Years ago I read a book called “Sugar Blues” which laid out the evils of too much sugar. Last night, I watched a film called “Forks Over Knives” which investigates the roll of meat and dairy in our lives and what it does to our bodies. I am fascinated by such exposes for several reasons. The foremost is that our government subsidizes all three of these industries. The second reason is the total lack of awareness that the vast majority of our populace seems to have about the things they put in their mouths. Lastly, I am blown away by how clever the various industries are at inserting themselves so totally into American lives.

The 18th century does not recommend itself to me as being the ideal time to have lived. Yes, the decorative arts were at their apogee in a number of fields, but many of the processes used to make them were dangerous and many of the workers treated poorly. If you were an aristocrat, your concerns were less focused on the dangers of foods and more on plenitude. Being fat was a sign of success. And as for government subsidies, the food industry was not an industry in those days. And think of how nice it might be to have a total absence of advertising in your life. That might be among the most positive aspects of 18th century life.

The first great PR campaign in my opinion started in the 17th century. As unlikely as this may sound, I am referring to Louis XIV. Threatened by riots when he was very young, he had two precepts that must certainly have guided him in the majority of his decisions. The first was that he was God’s chosen representative to lead France and the second was that France be a nation, not a group of loosely confederated city states. Hence, he centralized power, built Versailles and engaged in wars that  substantiated both his, and France’s omniscience. It was a coup that set the stage for decades of war to come in Europe. It is, perhaps, as dubious a legacy as pushing, sugar, meat and dairy.

There a great many people in my business moaning about how contemporary, modern or even IKEA furniture has taken over as the preference for young people decorating their homes today. Is that really true? Yes, fads and fashions change and the boom of the 80’s and 90’s for English furniture has passed, but does that mean that people don’t like antiques anymore? It is a question that is very hard to answer because it is hard to relate personal experience to a trend.

There are dealers that are doing well and others that are not. I see my business as one of convincing people that they can buy good things from me at the right price. To do this, I need a reasonably sized inventory and the pieces must be of a high quality. How do people know if mine is a good price? I tell them to comparative shop and buy the item elsewhere if they can find it for less. This is not the sales pitch of the 80’s and 90”s. This is business 101. What is most difficult for me is finding things at the right price that I can sell. Demand is off and supply is non-existent.

In English antique furniture selling 101, it is the price point of what you sell that most matters. Whether or not we want to believe it, antiques have become a competitive market. It hasn’t always been that way. At one point, demand was so great that one could ask a price based on availability. Such markets elide the focus on quality which is the byword of good to great 18th century English furniture and crucify the least savvy buyers. That isn’t happening in today’s market. For the dealer, you need to align the stars of price and quality. In truth, it is as it should be.

Mark Bittman wrote a piece for the New York Times on-line edition about exaggeration. He was referencing the arguments and accusations that are swirling around the food business, from the overuses of sugar, salt and fat, the marketing of such products, the genetically engineered products that can resist Round Up and so on. The arguments get heated and conflate with exaggeration when these subjects arise and objective, factual discourse dissolves. Half truths abound and they are easily rebuffed by the people who wish to either hide the truth or be the avenging angels.

I used to be so enthusiastic about the furniture I sold that I would refer to a piece as “the best I had ever seen on the market”. This was factually accurate to my experience, but in truth, markets shift and move, pieces come and go. Great English furniture will go off the market for years, making it seem like it is gone forever. But it does return and until that time, the use of the superlative is conditional at best. Indeed, the superlative is seldom relevant when talking about any kind of art. It either speaks to you or it doesn’t.

Experience is the essence of understanding.  An antique dealer who has seen very little can talk in superlatives all day long, but exaggeration, in this case, belies experience. Indeed, it leads you to believe that exaggeration when used in selling is, by definition, inaccurate. When you have looked at thousands and thousands of chairs, for example, you realize that the greatest chair is one that is unique and that all chairs are unique. In fact, you become humbled through understanding and the penchant for talking about something as “the best” becomes absurd. As it should.

The big rain finally came today. April showers may be late, but they do always seem to make it sooner or later. I am not certain if it would have been better for the Spring Show, NYC, to have rain instead of beautiful weather. I think that if you have a good product, people will, just like April showers, come.

I would like to think that modern technology encouraged good products. But technology is the source of its own undoing. I think I have owned six mobile phones since 1997. Maybe five, but I am not sure. Why not make a phone that just takes a new chip and gets upgraded? The answer is that people love newness.

Newness is alluring. But so are things that are well maintained. In fact, if you look at the buildings of New York City, you will see new ones that capture the eye, but it is the old ones that capture the imagination. They may not even be stylish, an old warehouse can do the trick, but they speak of life. The distinction is noteworthy since we all hope to grow old.

The tulips have had a very good spring. No high winds or intense downpours have stripped the petals from the flower. Furthermore, there have been very few frosts, so it isn’t just the tulips that have prospered. It has been a very unusual spring from a meteorological perspective and we have benefitted by unusually long flower retention. It certainly brightens up the spring.

Condition is of huge importance to antique dealers. Not just personally, of course, but of the items we buy. We would all love to be able to buy that untouched rarity that Chippendale put into place two hundred and sixty years ago, but that just isn’t possible. Restoration is inevitable. When it is good restoration, a piece will continue to thrive. Poor restoration only hastens its demise.

The Spring Show, NYC opens tonight. It is a great show with, at least from my perspective, the friendliest exhibitors you will find anywhere. The ASPCA is the charity for opening night and their help and participation reflects their commitment to their mission. They are great partners. Should you read this and be in NYC, I will happily leave you a ticket at the door. It closes May 5, Sunday.