Philadelphia Antiques Show being handed off from Penn Medicine to the art museum

Sponsorship of the annual Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show, a regional and national mainstay for more than a half-century, is being handed off from Penn Medicine to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, officials report. The longtime hospital fund-raiser will be jointly sponsored by the two groups this year, and the Art Museum is likely to take sole responsibility in 2019.

“This is a transitional moment,” said Timothy Rub, head of the museum. “This show has been a Philadelphia tradition for a long time. Many people feel it has been the premiere show for American antiques and American decorative arts, Americana, in the country. It’s a tradition worth extending.”

The show began in 1962 as the University Hospital Antiques Show at the 33rd Street Armory in West Philadelphia. This year’s show is scheduled for April 20 to 22 at the Navy Yard, where it has been for the last two years.

Ralph Muller, chief executive of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said that over time his organization has seen “a shift in focus” for volunteers “toward charitable events that benefit the fight against specific diseases,” while the antiques show represents a more general charitable approach.

“The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s mission is more closely aligned with the spirit of the Philadelphia Antiques and Art Show, and we believe this transition offers a unique opportunity to continue and strengthen a wonderful Philadelphia tradition,” Muller wrote in an email.

Rub said it “no longer made sense for Penn Medicine” to continue its historic role of sponsorship.

“They decided to step away, and the question was whether the museum would step in,” Rub said. “I thought, why not? … We’ve not had a formal role. This is new.”

Richard B. Worley, a member of the show’s advisory committee for many years, said Penn Medicine and the Art Museum would partner on all aspects of the show this year, but in 2019, the museum would probably take over full sponsorship, probably becoming sole charitable beneficiary.

“This has been a very friendly handoff, and Penn Medicine has been very helpful,” he said.

The show raised $250,000 for Penn Medicine in 2017, said Muller.

“This year, the show’s proceeds will be split between the two institutions and will support the historic preservation of Pennsylvania Hospital as well as the Art Museum,” Muller said.

While it is likely that the museum will become the sole beneficiary in 2019, officials said no decisions have been made thus far.

Worley acknowledged that the show has had financial difficulties in recent years. It departed from its long-time armory venue for the Navy Yard in 2008 but was forced to move to the Convention Center in 2012 when Urban Outfitters bought its Navy Yard building.

The Convention Center proved an uncomfortable and costly fit for the show, which canceled its 2015 edition and reopened in 2016 at a different Navy Yard location.

Worley characterized the last two years at the Navy Yard as “very successful.”

The involvement of the Art Museum makes sense, said Rub. Fine art will have more of a presence on the floor, where 60 or so vendors display their wares. The museum will put together a small exhibition this year, something it has also done in the past.

Antique show officials say they hope a large presence of art and the museum’s active involvement will encourage a broader range of visitors.

Said Rub: “It would be a wonderful thing to bring it closer to the museum.”