By Karla Klein Albertson
Inquirer Antiques Columnist
The past is always with us in Philadelphia, but Antiques Week, beginning Friday, is an unmatched opportunity for collectors to examine the best furniture and decorative arts of previous centuries. So many experts on hand, so many specialties to explore - enjoy the feast.
The Philadelphia Antiques Show, now held at the Navy Yard, started it all 49 years ago. Antiques Week has been greatly enhanced by the ongoing 23d Street Armory Antiques Show and the excellent spring Americana sale at Freeman's. Museums display great things, but at these events, serious collectors can look over, under, and into museum-quality antiques. And ask questions to their heart's content.
Start shopping Friday morning at the historic 23d Street Armory, where show manager Frank Gaglio has assembled 45 well-known dealers who offer classic Americana, excellent folk art, and some eclectic surprises.
Exhibitors such as Chuck White, Mario Pollo, and Stephen-Douglas Antiques lay out beautifully integrated room settings of American furnishings and folk art. Gemini specializes in topline antique toys, Piccolo Art in dazzling miniatures.
New on board this year is John Chaski, a young dealer from Delaware. Also fresh to the show is New York jewelry dealer Sooky Goodfriend, whose wares include cocktail shakers and cuff links for modern Mad Men.
Gaglio tries to offer an eclectic selection that will appeal to new generations of collectors. He remembers that his daughter Ciara, now 22, came up with the slogan "Save Natural Resources, Buy Antiques."
"Young people are attracted by the visual impact of objects, by nostalgia, and by comfort and usability in a 21st-century lifestyle," he says. "The collecting bug is still there, but you have to present the right material."
Gaglio is a great believer in the Antiques Week concept. He runs a complementary shuttle on Saturday and Sunday between his show, 30th Street Station, and the Navy Yard. At www.barnstar.com, you can print out a coupon for $5 off the price of a ticket. Lunch is available at the on-site cafe.
The Philadelphia Antiques Show gets under way Friday night with the best preview gala of the year. The 2010 event, a mix of antiques, food, and fashion, benefits the new Penn Center for Ocular Imaging.
Party tickets are available at many levels at www.philaantiques.com. Basic tickets are $250, with a special deal for young collectors, 35 and under, at $125. The display of 50 distinguished exhibitors opens to the general public Saturday at 11 a.m.; tickets are $18 at the door, $15 online.
This year's special exhibit, "A Call to Arms: Chinese Armorial Porcelain for the British and American Markets, 1700-1850," is dedicated to the memory of longtime exhibitor Elinor Gordon (1918-2009). On Sunday, exhibit curator Ron Fuchs will present a lecture at 1:30 p.m.
Want to see this venerable show move a bit more firmly into the present century? Check out the new World Collectors Night at the Navy Yard on Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m., sponsored by Anthropologie. A $125 ticket includes cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and access to exhibitors who will share expertise and some special finds. At 8 p.m., the crowd will move next door to Urban Outfitters for an after-party with dancing.
Connecticut folk-art exhibitor Allan Katz, whose offerings often sell in the first minutes of the show, will be one of the dealers on hand Saturday night. Happy to take part, he says: "I'm an educator. I love to spread the gospel. I'm not a hard-sell guy, I'm a passion guy."
"Young collectors have the opportunity to go to a show like this and ask questions. Pick up the objects, feel them, and there's a live person there to answer all your questions. They need to connect with the material visually, but also mentally."
Like so many of the exhibits at both weekend shows, Katz's folk art fits beautifully in classic or modern interiors. Why buy cheap new "design" that hits the trash pile five years later? Work out a payment plan to buy a worthwhile treasure that will last a lifetime.
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