There was an interview with the geologist/historian, Naomi Oreskes, in the NY Times the other day. She has written a book of science fiction with Erik M. Conway about the collapse of the earth due to man’s use of, among other things, carbon based fuels. Part of her inspiration was due to the lack of concern for climate change and man’s role in exacerbating it and part to both the nonchalance  and misinformation of the anti-climate change activists. She admits that she thought that climate change was the opinion of only some climate scientists, but found through her research that virtually all peer reviewed articles in scientific journals agree with the premise that man is responsible for climate change.

The biggest hindrance to selling English antique furniture is how people process the information that you give them. Clients of old cared about “pretty” furniture more than anything and the antiques trade did its best to supply them with such. Early collectors, on the other hand, understood antique furniture style and yet even they did not know if, for example, there were replaced legs or feet or if the piece was enhanced. Trying to explain these vicissitudes today makes the field seem complex and even incomprehensible. Who wants to buy something that, if it is not in its completely original state with Chippendale’s bill describing it, isn’t perfect? It is the question du jour in the trade.

Misinformation is designed to lead people away from the truth. When we are confronted by what we believe is a fact, as was Dr. Oreskes, she chose to question further. Oddly, Dr. Oreskes, found that the purveyors of the misinformation were doing it because they believed that capitalism would solve the problem. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case and the damage they have done has lent credence to the anti-climate change skeptics. That damage is almost insurmountable when it is endlessly repeated—so, too, with misinformation about English furniture. It is just considerably more dire when our ecosystems are at stake.


This has been an active week for English furniture in New York City. The International Show, also known as IFAADS, opened Thursday evening. Openings have become less and less serious at the Armory, and more and more cocktail parties. There is nothing wrong with this unless you are a dealer and you have people camping in front of your booth with hors d’oeuvres spilling around the entrance to your booth and possibly a real customer blocked from entering. In any case, the English furniture at the show is worth the price of admission. Like every show, there are many things worth looking at and a few that aren’t, but that is the way things are these days.

You often wonder just why it is that there a group of dealers whose love and dedication to what they sell hasn’t been enough to sustain them in business. You could say this is what has happened to Kentshire Antiques whose inventory, sadly, was sold at Sotheby’s last Saturday. Bob Israel and Fred Imberman are two of the principles of the firm and I have found myself at Laguardia at 11PM waiting for a flight to Maine with them on a very cold night which was even colder in Maine. After a short night in a motel near Portland, we were up and on the road by 7 reaching the auction house by 9. We spent a lot of money together. It was great fun.

The joy of buying and selling great items is something that few people who have not done so cannot comprehend. Of course, profit is always nice and sustains the passion, but it is the passion which sustains the business. We know and love English antique furniture and are supremely excited by finding that rare item which resonates with all the knowledge we have accumulated in the last 40 years. The dealers at IFAADS are no different nor are the ones that don’t do major shows. Their joy is in finding, saving, researching and resurrecting the past through objects. When people reduce the job to numbers, everything takes on a flatter less interesting dimension.

I hate to say it, but at the moment, numbers are what seem to count the most. People with money are reluctant to give profits to dealers because they see no added value. And, from time to time, particularly with certain types of dealers, there is no added value. Contemporary art is proselytized by many passionate buyers and sellers, but there are some dealers whose eyes never leave the bank balance and they make the process far less enjoyable. I am thinking of the Larry Gagosian, Ronald Perelman feud, a feud about money. Not about art.


Since I have subscribed to the New Yorker, I find that my book reading input has vastly diminished. That is, of course because of the quantity of material that is in the New Yorker. It is a densely packed magazine with excellent writing that is always a great read. What I like the most about it is that you get more than one side of a story—indeed you get many sides of the story.

The problem I have with the magazine, however, has to do with subject material. I always read the articles, no matter what they are about, but I find that I remember about one in ten of them. On a recent hour long train journey, I read about three articles and when I arrived, I realized that I didn’t remember one of them. It could be me, but when I mentioned this to my brother, he wholeheartedly agreed. The writing is worth reading, the subject of the writing often isn’t.

I suppose I ought to be more selective about which articles I choose to read. I certainly find that the editorial page of the NY Times is a little like “Ground Hog Day” as the writers tend to beat the same drum the same way on every editorial. You can’t fault them for that, but you can get tired of reading the same thing over and over. What’s the answer? Well, Russian literature has never let me down, I just have to be willing to dive in. Ocean swimming versus lake swimming.


I have visited a great many museums over the years and more often than not, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by what I see. That was true for the Toledo Museum in Ohio, the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, the Portland Art Museum in Maine and a host of others. But I have to say that I had almost forgotten the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What an error of omission! It is easily one of the finest museums I have (re-)visited in the last ten years.

The museum is probably best known these days for the “Rocky” steps, the steps leading up to the entrance that were pictured in the “Rocky” movie. The day I was there, a fellow ran up the steps and raised his arms in triumph at the top, a la Sylvester Stallone. The fact that he had an extra twenty-five pounds around the middle didn’t seem in the least ironic to him or his companions. As beneficial as the publicity has been for the museum, however, it hardly needs it. It is filled with wonderful things.

I steered towards the wing where the American decorative arts are located and was waylaid by some select drawings by Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Demuth. From there to American furniture where this is some spectacular pieces by Thomas Affleck, the Philadelphia cabinetmaker that was among the greatest imports to Philadelphia in the 18th century. His work has been mistaken as being English because of the sophistication of his carving and his style (Chippendale) that he brought with him on emigration. His work is spectacular.

It is, however, the American fine arts that are really familiar to me and the galleries are lined with iconic works of art by America’s greatest artists. Charles Wilson Peale’s portrait of two of his sons, Raphael and Titian on a staircase, the last step of which is a real step making it, I suppose, a multi-media piece, is incredibly endearing. The whole room of Thomas Eakins paintings gives you a much broader definition of this artist than his famous paintings of pugilists. There is almost too much to mention.

It is English furniture that I went to see, however, and I particularly wanted to see the Thomas Johnston tripod torcheres. I look at the matching pair to the set in London at the Victoria and Albert and they remain one of the few items that, if I owned them, I would not sell. Easy to say, but to me they are priceless. There was, however, so much more including some wall brackets—again by Johnston—console, tables, a suite of carved mahogany furniture, and much more. I am leaving out the superlatives, but it is all crème de la crème.

Aging is, I believe, a function of re-discovery. Our initial introduction to things, particularly works of art be they decorative or fine, get redefined every time we see them. The re-definition may, in fact, be a downgrade, but in most cases I find even greater depth than I did the time before. The Johnston torcheres, for example, appear to me as the best examples of the mature rococo that I know of. They are furniture as art and as a philosophic expression. Shortly after their completion, there was a new style altogether which, in turn, reached a maturity and subsided. Visit Philly, it is a treat.