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Attending Vetted Fine Art, Antiques & Collectible Shows

October, 1999--In the Big Apple, October is high season for fine art and antiques shows. Recently, I spent an evening roaming the Tribal Antiques Show at the 26th Street Armory and an afternoon at the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show at the Park Avenue Armory.

I came home honestly impressed by the knowledge of the dealers and their generosity in sharing it. Especially at the more informal Tribal Show, all I had to do was ask a question. For the next 20 minutes, I would be given an in-depth, meaty answer explained with colorful stories of far away places.

The Park Avenue show was a fair amount more formal featuring dealers in fine English furniture, silver, Old Masters paintings, tapestries, etc. (To give you an idea of the tone: the show's special exhibition featured tiaras.)

However, as a Parisian dealer was letting me fondle a fine Maori classic period jade figure, I asked why he hadn't chosen to exhibit at the Tribal Show instead. He told me he did good business at the uptown show with its extremely upmarket clientele, but that he had formerly been on the vetting committee of the Tribal Show.

This launched a discussion of the vetting process for these major shows:

If a show is confined to a certain (albeit broad) field, then a panel of judges goes through every dealer's booth, item by item. Any object thought questionable--maybe not wrong, but just doubtful--is asked to be omitted from the exhibition. As the Oceanic dealer pointed out, rejecting an item raises the hackles of other dealers/friends and tends to make one lose popularity contests. However, it benefits the broader community of dealers exhibiting at the show, because troublesome pieces tend to get weeded out. The authenticity of items from vetted shows is not guaranteed by the show, but at least the potential buyer has the reassurance that the items have passed peer review. No dealer wants a bad newspaper article about a show he paid good money to attend.

If a show covers many different fields of connoisseurship--as in the Park Avenue show--then specific category experts are imported from various parts of the world to vet each different area. This type of specific vetting is an expensive process, so the shows cost even more to produce. As these costs are passed along, the dealers pay more for their booths, and the prices they expect tend to be top dollar.

What good is a vetted show for those of us just beginning to collect or not wishing to pay full retail?

A vetted show is a great place to learn. A fledgling collector can train his/her eye on high quality items that are received as "right" by the dealer community. Under intense peer scrutiny, dealers preen by exhibiting some of their best merchandise. Unlike a museum, knowledgeable people are at hand to answer questions. Go ahead and say: "Tell me about this piece." You don't have to try to look like an expert. Unlike a museum, items are priced. As a style point, the question about price should probably be your final question. And remember, if you're just browsing, it's good manners to drift away when another customer walks in with that rabid, I've-got-to-spend, gleam in the eye.

The dealers at vetted shows may charge a full price for their fine objects, but those prices still may represent long term value. One very experienced, wealthy art patron I know, walked out of the uptown show having added three fine objets to her admirable collection.

Jake Biddington's Collecting Series:
What's It Worth? Appraisals and Valuations
Investment Grade Contemporary Art
MORE Jake on Investing in Tangibles:
PPP Test: Judging Quality in Contemporary Art
Art, Time and Technology
American vs. European Paintings
Jake Biddington's Art as Entertainment
Jake Biddington's Vetted Antiques & Art Shows
Jake Biddington's Patent Numbers as a Dating Tool
Jake Biddington's Hard Assets as Portfolio Diversification
Jake Biddington's Buying Fine Jewelry at Auction
Jake Biddington's Long Term Investing
Jake Biddington's Short-Term Investing
Jake Biddington's The Craft of Art

Jake Biddington's BENTLEY Connoisseurs' Travel Series:
Art Tourism New York City 2005: Christo's Gates
Art Museums, Neighborhoods & Dining in Buenos Aires
Art and Touring along Italy's Amalfi Coast
Art Museums & Restaurants in Amsterdam
Cultural Touring along Spain's Costa del Sol
Art Touring in Lisbon
Art Touring in Milan
Art Touring in Antwerp
Art Touring in Barcelona
I-80 Park City to New York City Art & Antiques
Art Tourism New York City 2003 (Archive)
Art Tourism New York City 2002 (Archive)
Art & Wine in the Finger Lakes of New York State
Art & Antiques in Hudson, New York (Columbia County)
Art & Restaurants in Rome 2002 Update
Hartford & Wilton, Connecticut
San Francisco Jackson Square
New Hampshire Route 1A
Morris County, New Jersey

Contact Jake


Jake Biddington works on The Street and is responsible for the opinions & information in INVESTING. Young Jake, as he is known within the virtual BIDDINGTON clan, views tangibles such as fine art, antiques and jewelry as stores of value as viable as stocks or foreign currencies. He sees these items as another asset class in which to place one's money. To that end he keeps price histories and charting information on various categories of objects. He views some items as long term investments, others as items for a quick trade--and he even sees some as short sales.

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BIDDINGTON'S BENTLEY--Travel for the Art Connoisseur.  MY ART--Art for Kids.