By Clinton Howell
The development of an antique show is not unlike a hamster giving birth to an elephant. Its a tight squeeze and no one knows what the identity will be once the show is born. Masterpiece, a relatively new fair going into its third year, has endeavored to become a place where great dealers must show. Maastricht, or TEFAF, has already reached that level although there were a number of years where the show strained to be noticed. Its remote location is beautiful and romantic, but it is not the easiest venue to reach.
Some shows such as the Olympia Fine Arts Fair in June have taken it into their heads to change their message. Instead of being an inclusive fair, it tried to become an exclusive event. After one year, that was abandoned and it has returned to the inclusive role. San Francisco, not really a player in the big arena of art and antiques fairs and yet with a great audience has been all inclusive and is, perhaps, a confusing show with great, good and average goods on offer. As long as that audience buys, it will be a worthwhile show to do.
The Winter Show in New York is an old lady with enormous pull but whose message has become less of a top quality fair in many genres to a top quality Americana show. The auction house influence, their top Americana sales of the year are in January during the Show, congregate many of America's great collectors and the Winter Show has responded by increasing the presence of Americana dealers in the Show. The International Show in the fall somewhat counterbalances the Winter Show, but often struggles with the uncertainties of the October economy, a month that marks not a little infamy on Wall St.
It is the Spring Show NYC, the newest of this group of art and antique shows, that needs to establish its own identity. Begun by the Art and Antique Dealers League of America, it is in its second year and could establish a very strong bastion for top quality dealers that may find both Maastricht and Masterpiece too expensive to do. New York City also remains the greatest collector's town in the world, a fact not lost on the dealers from London and Paris who continue to attempt to start their own shows at the Armory. The future of shows is not in doubt, it is just a question of which ones will prosper.