A sense of discovery

20th Century Cincinnati vintage modern art, furnishings and fashion

By Stacey Ritz

Photo: Atomic Style Home from Hamilton, Ohio [display shown above] will be one of many returning vendors at 20th Century Cincinnati Feb. 22-23; photo: Queen City Shows

“Come early and take your time checking things out,” said Mark Fisk, owner of Mainly Art and participant in this year’s 20th Century Cincinnati vintage modern art event. “There will be lots to see and you can miss quite a big if you don’t take your time.”

The show, which will be held at the Sharonville Convention Center the weekend of Feb. 22 and 23, will feature an expanded lineup of 75 dealers like Fisk, filling an exhibit space of more than 26,000 square feet with classic modernist forms – many from the century’s signature designers and architects.

“We are proud to be one of the sponsors of the special exhibit, La dolce vita – the Italian Connection,” Fisk said. “This special exhibit will focus on Italian designs from the mid-century period of the 1950s through [the] 1980s. This will include pottery, designer clothing, furniture, jewelry, lighting, art, posters and industrial designs such as cars, scooters and motorcycles.”

Cincinnati’s largest all vintage modern furniture and lighting store, Mainly Art covers the 1930’s Deco period through the mid-century Modern era to the early ’70s. In business for more than 19 years, Mainly Art also travels throughout the United States participating in 20th century events like this one. The 20th Century Cincinnati event is the Queen City’s annual retrospective of vintage modern design fueled by new technologies, materials and popular culture – and this year is its 20th anniversary. All of the materials offered at the show are truly vintage (roughly 1920-1980), so there are only dealers and vendors participating – not artists. The complete list of dealers can be found online and includes multiple Dayton business owners such as Jimmy Kidds, owner of Jimmy Modern located in the Oregon District.

“Jimmy Kidds has a background in interior design from his days spent employed at Pogues department store in Cincinnati,” show manager Bruce Metzger said. “The guy is as authentic as they come – how about the opportunity to buy your mid-century modern furniture from a true mid-century beatnik?”

What can you expect to find when you attend the show? You will find an incredibly large display of vintage modern design.

“It’s like your favorite mod shop just blew up to department store size!” Metzger said. Each year, there is a large furniture and lighting selection as well as decorative arts of all kinds – from giant, European posters to tabletop ceramics. “There is always plenty of vintage jewelry – some of it pricey and precious and some just plain fun. Did I mention memorabilia? One of my favorites is the 1960’s rock posters.”

Other local faces you will find at this year’s event include Dan Weisenforth, principal of Red Lion. Weisenforth sells exquisite Victorian and early 20th century jewelry. In addition, Janet Phillps, owner of Feathers, located in the Oregon District, will be partnering with Bob Mousaian at this year’s show.

If you’re looking for a piece of furniture or item for your home, come prepared to buy. Fisk emphasized there often isn’t a second chance for good deals like the ones found at the show each year.

“Most of the Modern shows this size are located in larger metropolitan areas like New York, L.A. and Chicago – we are so lucky this show is close to us here in the Midwest and it has achieved such great success from the quality dealers and the number of supporters who keep attending. Thinking back on all the years we never thought the mid-century movement would become so big – we just cared about the furniture. We were interested in the design, the build quality, the history of it in America, and we are happy it has grown and others feel the same way about it.”

Fisk’s favorite part of the annual Cincinnati event is checking out all of the vintage furniture and items from more than 75 dealers under one roof. Metzger explained that the show is unique in many ways.

“It’s not like a box store where another lamp just like that one is back on the shelter in the storeroom […] most of this is hard to find or one-of-a-kind, so sometimes there are second chances to buy an item and sometimes there are not.”

Purchased tickets to the event are valid for both Saturday and Sunday, therefore allotting you time to think about your purchase overnight, if need be. Just remember, that dining room set or household item you’re eyeing might be sold before you come back on Sunday.

“I personally think it is interesting how cities, including Dayton, that were at their economic peak in the post-WWII era are now some of the very best places to search for homes, furnishings, art, etc. in the mid-century Modern style,” Metzger said. “That is the particular Modern style so in vogue with the younger generation for the past several years. So, it is like the very ones who are remaking our outdated and decaying cities in the 21st century are also dragging along what was best in the 20th century as a part of the process. I just think that is pretty cool.”


20th Century Cincinnati takes place Saturday, Feb. 22 and Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Rd. Show hours Saturday and Sunday are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please visit 20thcenturycincinnati.com.

 Reach DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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