As an English furniture dealer, I view fairs and shows with trepidation. The hassle of moving furniture, large and small is immense as pieces of veneer get ripped off, keys get lost, glue blocks fall off, glass gets shattered and some things just disappear. And yet fairs and shows are vital to our industry, all hassles notwithstanding.

Therefore, I have to give even greater credit to the Masterpiece Fair because of the large number of furniture and decorative arts dealers showing their goods. I am not saying this because I am a furniture dealer, I am saying it because the objects on display were superb. So was the venue, well lit with wide aisles.

It is the dealers of course who make Masterpiece, but the venue helps as well. The importance of this particular fair, the heir to the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair which ended three years ago, is to demonstrate that London still has a claim to being the capital of, if not the arts world, the antiques world. It is a strong claim indeed and has me thinking that I should emigrate?

Never. New York is still a state of mind and I have the Spring Show NYC to work on to show this city’s commitment to the decorative arts world. We both just need buying customers and even the best fairs these days can be short of them. In the meantime, kudos to the exhibitors, the organizers and the planners. Masterpiece is a great fair indeed.


There is an editorial in the New York Times today by Diane Ackerman who asks if the digital world is leading to sensory overload and thereby sensory poverty? As I walk to work, I see heads bowed to smart phones, something I am occasionally guilty of doing myself. Her question is whether we are getting so much information that the brain’s filter, that system that evaluates what is important to notice and what isn’t, is turning off, not just to what is coming over the internet, but to life itself.

The world of antiques is all about noticing things, learning a vocabulary and the nuances that make a good piece great. It took me years to understand what good rococo was, for example. The vocabulary of the style is complex and the carver, the interpreter of the style, needs to be more than competent to make a good mirror frame. I was watching the Queen’s speech to the nation during the jubilee celebration and noticed a fireplace to her left which was rococo and chinoiserie of the highest order. I now have to find a way to go see it. This is what antique dealers do.

I digress, however. Understanding nuance in any field is what an expert trains him or herself for and it is an arduous study. There has to be an essential interest to learn the vocabulary of a style and even greater interest in learning how well it has been done. Given this, I would posit that there is a reason antiques are not as fashionable these days. It is far easier to look at a two dimensional image of a linear designed chair (what I would call architect inspired furniture) than it is to stand in front of a three dimensional chair that has its own language.


The transit of Venus across the sun tonight is a rare event that happens twice in eight years and then in 105 years, the last time in 2004, and the next time in 2117. It is an event that is well documented in history, at least for the last four hundred years, as it offers the opportunity to astronomers to measure the distance of the sun and other stars from the earth. Hypothetically, I get this, but sitting down to do the calculations might un-nerve me. Math has never been a strong point.

In the Age of Enlightenment, however, the thirst for knowledge was intense and the measurement of the distance of the earth from the sun was calculated at 95 million miles, only two or so million off the actual figure. The recording of the transit in 1769 was taken by, among others, Lieutenant James Cook who was sent to Tahiti for the event, a phenomenal journey for such abstruse knowledge. Also on the voyage was Sir Joseph Banks, later President of the Royal Society, whose task was to collect plant and animal specimens.

Although the furniture world did not directly benefit by this thirst for knowledge and voyages to the South Seas, it is clear that the levels of expectation and sophistication within Britain were directly tied to such endeavors. Knowledge is arguably the single greatest motivational factor behind Britain’s 19th century Empire. As such, there is a self consciousness to almost everything that was done in Britain, whether it was in discovery, science, manufacturing, etc. It was as if all these people knew that some day they would be judged on what they did. What a good reason for doing things well.


I have been in the position to see the Queen a number of times over the years. I saw her when I was in Scotland with my mother in 1962 and I have seen her a number of times since. I was talking to a Brit the other day about this and he said he had never seen her in public. The last time I saw her was as she was driving to the 9/11 memorial service for victims of the World Trade Center attack.

The most memorable siting was in the summer of 1975. My brother rented a house on the Thames in the Limehouse district of East London which was on the former entrance to the Regents Canal on Narrow St. The entrance to the canal was blocked but still had ample open space on the quay, enough so that we could work outside when the weather wasn’t bad which is exactly what we were doing in the summer of 1975.

The reason that I left London was because of the weather. I hated the rain, the damp, the dark winters and I hated the absence of warm weather in the summer. My first three summers in London might have had three or four days in aggregate that reached eighty degrees fahrenheit. However, the summer of 1975 was different, it was warm enough that my brother and I, working in near isolation among warehouses, could work in our underwear.

The river was never quiet. It makes you pause when something that is noisy all of a sudden isn’t. I looked up the river towards Wapping and noticed two police cruisers flanking a bigger, sleeker cruiser. I motioned my brother over and asked him what he thought was happening? “The Queen’s on walkabout in Greenwich today,” he said. A minute later, as her cruiser passed within a hundred feet of us, lone figures amidst miles of brick warehouse, we waved at her and she waved back at us. I felt a tad under dressed, but I am certain she understood.