Wall of Sound, A Vintage Radio Show

What, you may ask, are vintage radios doing in a contemporary arts and crafts gallery? It’s a good question and the answer provided by Kurt Nelson, owner of the Palette gallery in Albuquerque, is as unexpected as the pairing. “It’s an offshoot, a diversion if you like, related to the economy. By expanding our inventory, we’re reaching out to markets that are relatively untapped by traditional galleries. And this is also New Mexico. This is a quirky state!”

All the radios on display, mostly from the 1940s and ‘50s, have been fully restored and all of them are fully functional (AM only.) The gallery, miraculously, found an electronics engineer and PhD who specializes in resurrecting such things and who also gives a three month warranty with every radio sold.

As design statements, it must be said, these vintage radios are distinctly underwhelming. They are, however, quirky and individualistic, ranging from Philco’s bright red bakelite, to Zenith’s silver and gold metal casing. They certainly have a place in the history and evolution of design, as well as being a stark reminder of just how far technology has traveled in just 60 odd years.

This is not the first time the gallery has put on a vintage radio show. The first was launched last summer and Nelson now has connections with dealers all over the world, as well as private collectors. The price of each piece ($200-$800) reflects not only its age and condition, but also the cost of restoration.

Nelson – who had no previous art experience when he opened the gallery eight years ago, but does have a business degree – also takes his radios on the road. He reports being very well received at the Denver Modernism and Palm Springs Modernism shows. “There’s always interest,” he says, “and they always sell.” Which, in this economic climate, is an outcome devoutly to be wished.

Wall of Sound Vintage Radio Show runs until August 12 at Palette Contemporary Art and Craft, 7400 Montgomery Blvd. NE. Tel: (505) 866-7777


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