A new Generation of Collectors Takes Charge

A fascinating thing happened when COVID19 freed up time for people to explore what is available. Collectors are no longer tethered to local markets and dealers. With a click they can be shopping anywhere in the world what is available for them.

Last week we worked with a couple that had furnished an apartment as quickly as possible. A better job and a few other things caused them to be be changing their home again. …


Good old fashioned Magic

Through a series of fortunate circumstances a very large crystal ball came into our lives. A short while latter it was on its way to London. Via shipper. My colleague decided not to proceed when he learned about the shipping costs. I was happy to return the money but it hadn’t shown up yet. The wire nearly a month later has not appeared. I retrieved the ball because I sensed something was up when the shipper sent me a letter insuring the piece at the minimum. Of course the ball had been dropped and fairly badly…


How to tell roughly when a piece was made.

At the moment there is an a huge rotation in the antiques market. In case you have not heard some of the best buyers are about 30 or younger. They sense an opportunity and are most likely bored with slick catalog furniture. Buyers include designers that like the flexability of placing antiques and vintage pieces. If a client does not like the piece usually it can be returned and replaced. There is no long wait for the piece to be made and shipped. I believe usually these pieces are not so…


Like it or not we are all subject to what I like to call big Mother. Far from the meritocracy we where pitched it has become an electronic gangster collecting money from sellers and buyers alike. One of these behemoths has decided to literally cut out the vender. They ruined a decent grocery that had above average quality and an interesting vibe. God alone knows what is next.

Two very important facts come to mind. An ecosystem dependent on a few large venders is inevitably more fragile. Diversity is lost in the scramble for efficiency. The wonderful pasta shop or…


Can you make a sows ear into a silk purse?

One of my favorite colleagues, a rare and talented survivor of the incredible finicky antiques trade regularly makes jokes about the idiocy that crosses the sales rooms. He likes to joke about making a silk purse and the other one fairly commonly used is “as never was” meaning a piece is tarted up beyond recognition. For the early original antique pieces most where primarily functional. Over time the styles became more elaborate. The painful truth is often an honest large chest or console is made remarkable by the addition of…


Evaluating art in general or for purchase.

I spent a fair amount of time fiddling with some

Chinese and Japanese paintings that needed sorting. Fortunately I have some good help available in London. They represent aesthetics I appreciate but honestly the fine details escape me. The language barrier does not help me at all. The next few months I will be ankle deep in decent and average decorative arts. I hope to find a truffle or two but expect that mostly the work will be good and thats it. In theory the internet should be a help but the truth…


Some quick words about antique restoration.

Sooner or later you probably will have a piece you own or are thinking of buying that needs some professional attention / repair. A classic example is chairs. Every 50 to 70 years they need to be re-glued. Natural hide glues last about that long and then they start letting go. The chair is fine but wobbly and overtime it will start coming apart. Paintings that are not protected by glass eventually will need a professional to remove the accumulation of time from its surface. Certain old finishes will scratch or fade over the…


How to Find the Good Stuff

This is probably the best reason to pay a dealer. In theory they should be better informed than almost anyone and should know the mechanics of the local market well. The reality is like every other profession a handful are exceptional. The majority not so much.

Great things are usually found in clumps. The do not reach the auction house or most of the websites. They are very easy to sell as there are a good number of buyers. This is true even in rotten markets like the one we just went through.

Estate…


Market Value & Other Mysterious Terms

Today I thought it would be to write a little about the part of the business that hums along quietly but at times seems to defy gravity. I am a grateful friend of one of Californias more collected artists. Over the years his following has grown and his style has matured. A good number of very smart people buy his paintings as they are still relatively affordable and overtime they seem to reveal the complicated structures, palate and superb drawing. Most dismiss this work as it is accessible on several levels. A quick glance…


Now What? The art of learning what you might have.

I am not plugged into the newest generation of websites that offer to identify and authenticate an object from photos for a relatively small fee. Photography offers a relatively limited amount of information. About 20 years ago old master departments would work from rather large photographic color transparent films. Scholars could identify whether or not a piece had the right attributes for the assumed artist. Authentication was almost always done in person.

Now we enter the age of litigation. For better or worse scholars are generally unwilling to offer opinions…

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