Calling All Collectors – Observations from the Recent Antique Fair

It’s time for The Original Miami Beach Antique Show. Actually, this year it was held several weeks early – town will be tied up during their usual weekend with the Super Bowl at the end of January. I’ve never been to the antique show, so when offered free tickets, I jumped. Then two specials arrived – a lunch and learn about jewelry, and an antiques buying tour – I was off and running.

As soon as I walked into our newly spiffed up Convention Center, only the center of contemporary art last month, I started wondering about collecting and collections. I also recalled my many years of working in museums and teaching museum studies. The backbone of many of our museums – large to small – is collections, better known as stuff. Many older museums were founded upon private collections that were donated to municipalities and others for the benefit of the public.

People collect. They accumulate all varieties of stuff. Why have people collected for so, so many years.  Several reasons – for prestige, for commercial benefit, for academic or scientific interest, and more. Many take the souvenir approach to collecting. For others it’s a relentless hobby. The reasons are endless. Collecting seems to be a human characteristic no matter what the reason.

C. Leonard Woolley (left) and T. E. Lawrence at archaeological excavations in Syria, circa 1912-1914. Wikimedia Commons

Time for some trivia: In ancient Babylon, Princess Ennigaldi, the daughter of King Nabonidus who ruled the Neo-Babylonian Empire in the 6th century BC, collected and even curated Mesopotamian artifacts almost 1,500 years old. Her collection along with inscribed clay tablets labeling everything was discovered in 1925 by archaeologist Leonard Woolley. The Egyptians did it (house of muses), Romans did it (hoards), churches in the Middle Ages did it (relics). On to the Renaissance and cabinets of curiosity or wunderkammer. Then to the 19th and 20th centuries and art museums and encyclopedic and then universal museums. And on and on it goes in the 21st century.

you know I love Roz Chast!

Do you collect? I certainly do. Since I was a kid, I’ve collected foreign dolls starting with the Japanese dolls my father brought back from there in the early 50s. It has grown so that the curio cabinet is overfull. Baskets from all over the world are also found throughout the house; some are decorative, others are utilitarian. Constant Companion and I have accumulated a nice, small collection of Oklahoma Native American art, the majority of which from artists with whom I had the privilege to work. No matter how you look at it, our house is filled with stuff, stuff that I really enjoy looking at and love. So there, Marie Kondo.

Folk Art – 2 bowling ball people
We also have a bowling ball duck!

My collections are filled with memories. I remember the people who gave me some things (and others, I’m sad to say, I don’t). I also remember trips I’ve made, places I’ve visited. Most of these memories make me happy.

At this week’s Antique Show, I saw loads of stuff of every variety. Wandering on my own I saw a jumble of displays of everything old  you can think of …

art & furniture
African art and furniture
from Chagall and Picasso
to Japan
we have an antique obi (a wedding gift)
European armor
really old
Japanese armor
20th century
A Painted Linoleum Travel Map of the US
circa 1940 (I loved this!)

So, I took two tours. The first was a Lunch N’ Learn tour. It was led by author, journalist, curator, and collector Beth Bernstein. We looked specifically at antique and vintage jewelry offered at the show. Wow! Such treasures for jewelry lovers. Here are some examples:

amazing etched cross, ca. 1700
Sandra Cronan, Ltd.
jeweled Venice bracelet, ca. 1820
Sandra Cronan, Ltd.
selection of Art Nouveau enameled flowers
Gary Lindberg Jewels
Art Deco aquamarine & opal brooch
Sandra Cronan, Ltd.

The second tour was Sip N’ Learn. The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines, led us through the show to learn about major antique periods and styles, while sipping a prosecco. Both tours were real treats giving us special insights into the show. Here’s some of what we saw:

Toma made herself at home
Matheson’s Fine Art & Antiques
Austro-Hungarian hanukiah and Parochet,
Torah ark curtain
Haig’s of Rochester
I was totally surprised by the amount of Jewish ritual art at the show
another eclectic mix, more African art
Mitchell Tom Antiques (I think)
sculpture by Leonard Janklow, from a Carnival Cruise Line
Akiba Antiques

Then, of course, there are the people in art … here is a sample:

all about Keith Haring
got to love the shirt
2 collectors on the jewelry tour
what can I say?
Kevin Zavian, Antiques Road Show, and yours truly!

Over 700 vendors were represented at The Original Miami Beach Antique Show. I’m sure I did not see them all. I know, however, that I saw no depression glass – another collection tucked away with the Russell Wright bowls in the kitchen. So what do you collect?

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