While the the art and antiques trade has been hit by recession and auction-house profits have dropped dramatically, antiques education has become big business and it is selling well.
Collectors anxious to learn as much as possible about what they are buying have been signing up for lectures and courses, especially those focusing on connoisseurship, with hands-on study, set up by the educational departments of auction houses, museums, historic and preservation groups across the country. Many make their travel plans around these study sessions. Here is a sampling.
Sotheby's, the international auctioneer, has a special Educational Studies Department with offices and classrooms on East 76th Street in New York, three blocks from the main gallery on York Avenue. There Sotheby's offers a long list of one-, two-, three- and four-day symposiums, and six- and eight-week lecture series on a variety of topics as well as a nine-month full-time accredited American Arts Course. Many of them feature Baltimore experts and locations.
Tuition is steep, but the quality is high and the audience diverse. In June, 30 collectors, dealers and appraisers from California, Texas, the Midwest, Florida, New England, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York attended a four-day seminar on American furniture.
This fall several one-day seminars are planned; cost, $135 each. "Exploring the 17th" is scheduled for Oct. 7 with Abbot Lowell Cummings, Professor of Decorative Arts at Yale; William Hosley, Curator of American Decorative Arts, Wadsworth Atheneum; and Robert Tarule, a woodworker.
"An Inside Look at Early American Furniture," with Greg Landrey, chief furniture conservator, Winterthur Museum; Michael Flanigan, Baltimore antiques dealer; and Sotheby's specialists Leslie Keno and William Stahl, is listed for Oct. 22. "The Classical Impulse," with Stiles Colwill, noted Baltimore dealer; Wendy Cooper, curator of American decorative arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art; and Landrey, will take place on Nov. 19.
Preceding the opening of the International Antique Dealers Show at the 7th Regiment Armory on Oct. 18 is a two-day symposium, "With Great Glitter: an Appreciation of Georgian Silver," Oct. 17-18, with visits to the studio of a master silversmith, slide lectures and hands on study with Kevin Tierney, head of Sotheby's silver department. The cost is $675 and includes lunches and a Thursday dinner in Sotheby's board room.
The four-day symposium on Renaissance Jewelry, Nov. 12-15, features a day trip to Baltimore's Walters Art Gallery, and lectures by Hugh Tait, deputy keeper of the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities at the British Museum, and Edward Maeder, curator of costumes and textiles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others. Cost: $1,375. Write Registrar, Sotheby's Educational Studies, 1334 York Ave., New York, N.Y. 10021.
The Winterthur Museum in Delaware offers one-day seminars on furniture care: "The Surface of Things," Oct. 5, and on furniture repair: "Beneath the Surface," Nov. 2. The cost is $99. "Impecunious Collectors" is the fitting title of a four-session Wednesday evening lecture series at Winterthur Oct. 2-23 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. with curators Robert Trent, Amanda Lange, Donald Fenimore,
Neville Thompson and Susan Swan. Also $99. For information, write Education Division, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Del. 19735.
The Shelburne Museum's symposium Oct. 5-8 on "New England Furniture -- Rural Workmanship, Style, and Use 1680-1850," addresses construction methods, repairs, and issues of authenticity. On the faculty are such well known lecturers as Elisabeth Garrett, Philip Zea, Allan Breed, Robert Trent and Dr. Edwin Churchhill, as well as Shelburne Museum curators and conservators. The cost is $135. For information, write The Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vt. 05482.
At Historic Deerfield, the Deerfield Forum, Nov. 1-3, is called "Quality in Workmanship and Design: The Connoisseurship of Rural Furniture." It includes sessions with Philip Zea on the connoisseurship of rural New England furniture, with Ronald Hurst on Virginia furniture, and with June Sprigg on Shaker furniture. As at Shelburne, there is time set aside for touring the historic houses and collections. The cost is $200. To register, write Historic Deerfield Inc., Fall Forum 1991, Box 321, Deerfield, Mass. 01342.
The annual Ephemera society meetings are very popular with printed paper collectors. "The Emphemera Symposium 91," Oct. at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., is billed as "A seven-fold narrative of cultural topography via printed paper ephemera. . . ." It is being held in Rochester because the Strong Museum has mounted a show called "Selling the Goods, Origins of American Advertising." Talks cover patent medicine advertising, trade cards, greeting cards, Santa as a super salesman and the Dionne Quintuplets. The cost is $108. For information write The Ephemera Society of America, P.O. Box 37, Schoharie, N.Y. 13157.
At the annual meetings of the National Trust in San Francisco Oct.16-20, 27 cooperating agencies will help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act with a wide range of panels, on-site tours and a trade show. The registration tab is $265; for information, write National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1785 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C., 20036.