The gala opening of the fourth annual Chicago International Antiques and Fine Art Fair, which was on view at the Merchandise Mart, Apr. 27-29, 2001, generated quite a buzz. The house was packed with dealers, collectors and assorted art lovers, not to mention a splendid display of rugs, books, jewelry, fine art and primarily English furniture.
The gala opening benefited the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, one of the world's top rehabilitation hospitals. A sharp-eyed visitor at the party could have spotted veteran Chicago dealer Carl Hammer as well as Richard Nelson, who is in charge of furniture and decorative arts at Sotheby's Chicago, and Rebecca Davis, who is senior cataloguer there.
Chicago dealer Kenneth Probst, who specializes in American and French Impressionism, seemed very pleased with the turnout. It was his fourth year at the fair, and Probst pointed out one of his star offerings, an impressive Pointillist oil on board by Hippolyte Petitjean. Its price is a not too shoddy $38,000.
Crowds were flocking to the booth of Malcolm Franklin, where the specialty is 17th and 18th century English furniture. The gallery's Susan Gancer said buyers were primarily interested in "smalls" -- little decorative items like candlesticks, vases or paperweights that are usually conservatively priced -- but also attracting much interest was a stunning George I clock by Daniel Quare, made in London ca. 1715. Everything on it is original, hard to find from this period in England. It could be yours for $19,000.
Oscar Tatosian of Oscar Isberian Rugs was in his fourth year of attendance. His family has been a fixture in the rug business in Chicago since 1920. He said the fair this year was more populated than the previous fairs and he has made some new contacts. Tatosian has gone online as well; his website is at www.isberian.com.
At first, Andrew Bae, whose Tobai International specializes in contemporary Korean art, seemed somewhat out of place at an antiques far. But he said he wanted to try the fair out and show his wares to a new clientele. Bae, who also has his own website at www.tobai.com, said to look for him at Art Chicago (which opens later this week, May 11-14, 2001).
Caledonian Antiques specializes in 17th-19th century antiques as well as fine reproductions from its headquarters in Northfield, Ill. Its prize piece at the show was an antique English mahogany bookcase standing tall on four inlaid tapering legs. The satinwood on the dome of the desk creates a nice texture and the bold legs create a feeling that the piece is coming towards the viewer. Both the pulls and the inlay are original. This beautiful desk is priced at $58,000.
Trowbridge Gallery, a fixture in Chicago's River North for ten years, deals in antique botanical, natural history and architectural prints of the 16th-19th century. These prints are well made and are carefully checked for condition. One highlight from the booth was a 1613 first edition by Basilius Besler, complete with a walnut and elm veneer frame. It is valued at $8,000.
Last and certainly not least is the Richard Norton Gallery, which since 1999 has been located in Chicago's Merchandise Mart adjacent to his father's well-established antique gallery. Richard, who is the son of antique dealer "Buzz" Norton and the former director of the Robert Henry Adams Gallery, deals in Impressionist and modern paintings. The show-stopper in his booth was a painting by the American Impressionist Albert H. Krehbiel, Three Ladies Visiting at Window Table (1918). Priced at $25,000, the painting is from the artist's estate.
All in all, everyone argued that the Chicago International Antiques and Fine Art Fair had a nice assortment of wares on hand, from important rugs and furniture to important pictures. Attendance at the fair was the highest ever. As for the dealers -- the most critical audience of all -- they gave the show mixed reviews, but most of them said they would be delighted to come back next year.
MICHEL ALLEN is an account executive at Artnet.com.