Schenectady Civic Players’ weekend attic treasures appraisal draws ‘dribs and drabs’

Elaine Schultz, left, has her antiques appraised by Paul Chmielewski at the Civic Players' Theater on S. Church Street in Schenectady Saturday.

Elaine Schultz, left, has her antiques appraised by Paul Chmielewski at the Civic Players' Theater on S. Church Street in Schenectady Saturday.

SCHENECTADY – In an event targeted at attic treasures, the Schenectady Civic Players’ first appraisers road show since the pandemic began drew in city resident Bobby Alesio, who brought in less than a dozen paintings of late portrait artist Arthur Devey.

One of the paintings was of a smiling Mickey Mantle in Yankee pinstripes, while the other was of a pensive looking unknown Black woman, hand to her chin, as she wore a head wrap.

“The artist is very good, and unknown, and this guy’s from Schenectady,” Alesio said of the Devey, who died in 2009 at age 90.

Alesio said Devey’s widow gave him dozens of paintings out of concern that they would be thrown out upon her death. Alesio said he gave some to family, but he still possesses about 50 of Devey’s paintings.

“I’ve had them for a few years at my house,” Alesio said. “They were just collecting dust. I want to either sell them, or bring them some place where they can be seen.”

Robert Meringolo, founder of the appraisers road show and a former Sotheby’s associate, held one of the Devey paintings and said, “The guy could paint the lights out with this. But what he didn’t do was mark his paintings.”

As such, Meringolo gave Alesio some free advice.

Meringolo told him the only record of Devey’s work was a showing he once had in Amsterdam.

In 1999, Devey held a one-man retrospective of 50 years of painting at the Walter Elwood Museum in Amsterdam, according to his obituary.

Because there are no auction records attached to Devey, a dealer wouldn’t likely pay a lot of money for individual pieces, or the entire collection, Meringolo told Alesio.

“The way people buy art is, ‘What has this guy brought at auction, and was he famous?’ ” Meringolo said.

The appraiser told Alesio it could be worthwhile to hire someone to advertise a showing of Devey’s works, including his biography, and set prices of each piece in accordance with their quality.

“This one of the Black woman is beautiful,” Meringolo said. “Would I put $650 on it? Yes. But if you put it in an auction, it might bring $75,” because of the lack of auction records.

It was the third appraiser’s road show. There haven’t been any since the pandemic began in March 2020, Marcia Thomas, a Schenectady Civic Players volunteer, said.

“Two years ago and three years ago when we did this, the place was packed,” Thomas said. “Everybody in Schenectady brought everything down. They were big, big shows.”

The first day of the weekend event drew in “dribs and drabs,” she said.

The cost to show-goers was $5 per item.

Meantime, Schenectady Civic Players is preparing for its first show of the pandemic on the main stage of the 250-seat community theater in November. The show is called, “This Random World” by Steven Dietz, and runs Nov. 12-14 and 17-21.

The cost for attending a quartet of shows occurring through May of next year is $65, which Thomas called “the cheapest thing in town.”

With an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 costumes that date to the 1920s, the all-volunteer organization of 75 to 90 members is one of the five oldest continuously-operating theaters in the United States, dating to 1926.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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