I was reading an article about the iPhone from Apple that is making its official debut today, the writer suggesting that the many thousands of articles already written about the phone might constitute overkill. Another new telephone with which we can solve all our problems and we should just ignore it?

One might think of the antiques business as musty and old fashioned particularly in contrast to the technology market. But it isn’t. Not by a long shot as 18th century furniture remains the gold standard by which any other period or style is measured. It is a proven quantity that through economic vagaries holds its own, the fickleness of fashion notwithstanding.

The iPhone will be forgotten very soon. Proudly shown off by technophiles today, it will be trashed in favor of newer, faster and more capable models as soon as they hit the market. And all those articles, thousands upon thousands, that were written in anticipation of this, dare I say it, fleeting moment. I think I need to ponder the situation lying down on my Adam designed, neo-classical 18th century gilded settee. After all, comfort is desireable and beauty is sublime.


The Prince of Wales, it was announced this morning, purchased the contents of Dumfries House which was intended for sale at Christie’s on July 12-13. The house contained unique Adam/Chippendale rococo designs dating prior to Adam’s departure to Rome where he became a confirmed neo-classicist.

Is this a blow to the English furniture business? The publicity would have been nice and I am certain that the lateral thinkers, the pessimsts, the optimists, the outside the boxers will all have a different spin on this. I always like to see new things come on the market because it enlarges the pool of furniture that I can deal in.

Good for the Prince of Wales who deserves a great deal more credit than he usually gets. I wish, however, that he would stick to being an architectural critic and get more of those ghastly concrete structures demolished such as the barracks for the Royal Horse Guards. That is something I could cheer wholeheartedly.


At times, it seems as if being a physicist must be the coolest job in the world. An editorial in the NY Times today waxed eloquently on the solstice, which is tomorrow and is also the day of the most fleeting shadows of the year. Extrapolating therefrom, the writer, Margaret Wertheim who is currently writing a book on physics and the imagination, demonstrates how shadows can actually exceed the speed of light, the fastest physical phenomenon known to man. The only problem is that shadows have no substance.

In the antiques trade, there are two distinctly different sides to the business. There is the buying side and the there is the selling side. The two sides are self explanatory, but what is clear is that very few people embody both sides of the business. As a buyer and a not particularly good seller, I would say that the selling side has little to no substance. I am wrong to say that, however, as all the selling side needs is integrity and it has plenty of substance. The Latin adage, caveat emptor, was coined for a reason, however. I would pay heed to it still, just in case you are dealing with the shadow and not the substance.


Edward Rothstein wrote a magnificent article in yesterday’s NY Times (“Connections” p. E3) linking the late philosophers Claude Levi-Strauss and Richard Rorty. Levi-Strauss wrote about the society of the Caduveo, A Brazilian tribe that believed in their superiority to all others, in the 1950’s. This society, according to Rothstein, embodies the antithesis to Rorty’s belief in a liberal and democratic state, a society that is not dependent and does not recognize a higher authority.

One might say that the antiques and arts business has their Caduveans.

The Caduveos did not believe in giving birth and kidnapped children to continue their line. I am reminded of both the Shakers and the Mamaluks, both of whom followed a mission, almost blindly as the raison d’etre of their lives.

The democratic system is flawed, no doubt about it. I don’t think I would want to be a Mamaluk, a Shaker or a Caduveo. Hauteur has always represented insecurity to me. Better to wonder what your mission is than to live without reflection.


The summer English fair season is upon us. First there is Olympia this Thursday and then there is the Grosvenor House Fair which opens a week from Wednesday. I am not really looking forward to either fair which, I have to admit, is perhaps the first time I have felt this way. If the prospect of seeing my son, who has recently transferred to London, was not in the cards, I would probably cancel my trip. It isn’t that I don’t like London, it is just that fair frenzy is not what it used to be.

Olympia, which used to be a grand market of dealers of all levels from all over Great Britain, has decided to move up market. Fair enough, but it means that a great many of those little dealers have not made the cut. Furthermore, there is so much buying by the dealers that are in the show and there is so little quality English furniture available, all of the things that might interest me will have sold and either be put away or doubled in price. Grosvenor House Fair is just plain too rich for my blood.

I suppose the only thing I can really count on is learning more about the market and what great things are selling for. That is pyrrhic knowledge in that knowing what a London dealer can charge has nothing to do with what I can get for a similar or better item in New York. There are some buyers who just will not buy English furniture in New York even though a vast majority of the goods on show¬† will probably have recently been in America. These buyers, I guess, believe that we don’t speak English furniture well enough.