if they were not mobbed with potential clientsI tried to figure out if their was any rhyme or reason for the galleries selected and the installation in the their booths.

The second time I went was a few days later with my wife.  There were several reasons for this.  Obviously, if I am going to write about something I like to go at least twice, if possible; after a few days the exhibitors have a better idea of how business is going (if the dealers have lots of time to speak with a colleague it is nice for me, but it could be that there are not enough clients to keep them busy) and finally because my wife is much more patient than I am and she looks carefully at every single booth.  She was able to explain why one or two of the galleries were there in the first place but also called my attention to a booth, that I must confess, I totally missed.

It was the booth of a clock dealer by the name of Sundial NYC.  It was founded by the  Thompson family some 40 years ago and is now run by Steven Thompson.  His location is a booth in the Manhattan Art & Antiques Center, an unusual venue for a dealer with such high quality material and an obvious deep knowledge of his field.  But he is clearly worth a visit.

There were booths with treasures that caught me by surprise.  One such was a large painting by Jan Baptist Weenix (1621-1659) an over-life-size hound with a joint of meat eyeing a lurking cat.  Though it fit perfectly on the outside wall of the booth of Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, the lighting was unfortunately poor, but it did give us the opportunity of making a “discovery”!

I think that eventually art fairs will go the way of the airlines and consolidate.  Hopefully, we will end up with some truly high end shows but meanwhile there are a number of struggling entities that still need to find their niche. 


  1. Gerry,

    Far too many art fairs in my opinion. However, in defense of the Spring Show NYC, to which your praise was sparing and your ennui quite evident, I would say that we are the only art and antiques fair in the Armory run by and for dealers. As a first generation dealer who has never worked at an auction house or for another dealer, I have to say that the old way of doing business is anachronistic and that if you want to have a hand in the new way, you have to go out and try things, i.e. create a show in New York that is by and for dealers. It is messy and at times chaotic and the parlous economic times are only making it more difficult. But, we are a voice and that is what I find encouraging. TEFAF, I seem to remember, had seven miserable years of strife and dissension and now it is the premiere fair in the world. Maybe the Spring Show NYC can emulate that model although I think we may be able to do it better.
    Clinton Howell
    President, AADLA

  2. Thanks, Clinton. I am glad to have your input here.

    I did mention that this show was created by the Art & Antique Dealers League and also said that it was early days.
    TEFAF is also run by the dealers and it did take them a while to take off.

    The League has issues, however, that TEFAF does not. The latter is in a very nice place but limited as to tourist possibilities so there are few distractions from the Fair.
    New York, as you know, has many choices every day of the week.

    I for one wish you and the Spring Show well and look forward to watching it progress.