|By Barbara Miller Beem
BALTIMORE —In the four days leading up to Labor Day, the Baltimore Convention Center once again opened its doors to exhibitors, shoppers, and wares from all over the world as The Palm Beach Show Group presented the 38th Annual Baltimore Art, Antique & Jewelry Show. Lines began to form more than an hour before the doors opened to the public on Aug. 30, and a congenial atmosphere seem to pervade the cavernous space throughout the show.
A “more refined and curated selection of participating exhibitors,” some 350 in number, offered art, jewelry, and furniture, as well as silver, books, and decorative objects, according to Kelsi Hartmann, speaking for the show. “A great mix across the board,” she noted, adding that this marked the third year that the Baltimore Fine Craft Show was included. And indeed, covering the exhibition hall in one day was more feasible than before; the only thing impeding progress seemed to be buyers and sellers engaging in more conversations and exchanges than in times past.
Over the years, visitors to the show have come to expect the red carpet, the oversized and elaborate floral arrangements, and the cases and cases sparkling with magnificent diamonds. On the other hand, hometown touches abounded, with one bookseller offering children’s books for $2 to $5, and Pastrami, a golden retriever called a “travel dog” by his owner, Monroe Warsaw, visiting with an exhibitor friend and enjoying a drink of bottled water.
Among first day sales was a French dessert table, offered by Ed Weissman Fine Art and Antiques. Topped by a glass tray, the table, tagged “SOLD,” featured intricate figured mahogany inlay. Weissman, noting that other transactions had included porcelain, candlesticks, and paintings, remarked, “I’ve never had a bad show here.”
“I’m having a decent show,” said Bruce Beck, in between repeated queries from potential customers. Trading as “The Button Box,” Beck has exhibited at the Baltimore show for approximately 15 years. Halfway through the show, he had sold “Tiffany pieces, Gallé glass, and lots of boxes – I’m known for my boxes.” A renowned button specialist, he was one of several participants to offer a “booth talk;” his topic was “The Colorful World of Buttons.”
The Baltimore show has long been known for its depth of silver dealers, and two important silver makers, Stieff and Kirk, were once rooted in the city. Carrying on the tradition at the show were a number of booths with gleaming silver, including the locally based Pikesville Jewelers. Owner Marc Schauder rued the fact that silver “doesn’t fit in with the lifestyles of the very young,” but for 27 years “at least,” he has been a part of this show, “filling in” for customers with a missing fork or broken knife, as well as offering complete sets.
For years, M.S. Rau Antiques of New Orleans has dazzled show goers with amazing treasures, all at the same prime spot on the floor, and this year was no exception. When pressed to select one item with the greatest “wow” factor (and after stating that you cannot have a favorite child), Bill Rau led the way to a seaside painting entitled South of France, Cap d’Ali. Painted by Winston Churchill, an artist that Rau characterized as good on any day, “This was done on a great day. I can say that because it holds its own with Monet,” as he pointed to a nearby work by the French artist. A photograph of Churchill painting the picture accompanied the work. The price was $1.45 million.
On the other hand, two large portraits by Doug Powell, one of John Lennon and the other of Jerry Garcia, drew considerable attention, in large part because of the unusual medium: upcycled computer keys. Carefully selected retired caps were chosen for their color as well as their part in spelling out messages on these mosaic-like works. Careful examination of the face of the former Beatle uncovered “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
And although the antiquarian book section of the show showcased but 13 dealers this year, there were few complaints. Joshua Mann of B & B Books in New York City noted that he has been participating in the show “since ’06 or ’07.” He continued, “There are not many book fairs in the region but a lot of book collectors.” He characterized the Baltimore show as “a good opportunity to make connections, face time with local customers. At a show like this, one customer can make a show.”
Indeed, Hartmann summed up the show by saying, “Baltimore has always been a mid-Atlantic collector’s destination.” She added that plans are already under way for next year. “This show truly is a treasure hunt.”