Southern Style

The New Orleans Antiques Forum’s Director of Development, Jack Pruitt, talks about the focus on “Southern Expression.”

When many people think of the south, especially New Orleans, they think of those sprawling manses housing gorgeous antiques. But as it turns out, the South doesn’t get as much credit as other places do for their contributions to the decorative arts world. The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) hopes to correct that with its annual New Orleans Antiques Forum, held July 31-Aug. 3. The theme this year is “Southern Expression,” and seminars by experts (including a contributor to PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow”), excursions to historic homes around Louisiana and other events celebrate art made in, or have been made apart of, the South. There is also a brunch, tour and other events. Jack Pruitt, THNOC’s director of development and community relations and the organizer of the event, talked to us about the forum.

What are some of the hallmarks of southern style in antiques? Our tagline is: What sets it apart? The people. It’s customs, tastes, art and the combination of all those elements. We cherish those things that we’re talking about. The things tell a story of families so often – for instance, the quilts. We discuss how those things we hold close and cherish in homes are apart of culture.

Why did you choose this theme? Relatively little has been done over the years looking at southern decorative arts. There’s been a tremendous amount of attention given to the northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Europe. This event allows us to focus on those things we have, things were made here or we made apart of our homes.

Southern furniture, for example, is very distinct. THNOC a few years back published a book called Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture, 1735–1835 … it’s very unique and has grown in popularity among collectors, scholars, antique shops, auction houses and with new publications and new scholarship.

Why do you think southern decorative arts are overlooked? They’re relatively new. Scholarship has so focused on European contributions, which are tremendous. There may have been a bit of a bias towards looking at the South, perhaps that we were not seen as quite as sophisticated and savvy. We have proven that was not the case. Again, we’re very unique there’s some tremendous art from the South, and people are beginning to take note. It’s about time.

What was the original purpose of the forum? The origins are post-Katrina. We wanted to attract a cultured audience and bring people back to New Orleans and the south post-Katrina. One of the primary reasons of the forum was to bring people back and help antique shops and galleries that were struggling at the time, and help restaurants and businesses in New Orleans and the Gulf South. It was also designed to raise awareness of the region and the important of the region, and show that THNOC is a resource for understanding all of this.

What else about this year’s programing would you like to mention? A topic garnering a great deal of attention is mourning art and jewelry in the 19th century South. It was a region that was plagued by death, and that was reflected in our jewelry and in our art. That’s something that’s interesting.

For more information about this year’s New Orleans Antiques Forum, visit hnoc.org.

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