I took only one economics course in college and my long suffering professor, a brilliant man named Dr. Heaton, allowed my desultory performance to be deemed passable. Part of my disdain for economics was based on how I viewed the subject as a science. The only science I felt any kinship with was biology and that was pure pleasure.

If I had only known! Economics is not a science, it is an art. Ronald Reagan made that clear with “trickle down” economics, something his eventual Vice President dubbed voodoo economics. I would have liked to figure out how that trickle down concept worked, but the financial industry got there first.

The trickle down concept, amazingly, still has relevance. One side in Congress doesn’t want to collect revenue based on that premise. The other side wants to collect it but allegedly wants to spend it badly and they must be stopped even if it means not paying our bills. Who is right? The voters will eventually decide, but one thing is for certain. Economics is neither an art nor science, it is a football.


It isn’t often that the air in New York City feels zephyr-like, but it did at 4:15 this morning. I assume that it comes when the rain has just fallen and there is a light breeze and there is just enough heat so that you may be lucky enough to experience the pleasure of such a breeze. It was in stark contrast to nine days ago when I was walking up Madison Avenue, having a difficult time breathing as I could see the heat and the smog in the street like some kind of comic book malevolent presence hovering over the thoroughfare. The air conditioner I turned on that evening, as valuable as it was in the moment, was absolutely no match for that natural breeze of this morning. As far as I am concerned, if summer had more of those moments, I would be much better disposed to the season.


The exhibit of the fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s work, call it art because that is what it is, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is truly stunning. Having seen his work, I can sense his torment. His work is ornate, visceral, sexual, sado-masochistic and highly provocative. In addition, he is a master of material and a lover of the female form. He was a genius, tormented or not, and his work is breath taking.

Once inside the MMA, I re-visited the English galleries and realized that so much that is on view needs attention. All of the gilded furniture needs work as there are broken bits, wrong bits, bad restoration and a lot of dirt that could be removed. Still, it is clear to see how the furniture trade in the 18th century pushed themselves to discover new ornament, new materials and new forms of furniture to create unique ornament. The relationship of these people and McQueen is extremely close, two hundred and fifty years notwithstanding.

Finally, I read Michael Kimmelman’s eulogy to Lucian Freud in the NY Times. I first came across Freud at Chatsworth in the 1970’s and I didn’t like his work much. As time went on, however, I began to see something that I just didn’t see when I first looked at his work. His self portrait pictured in today’s Times is a masterpiece. Like every artist, Freud was flawed, and like every genius, those flaws are magnified. Just as for McQueen and my 18th century furniture designers, those flaws become strengths in the long run.


I was a regular “no” child when I was growing up. I said no to broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, all kinds of fish, and the list keeps going on. I still don’t like cauliflower all that much but fortunately, my taste buds were liberated with time and now I like most vegetables save for the pepper family the members of which are just a tad indigestible to me. It is easy to say no and hard to say yes, because yes always implies the desire to know more.

The problem with “yes” is that the person put into the path of that answer is also being challenged in some manner of speaking. Whether it is trying a new food, going to an independent movie, buying a home, virtually every yes answer entails something new in a person’s life. The campaign, “Just Say No to Drugs” should probably be more about the challenges of saying yes than the serenity achieved in saying no.

Our politicians love saying no. The current image I have of our Congress is of a bunch of pre-schoolers all having temper tantrums simultaneously. Their adherence to principle is not that, it is posturing and it obviates rational discussion. This debt issue is not Republican or Democrat, it is American and for either party to make hay off each other is preposterous. But that is what is happening. It is disgraceful.


What is it that makes something so unique that it resonates with people of virtually any era? The question is difficult as those of us existing now certainly cannot answer it in reference to things made in the last fifty, perhaps even as far back as one hundred and fifty years. We are too close to these things. We cannot possibly know what future generations will think of our contemporary world as much as we would like to think we do.

You might think that aesthetics play a role in this equation. I would say, however, that the Egyptian pyramids are grand, monumental and an engineering marvel for their day, but I would not say that they are intriguingly beautiful. They are haunting, impressive and resonate strongly with people who have seen them, but beautiful, unless you include their spectacular setting and their timelessness as being a measure of beauty, they are not. The idea is that timelessness is something beyond beauty, something that relates to the nature of the human condition.

Fine art is particularly difficult to ascribe for being timeless. The Mona Lisa is iconic and timeless for western civilization, but is that so for any other culture? Which of our painters will continue to be lionized in two hundred or five hundred years? Who can possibly know? It may just happen that post Renaissance painting to 1950 might just pass into an anachronistic side bar in the distant future.

There is furniture that I consider timeless. The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg has a quantity of David Roentgen desks which are simply stunning. To me, these are timeless. Oddly, the steel furniture from the Tula armaments factory isn’t nearly so timeless. The problem is that my sense of timelessness is built on my knowledge of furniture. Any object that you wish to classify as timeless should also not require specific knowledge.

The activity that man seems most suited for is the tearing down or the destruction of things. If the grave robbers of Egypt had had their way, they would have gladly removed the pyramids for what they thought was inside of them. If we can’t agree on what is timeless, how can we ever hope to save what might be timeless? This is the appropriate question and like many of the riddles we are faced with, we won’t know what is or isn’t timeless until it is gone. At that point, we get to be human and regret.

Without naming specific objects, buildings or works of art, it is terribly difficult to isolate the factors that make something timeless. Obviously, that is what the World Heritage sites are all about, identifying that which makes something so unique that it should be preserved for future generations. In a way, there is a plethora of such sites and in another way, there are very few.

For me, the natural world is is replete with places, things and organisms that are timeless. But what is so interesting is that the natural world is always changing be it in tiny developmental or evolutionary steps or in big movements that can be natural or man made. In other words, nothing is really made to stay the same no matter how timeless that place or thing or organism might be.

Timelessness therefore is an anachronism in nature and if that is so, it is also with man. Further, you will find that man strives for the new and as a rule respects the old less often than not. This is true save for in plastic surgeon dreams where the goal is to create a timeless face. The essential contradiction is just too good to ignore and as an antique dealer, I revel in it.


I read in the NY Times this morning that municipalities that are trying to change the way their constituents eat through local ordinances are being over turned by state government. It is interesting that the anti-Federalism of the moment has incited states to enact their own immigration laws and yet some of those same states feel that the locals have over stepped the line.

The birth of the American nation was based on creating a better place, but for whom? The Boston Tea Party was an act of defiance that was a message to George III about taxation without representation. Both of these concepts, who gets to be an American and the use of taxation by the government are central issues to 21st century America. They need to be dealt with.

I like that the Tea Party wants to cut the size of government. I hate the shot gun approach and I dislike the way Tea Partiers are selective in their choice of which government programs must go, often allowing for their own entitlements to be sustained. The birth of America, those people who created our Constitution in 1776 and fought during the Revolutionary War sacrificed hugely. This is not a new concept, but it seems foreign to us today. Happy Birthday, America!


My visit to both these cities this June was fantastic. London continues to prepare for the 2012 Olympics with road works and infrastructure repairs to the city. The London Underground, however, will never be prepared. It is far too expensive and not nearly accessible enough. For example, going into the tube station at Victoria to get to the Circle and District lines is a nightmare. The buses, if your schedule is flexible, are quite good. Thankfully, I did not have to drive a car around the city.

St. Petersburg promotes their “White Nights”, that period in June where there is daylight for nearly twenty-two hours. I remember my mother extolling the value of late light on a walk in Edinburgh in June of 1962. That was nothing compared to the light in St. Petersburg. Furthermore, St. Petersburg is a light city with light or colored classical buildings which invest the city with a beauty and seriousness that few other cities match.

The Russians that I met, mostly dealers, were generally a happy group. However, the two guides that took me to various palaces were extremely serious. This gravitas must be a hangover from either the very difficult past and/or the Communist government which I don’t think anyone would have accused of having a sense of humor. The dealers belied this description, but they were the only ones I met who did.

I attended the Masterpiece Fair in London. Started by a group of dealers to replace the now defunct Grosvenor House show, it is an attempt to bring a Maastricht type fair to London in late June and early July. Success will be measured in sales not just with a few dealers but with many dealers. It is certainly a great looking fair. I also saw Mumford and Sons, a group of musicians who seem to meld Celtic, Gospel, folk, rock and a touch of jazz. Their songs are compelling. The crowd loved them and so did I.