NANTUCKET, MASS. — The Nantucket Antiques and Design Show is a small fair with big aspirations, a place where an infectious holiday-making spirit prompts sometimes circumspect people to kick up their heels. At the show’s festive preview on Thursday, July 31, patrons were as much in the mood for shopping as for spinning around the dance floor to the strains of the Sultans of Swing.
Now in its 37th year, the fair, the centerpiece of a week of related events benefitting the Nantucket Historical Association, was better than ever, says NHA special events coordinator Stacey Stuart, noting record show attendance of more than 1,500 guests. More than 500 people attended the glamorous preview party. A panel discussion by top designers drew 120 visitors on Friday, August 1, and complimentary Bloody Marys accompanied the Sip & Stroll booth chats led by dealers on Sunday. Rain over the weekend helped the cause.
“We are happy that so many exhibitors were pleased,” said Ana Ericksen, who co-chaired the show with her husband, Michael.
Managed by the Antiques Council, the nomadic Nantucket Antiques and Design Show has, since 2009, set up under a tent at Bartlett Farm, in a field just a cab ride from downtown Nantucket. David Bernard of Taylor Williams Antiques serves as the council’s liaison to the NHA. Victor Weinblatt is facilities manager.
“I thought the show was extraordinarily good and I’ve done it for 35 years,” said Weinblatt, relaxing on a gusty Nantucket beach the week following the fair.
A former academic, Weinblatt is known for his large inventory of folk-art signs, chosen for their linguistic and graphic resonance. A portion of his compelling display was courtesy of art historian John Wilmerding and his sister, Lila. The grandchildren of Shelburne Museum founder Electra Havemeyer Webb had asked Weinblatt to sell their sign collection, a signal honor.
“I try to offer pieces in a range of prices, from $295 to $7,500. The average is maybe $750 to $2,000,” the South Hadley, Mass., dealer said, explaining his recipe for attracting new buyers.
At the high end, Jeffrey Cooley made a major sale of a classic Guy C. Wiggins (1833–1962) oil on canvas New York view, “Winter Along Central Park.” The Old Lyme, Conn., specialist in American paintings also did a brisk trade in works by John Austin (1918–2000), a painter of hard-edged, representational landscapes and architectural studies who trained at the Art Students League before settling permanently in Nantucket. Cooley priced the Austin works in the low five figures.
Gary Sergeant, a Woodbury, Conn., dealer whose focus is English and Continental furniture and accessories, was off to a good start, having parted at preview with a stick barometer, stacking tables and a rare early Nineteenth Century Chinese Export painting, $45,000, depicting an American ship off Prince of Wales Island, Penang, Malaysia.
Fresh from Colorado, where he participated in the July 2–8 Aspen Antiques, Jewelry & Fine Arts Fair and organized a float for a local July 4th parade, patriotic Americana specialist Jeff Bridgman said that he always brings suffragette material to Nantucket, where it is well received. Interestingly, an antique sign, $6,800, in Bridgman’s booth urging Massachusetts citizens to support voting rights for women is recorded in a 1916 photograph of commencement exercises at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass.
“I have a few very good customers here,” noted returning exhibitor John Suval, who says the island, known historically for its seafaring prowess, is a particularly good place for selling armorial and ship-decorated Chinese Export porcelain. A highlight of his display was a circa 1780 punch bowl decorated with a naval engagement, a relatively rare view.
Sumptuous Chinese wares were for sale at Imperial Fine Books and Oriental Art, and at Ralph M. Chait Galleries, where facing walls displayed two regal famille verte porcelain beaker vases, both Kangxi period and formerly in the collection of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Three local dealers offered island fare. Nina Hellman spotlighted James S. Hathaway’s early Nineteenth Century oil on canvas portrait of Nantucket sea captain Alexander Downs Bunker (1792–1852), first keeper of the Sankaty Lighthouse. Working with Hellman, Parke Madden showcased a scrimshawed sperm whale’s tooth, $7,500, with an engraved and polychromed portrait of a woman drawn from a Godey’s Lady’s Book illustration. A related tooth is in the collection of the Nantucket Historical Association.
An island favorite, Sylvia Antiques maintains showrooms devoted to antiques and local crafts on Rays Court and Main Street. Among John Sylvia’s most striking pieces were a Nantucket sailor whirligig, $3,800, attributed to Frederick Ray (b1826), a cooper and crewman aboard the Cross Rip lightship. A similar whirligig serves at the show’s logo. By Samuel Davis Otis (1889–1961), a Silvermine artist who summered in Nantucket, a circa 1930–40 painted plaster shadowbox depicting “The Sailor’s Return” was $28,000. Sylvia sold an exceptional pair of circa 1875 Italian floral shellwork dioramas priced $32,500.
Forager House Collection’s light and lively stand seemed suited to the expo’s holiday mood. Based in Nantucket and Key West, the dealers featured an assortment of vintage Nantucket souvenir items, cottage décor and whimsical objects, from a Nantucket themed table cloth, $1,850, to four signed pantry boxes, $1,450, by the late Tony Sarg, an accomplished illustrator and part-time island Nantucket resident.
For information, 508-228-1894 or www.nha.org.