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.