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Washington Antiques Show: Dead, but living on

From left: Linda Mattingly, Patricia Montague, French Ambassador Pierre Vimont, Catherine Nottingham and Betsy Nottingham attend the Washington Antiques Show preview night party on Jan. 7. (Photo courtesy of the Washington Antiques Show)

Out with the old, in with the ... old.

The Washington Antiques Show, a cherished fixture on the social scene for 55 years, held its final exhibition last month. Not to worry, cave dwellers: There's another event, identical in all but name, poised to take its place.

The annual show, a fundraiser for Thrift Shop Charities, raised $7 million over the years and kicked off D.C.'s winter social season. In November, Thrift Shop Charities voted to end its longtime association with the show -- the declining economy and high operating costs convinced board members they could net more with other, less expensive events. "It cost a lot of money to raise that money," said Thrift Shop Charities chairman Kathy Barker.

And, just like that, a Washington institution ceased to exist and ended, wrote blogger Carol Joynt, "a warm gathering of Washington residents who shared the joy of collecting." Translation: the graying, establishment crowd who like their Scotch old and their furniture older.

In the past few years, the three-day event has struggled to attract younger patrons and decorators. "It's one of the most prestigious shows on the East Coast," said Stephanie Kenyon, president of Sloans & Kenyon Auctioneers and Appraisers. "But among upscale 20- and 30-somethings, there is a strong trend toward contemporary. What's not cool today is an entire Chippendale room, all brown furniture."

The fundraiser's bottom line was also hit by a move from the Omni Shoreham Hotel to the Katzen Arts Center, amid internal debates about cost-cutting and reaching out to a wider audience.

But the show will go on -- same place, same time, but a new name: Washington Winter Show. The new nonprofit was created in December by organizers of the original show and is in the process of selecting board members, charities and patrons. "We are constantly looking for ways to bring in young people," said former trustee Hannah Cox.

No hard feelings, said Barker. "It's been a great run. We wish them all the best."

By The Reliable Source  |  February 10, 2010; 1:03 AM ET
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