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SUNDAY BRUNCH | Designing L.A.

L.A.'s New Age of Antiques

April 26, 1998|CONNIE KOENENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a transformation worthy of a Hollywood set, the cavernous Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport is being converted to an elegant complex of showrooms and salons for the Los Angeles Antiques Show running Friday through Sunday. About 70 exhibitors from Europe, Asia and the Americas are displaying fine period furniture and accessories, rare books, carpets, Oriental rugs, sterling silver and other arts in a setting of flowers, fountains and music.

Now in its third year, the show seems to have sprung full-grown from the start, attracting more than 7,000 visitors last year, with more expected this year.

"It's an international show on a much broader scope than anything else you will see in Los Angeles," said Sally Gould Wright, spokeswoman for the Antiques Dealers Assn. of California, which is presenting the show with the Women's Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

She is not surprised that Los Angeles, a city supposedly without roots or a sense of history, has proved to have an appetite for the past. "I grew up in the antiques business," said Wright, co-owner of Richard Gould Antiques in Los Angeles. "We have always been the stepchildren, but antiques have a huge, huge market here, including many who are very advanced collectors in the arts."

The number of dealers whose items are fully vetted, or authenticated, continues to grow, too, she said. New exhibitors this year include Bernard Baruch Steinitz from Paris, a specialist in French boiserie (antique paneling) and the Ralph M. Chait Galleries from New York, a respected name in Chinese art.

The Antiques Dealers had long known they could stage a viable show if they could team up with a top-flight charity for the opening-night gala, she said. "You need that social cachet."

The Cedars-Sinai Women's Guild, with its 40-year history of fund-raising, was ready, says Abby Levy, the organization's president. After years of fund-raising with black-tie movie premieres, the guild was finding the movie industry changing and the right movies harder to find.

"This show is incredible--like a runaway train, it has taken on a life of its own," she said. "We raised close to $1 million over the first two years. We've endowed a chair (at the medical center) in women's health--we're very proud of what we've done." For the guild, it has become a year-round effort, and the challenge of serving an elegant dinner to 1,500 in an enormous space that has neither kitchen nor bathroom facilities is only part of the learning experience, she said.

Despite the drama of such high-ticket items as a $450,000 Japanese screen, the sponsors emphasize that antiques come in many forms. "There are a lot of affordable things, such as prints, ceramics, silver and toys," Wright said.

In a designer-driven market like Los Angeles, where a great many people are redoing their houses, the trend in consumer tastes currently seems to be Continental and especially Italian antiques, she said, "which go with our homes, the light and the climate."

The sponsors are pleased that the show has attracted a wide cross-section of visitors, from serious buyers to young people who want to learn more, she said. "The show is a fabulous opportunity for people to wander around and get acquainted with antiques. There is so much merchandise on that floor, and the more you look, the more you define your own taste."

To further interest the public, the Los Angeles Design Group is sponsoring a lecture series (admission, $10) during the show. The schedule:

Friday at 2 p.m.: Gillian Wilson, curator of decorative arts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, discussing the French decorative arts.

Saturday at 2 p.m.: "The L.A. Lifestyle--Decorating With Antiques," Barbara Thornburgh, assistant editor, home design for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, moderating a discussion with interior designers James Magni, Carol Poet, Bill Lane and Janet Polizzi.

Sunday at noon: Discussion on "Hillwood Museum and Gardens: the Home of Marjorie Merriweather Post" (in Washington, D.C) with Frederick Fisher, director.

*

Los Angeles Antiques Show, Barker Hangar, 3021 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily admission, $15. Information: (310) 455-2886.

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