On the first and fourth Sundays of each month, the little Santa Monica Airport is transformed into a wonderful little outdoor antique market. It may not be as large or important as Brimfield or Round Top, but it’s my favorite of the weekend markets I’ve been to in the Los Angeles area. It’s of a manageable size, and for the most part populated by moderate- to high-quality vintage and antique goods. What I hate about a lot of these markets is all the garage sale crap you have to sort through to find real dealers with quality merchandise. The Santa Monica Airport market manages to keep this to a minimum. On a beautiful sunny morning last month, I headed over to the market to browse, shop, and talk to some of the dealers there.
I first spoke with James Hill, a second-generation antiques dealer originally from San Diego. He was an active dealer from 1995 to 2005, and has recently gotten back into the game. From “ancient to modern”, the offerings in James’s booth were a well-curated mix of art, ceramics, glass, metals, and even rugs! “I’m a generalist,” he says. Even his personal collecting interests span centuries and continents. What first caught my eye at his booth was an oil painting on the ground by his van. It was a sort of Hudson-River-School-ish rural scene, and James was discussing the painting with a potential customer. It was unsigned, but well painted and in a beautiful Newcomb-Macklin frame. James estimated that it was from the early twentieth century. Luckily for me, the other customer left and I snatched it up as a Christmas present for my husband.
At the booth of Sandy’s Estate Jewelry, I talked about the differences between the east and west coast taste in antiques with the owner, originally from Rhode Island. Sandy and his wife still travel out to New England to do shows there every year. He laughed that the midcentury modern furniture so popular here in California can be had for a song on the east coast—it’s considered old and out of date there. Jewelry, on the other hand, is a strong category on the west coast, especially in the Los Angeles area. And there seems to be plenty of room for many vintage/antique jewelry dealers, even in the same market. “Every case is different,” says Sandy. Having other jewelry dealers around isn’t competition, “it’s an advantage.”
A pair of Minton’s transferware pots drew me into another quality booth offering highly decorative Asian and English pieces, as well as a fine collection of baskets. I had a marvelous chat with the dealer, David Williams, who has been coming to the Santa Monica market for 2 years but has been dealing in antiques for 25. He reminisced about the pre-recession antique scene in Los Angeles, assuring me that it was much more vibrant than it is now. David had a shop called Gazebo Antiques, specializing in early American country decorative arts like baskets and quilts, usually from the New England area and Amish country. Surprised to hear that such a place had existed here, I asked if he had found a good audience for his merchandise. “Instantly,” he said. They could barely keep the shelves stocked! But when the recession hit, decorators just weren’t working anymore and business slowed. I was excited at the mention of an early Americana shop here in Los Angeles. Perhaps there really is some local interest out there but it’s been masked by the recession. Could my problem be partly in the timing? I sure would have loved to visit David’s shop. Maybe it will be back someday…
Santa Monica Airport Outdoor Antique & Collectable Market
1st & 4th Sunday of every month
8:00 am to 3:00 pm
(According to dealers I spoke with, the 4th Sunday market has perhaps two or three times as many vendors than the 1st Sunday market, and brings a larger crowd.)