Jelly, jelly so fine

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Last one out, turn the light off.

I received an email the other day that the Del Mar Antique Show was cancelled, the second such cancellation of the show in a year. 

If I was a betting man, and I am, I would say it is officially over, pow, listo, never to be seen again. 

It was not the promoter's fault.  The enemy was attrition and lack of interest, both very hard to combat. 

We needed 50 dealers, we were down to 31 at final count. 

I have of course, done the show for well over 30 years and am a bit weepy eyed for the old gal. Del Mar was awful nice to me.

Made a lot of good friends and clients there, had many a great sale. In the glory days, we filled two buildings, with well over a hundred and fifty dealers. Three shows a year. 

But tastes change, the earth spins, dealers got older, a few years ago the word "antique" was officially declared verbotten, going the way of thank you and you're welcome in the new world order, the word didn't translate well with the younger set so we transmogrified to the word vintage a while back. It resonated so much better.

Younger yours truly at Del Mar
Truth is, it has been long apparent that antique dealers were soon to be obsolete, following the extinction of the cuckoo and the Spix's Macaw. 

You see, kids today have gotten quite monastic with their mid century look, it is the only thing fed to them on the shows and movies they see on television and on Instagram. 

They have little or no knowledge of art or art history or history for that matter. They are not into "things" like their parents were. And clutter is definitely out. 

I knew it was coming twenty years ago. 

All the great collectors were in their sixties and seventies already and they were not getting replaced. 

And neither were art and antique dealers. I am not bitter but I am sad. Not for me, I have had a great run and somehow manage to survive. 

But I am sad for some of the incredible movements that have been thrown on the ash heap of history, like art nouveau, art deco, arts and crafts, jugendstil, regionalism, not to mention baroque, rococo and neoclassicism. And pretty much everything else. What we are left with is mostly dreadful. And I have been selling at the Modernism shows for over thirty years, I know what is selling and know of what I speak.

The younger generation seems to lack much intellectual curiosity. Not to sound too much like the cranky old, get off my lawn guy but that is honestly how I see it. Anything remotely historical, representational or ethnographic is out, ill defined Rorschach blots done in a primitivist manner are still acceptable.

The late antique maven Gary Breitweiser told me thirty years ago, "Sommers, we are in trouble, The age of the connoisseur is dead." 

He was, of course, so right. I feel like the last great buggy whip salesman in America right now. The clock is ticking.

Del Mar's departure follows the Glendale Show and Los Angeles Modernism, hopefully Hillsborough will find a way to hang on. 

The Southwest shows are still decent as is Palm Springs Modernism (if you are peddling the right mix of cheap non objective abstraction) but also not what they once were. But who and what is?

Many of us are pulling back, I just dropped a major show in the Southwest.

Booth rents have basically doubled in the last three years, everywhere, with the cost of lodging, food, gas and goods, many of us are lucky to break even.

Brick and mortar is out, covid didn't help the situation and most people would really rather bottom feed at the flea markets than support a high end gallerist or pay retail. Can't blame them. Or buy at auction or off the computer. Things change and you have to be able to adapt. But if you don't support the market the things you own may also be worthless some day, it is quite a funny thing.

The main discussion I am hearing from my dealer friends is musing regarding what the hell will happen to our enormous inventories when we croak, do we just pile the stuff around our coffins?

Anyway, I don't want to sound too morose, what can you do? But I will miss Del Mar. I will leave you with some photos I have taken there over the years. Our old promoter Michael was quite the showman and we would get these enactors dressing up at the show from time to time. I always got a kick out of them.

Del Mar, I salute you. And you too, my fellow dealers and collectors. It was a great ride.



RoxAnn said...

Reading this makes me sad. Although I’ve only been to one of the Del Mar shows in my 50 years of living in the county, it’s sad to see these traditions fade. I met you when my brother-in-law passed away 5 years ago yesterday and you gave us a contact in Sebastopal to help with his estate sale. At that time we were told that the younger generations aren’t looking for what we enjoyed or our parents. IKEA! Not everyone obviously, but enough to insure that those of us with fine China, crystal, silver, our mother’s China, crystal, silver……….maybe you’ll have to have a mini Del Mar show in Fallbrook! I’ll raise a Waterford or Gorham crystal goblet to the past.

Blue Heron said...

Your article on Del Mar was sadly perfect.
My sentiments exactly.....We all had a great ride. I am grateful.
Be well, see you in Hillsborough

Blue Heron said...

Nice piece - and don’t worry I’m doing my best at HB.


Blue Heron said...

Hi Robert, It's sad to hear this news. I thought Rosemary might be able to bring it back. I love seeing my pic, im wearing some of my favorite clothes and a killer necklace that was robbed... fun to see the image, it brought back some great memories


Blue Heron said...

Amazing to think that there is now no general antique show south of Santa Barbara. Neither Los Angeles, Orange County or San Diego can support a show. Wasn't that long ago we had Bustemante, Costa Mesa and Del Mar. Sad.