The life of the antique dealer is to spend money, or to more accurately acquire goods, if possible, every day of the week. Many of the women that come into my gallery think it an ideal existence. Some of the men do as well, but the women readily admit it. I have to admit to both liking and not liking the process of acquisition.

I have watched things accumulate in my life for years. Pieces, some of them rare and wonderful, often don’t sell. And that is only a part of the problem. Some of the things I buy need restoring again and again because they get moved about so much. Then there is the other side of the coin. Some things come and go with me seeing them for the briefest of moments. I like to get to know my inventory and some of it moves too quickly for me. Where is the satisfaction in that?

If the daily bread of a dealer is to buy something every day, then the mantra should be that the oldest thing in inventory should sell every day. I could live with that.


It is hard not to write a paean to the Met after the two exhibitions and two and a half hours of other things that I took in last night. The two exhibitions, “Cezanne to Picasso” and “Americans in Paris” are superb. The rest, I mean the museum at large, is as well.

“Amercians in Paris” made me realize that American artists had an enlightened view of women that was not generally shared by their European counterparts. Women, and Sargent’s “Madame X” is a prime example, were seen as confident, self aware characters. Compared to Renoir’s chubby happy women, naked or otherwise, who seem destined to be mothers or temptors, American artists portrayed ambitious and strong women capable of being social equals. And the American artists were every bit as gifted as their European counterparts, something that I was taught as not being the case.

What else can you say about the explosiveness of painting from 1860 to the First World War? Lots, but what is really clear is that the art world has never really had such a productive time period since. Today’s art, at least the art that is in the headlines, seems both clever and devoid of character. The paintings I saw last night were not clever, or at least not clever in the sly sense. (The one exception might be Gauguin’s work whose self awareness is so very apparent and just a little boring.) The sly, commercial cleverness was to come as the art market changed into something driven more by the market and less by the artist’s vision.

I have been critical of the Met in the past. Not so much for what it does, but for what it does not do. However, it is almost impossible not to be impressed by what is on display. It is well lit, well displayed and the place is serene and yet social. This is how all museums should be.


It is hard to ignore the auction houses as they churn out sales with hundreds of pieces of furniture, all in a week. I’d like to be able to say that I don’t care, but I do. The auction experience is just so…., I can’t really think of the right word. But to me, I look at the amateurs buying at auction as the sort of people who would order shoes from a catalogue. Be prepared for blisters!

Why do I talk so much about the sale rooms? Well, there is a great deal to say. The negatives are many, and to give equal time, there are a few positives. But their practices would fail any free market analysis and there is an essential conflict of interest. You cannot represent both the buyer and the seller. It isn’t possible and no other business allows it. There is lots more, but that is the real nut that no auctioneer can explain away.

However, I have to let this theme go as I start to resemble Don Quixote. Although there are a great many communities tilting at wind mills these days because of the absurd government subsidies for erecting them, willy-nilly through the windswept countryside. That is another story, of course, but I think Don Quixote has been vindicated just a little bit. After all, when wind mills prove to be dragons, you can’t be quite sure of what to slay next.