“I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles….”, is a refrain from a Who song from the 1960’s that stumbles its way through my brain from time to time. The 1960’s was not an era of the long view, at least as I recollect it. It was carpe diem.

Seeing clearly is what is necessary at this point in time, however, particularly if you believe in the long view. Antique dealers have to see clearly because when they don’t it is a very expensive lesson. I have been down that road and it always hurts.

Politicians, financiers and those corporate honchos who have in one way or another contributed to our current perilous state need to see very clearly at the moment. I’m not adjudicating blame, just looking towards solving the problems of the moment. These people should take a hard look at themselves and look to where they can help.That hard look should be done in the reflection of a good 18th century frame with original glass. The reflection in such is very kind indeed.


Yesterday, I suggested that Christopher Mason, who published an expose in the NY Times about the antique dealer, Carlton Hobbs, was impugning the antiques trade, but in reading the article again, it is more like an indictment. The indictment is broad–the entire antiques trade and he uses a few decorators to hit home his point.

I do not wish to talk ill of decorators as it is a great trade, filled with honorable people. One thing I find, however, is that they know very little about the antique business. In the article, Mr. Mason quotes the decorator, Robert Couturier, as suggesting that he might never use antiques again. How snippy of him and what an enormously stupid statement. Maybe he should never go to the movies if he sees a lousy film? I could go on, but comments like this deserve oblivion.

An English, English furniture dealer who I had lunch with today said that he does not know anything better than great English furniture from any point of view. I share his bias, great English furniture is simply fantastic. Those decorators who have made mistakes by buying from the wrong people have had their heads turned for the wrong reasons. I wonder what those reasons were?


I read with interest Christopher Mason’s article about Carlton Hobbs, the antique dealer on 93rd St., in the NY Times this morning. Basically, Mr. Mason seems to want to nail the coffin of the antiques trade shut and inter us six feet under. His causus belli are the alleged transgressions of John and Carlton Hobbs, brothers who were once partners and who have fallen out, dealers of very expensive antique furniture to the stars in the collecting and decorating world.

I know nothing of Dennis Buggins and little of John Hobbs operation in London although I find John, who I have not talked to for at least fifteen or twenty years, to be a thoroughly objectionable person–abusive towards those who disagree with him and condescending to almost everyone else. That the brothers have fallen out is no one’s business but their own and yet Mr. Mason has used it as a tool to determine the alleged perfidy of the two brothers and, in turn, the entire antiques trade.

The subject of faking is not an easy one to discuss, particularly with people who are uncertain of what one is really talking about. Suffice it to say that fakery has existed in the trade since antiques became more highly valued than new or reproduction furniture. What exactly constitutes a fake? Making items from scratch is clearly wrong, but we have to remember that Mr. Buggins, the faker, was demanding money from the brothers. His testimony will inevitably be suspect.

It is silly to impugn anyone through innuendo and yet I believe that Mr. Mason, who quotes leading decorators about being worried about the antiques trade–not just the Hobbs brothers–is impugning all of us. When he called me and asked me about the future of the industry, which I assured him would survive this scandal, I should have said that the business is about one thing and that is trust. If the Hobbs brothers have lost that trust, it is their problem, but to imply that the entire antiques trade hinges on their reputations is both inaccurate and an injustice.


I was asked by a journalist today what I thought about scandals to do with faking in antique furniture. My mind immediately jumped to the mortgage backed derivatives that theoretical economists developed and which has nearly dissolved the financial structure of the globalized world. I was wondering if one of these economists might have done well in creating fake Chippendale furniture as they were so good at creating false value.

No one likes to get fooled. Not only do they not like getting fooled, they don’t like other people to know that they were fooled. This is a conundrum for a foolee as they are unable to admit their foolery. It is a difficult position to be in.

Fakes, as the mortgage derivatives have proven, are a part of life. Fakery is everywhere. There are fake emotions, fake intellectuals, a fake vice presidential candidate, it is astounding how credible we can be. I sort of wonder whether we should inure ourselves to living a lie? Having just finished reading “East of Eden” where neither innocence or evil is a favored state, I would say, as one of the characters does, that “truth is more permanent”.


You forget just how great some literature can be until you decide to try it. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck is one of those great books that offers superb, crisp sentences, expansive characters in taut and very real situations and, to boot, some intricate philosophy. The man knew how to write.

We are in an age where information can kill us. Not literally, of course, but we are so inundated with the state of the world from moment to moment that we don’t really know how we should be. In essence, our thoughts should be where our center is and that is in appreciating what is good, not searching for a profit.

As a confirmed aesthete, I have to say that you can find your center and enjoy more of the world. That beauty that is so elusive can be found just about anywhere, but if you would like to visit, I can assure you that some of it is in my gallery at this very moment. There is a release in not thinking about profit and loss, a place where the highs and lows are far more subtle. English antique furniture is, from my point of view, something you can hold onto when everything else seems ephemeral.


Would that I could offer some bromide about the financial debacle, but I am not qualified. It seems to me to be sheer panic. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to change the channel until the show has run its course and the nightmare is over.

What does it mean for antique dealers? I have bought at least eighteen items in the last month or so and, to my way of thinking, it is the right and only thing to do. I might pay a little less, but beauty is beauty and I believe that people will always be intrigued by beautiful things.

If you have levaraged yourself financially to a point where you are losing everything, I fear that focusing on beauty will not be a palliative. But if you have lost a lot of money but not your lifestyle, it might be worth focusing on beauty in some part of your life. It is the only bromide that I know that actually works.


The antiques business has a crazy relationship to the economics of the moment. It tends to mute the speculator interest making auctions a little less expensive. That should be good for the business except that there is very little coming up for sale. Demand hasn’t diminished in the slightest as far as I am concerned with interest in things at all price points. I don’t know if this makes sense or not, but our financial system is not lacking for cash in the private sector as far as I know. And I still would rather live with some wonderful things than multiple millions in the bank. That is exactly what I am doing so what else is new?


To watch an alleged debate between two candidates running for president is a form of torture that this country thinks gives them the information needed to vote for either candidate. I don’t think so. McCain comes across as platitudinous and condescending and Obama sounds frustrated by the fact that no one seems to get the solution he is offering. I have sympathies for both candidates in that these times require a great deal of analysis that belie sound bite answers. This country is in a mess and needs, to begin with, a leader that has courage and an inner compass that is able to withstand the pressure of special interests. So far, I think Obama is ahead on that score.

The running mates are a different matter. The NY Times editorialists, Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd both focus on McCain’s running mate today. That candidate’s willingness to play the attack dog is a disgrace to the American political system. It is contemptuous of the voters and ignores the realities we are facing from financial melt downs to job losses. Obama’s running mate is getting no press which may be a good thing, but I do wish there was a second debate that focused on the legitimacy of character slagging. Soap opera should be fictional television fare, not part of our political process.

As an antique dealer who has had the good fortune to care about aesthetics all my life, a non-threatening environment if ever there was one, I regret having to talk about politics in this blog. I would much rather talk about the beauty of the world as seen in art and antiques, but this campaign is extraordinary. That one VP nominee has me more scared than I can say. If she ends up running this country, my hopes for the future of America will be on very shaky ground.


In the 1960’s political discourse was like the dessert course to every meal. Parents and children, if they were old enough, would discuss the war, the military industrial establishment, the government, the intense rioting all over the country and on and on. The discussions were almost always heated, but many parents, at least mine, were open to the message that the US government left a lot to be desired in the way that things were run. That openness almost seems hallucinatory in retrospect, because it does not seem to exist today. Today, we are all entrenched in our issues. For people my age, it is lower taxes. Excuse me, look at the US debt and tell me we should lower our taxes.

On a separate subject, when I hear one of the VP candidates speak, I am made aware that the candidate is uneducated. Folksiness is fine, up to a point, but bad grammar reveals someone who has never been exposed to good grammar. And that is only the starting point. Lack of education does not mean a lack of brain power, but I have to say that anyone serving me or my district needs, from my point of view, an education. Education gives breadth and depth to analysis. I don’t care whether someone knows the Bill of Rights or who the president of Pakistan is, but I do want them to know how history has a habit of repeating itself. I would like them to know the mistakes made in the past so that they aren’t repeated. That means a great deal to me. This candidate scares me more than any of the other three, I don’t care what scandals they have been involved in or who they might have associated with, a lack of an educated candidate for the second highest office in the land is a scandal in its own right. I cite the 50 and 60 year olds of my generation who are ignoring this fact. It is extremely distressing.

What actually does matter for the United States? We all know that a well educated populace creates a work force capable of a great deal. We also know that a health system that works eases the minds of everyone. We need it desperately. The best thing about this election is the amount of interest there is in it. The worst thing is that we aren’t talking about these two issues let alone a host of others that need discussion. This is beyond distressing.


My pre-dawn thoughts centered on the nature of beauty. As we know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we also know that a rose by any other name is still a rose. What is beautiful will come out, sooner or later, and what is not will be forgotten.

Contemporary art is often not beautiful. It often needs an explanation to accompnay it. The picture of Damien Hirst in front of his bull in formaldehyde reminds me of the film “Moses” and the golden calf that sort of looks like Mr. Hirst’s bull. Maybe that is the point. I don’t get it.

Carping about contemporary art is a waste of time. The people who love it have their reasons and so they behold. My curiosity, and I can’t possibly live long enough to see the answer, is where oeuvres like Hirst’s will end up. But time is a serious judge and takes a long time to think things over. The one thing I am certain of is that beauty will win the day.