The Philadelphia Show is now at the Art Museum

The narrower location causes logistical complications. There is only one access road to the terrace, so moving trucks have to line up to unload furniture.

Nonetheless, many dealers who were forced to go online during the pandemic returned to the Philadelphia show with renewed vigor.

The merchants set up for the Philadelphia Show, an annual antiques exhibit that is a fundraiser for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Emma Lee/WHY)

“We were meeting virtually, which – I don’t know – it’s not that exciting,” said Connecticut’s Arthur Liverant. “Trying to see without feeling, without smelling, without caressing a piece of furniture, it’s not the same. Buying it through photographs just isn’t the same. You really have to see it and commune with the objects to understand how awesome they are.

Due to the Philadelphia Show’s proximity to its new operator, the Art Museum, it can provide visitors with convenient access to the museum’s American decorative arts galleries and gives the show better access to the museum’s curatorial staff. Curators gave free online lectures on collecting and Americana.

“The educational part is something the museum is able to help that the show didn’t have before,” said show chair Lynn Gadsden. “It’s not that they weren’t interested – they had lectures during the show, but not necessarily as academic as these. They have been fabulous.

Eleanore Gadsden smiles for a portrait in front of an antique
Philadelphia Show president Eleanore Gadsden said bringing the show to the Philadelphia Museum of Art will improve its visibility. (Emma Lee/WHY)

In the center of the tent, on a riser built above the East Terrace fountain, is the annual Philadelphia Show. This year’s theme is “Zero to Sixty”, highlighting the best of the past 59 exhibits, including antique children’s furniture, vintage firearms, paintings and folk art.

The first fair, 60 years ago, was called the University Hospital Antiques Fair. Since then, the word “antiques” has been dropped.

“The heart and soul of this show has always been antiques and decorative arts. However, over the years folk art was introduced, then fine art and now design,” said show director Huntley Platt. “In addition, the schedule has expanded. We have works from the 17th century to contemporary artists.

Having the big white tent at the top of the steps was its own advertisement. Gadsden said people were calling to ask, “What’s up?”

It also gives visitors convenient access to the American Galleries inside the museum.

“There are things all over this floor that are beautiful enough to fit into the museum’s own collection of American decorative arts,” Liverant said.