An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 38

Clinton Howell Antiques - August 13, 2018 - Issue 38
An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture
A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts
To begin with, I want to say that I will be taking a break from these posts for about a month. I will be on the road and attending the Burning Man Festival in the high desert of Nevada where I hope to take lots of photos of art works there and write my impression of the event. I have been before, twice in fact, but the last time was five years ago, so it will be like starting from scratch. For those of you that don't know Burning Man, I recommend reconnaissance through Google. I only marginally fit in as I am way over the age limit for all sorts of BM events. However, the sculpture is divine and I have to say that after visiting Art Basel last year and seeing their attempt at imitation, that nothing really beats the BM art experience. It is singular and worth the trip. Indeed, I would posit that Burning Man is one of the great art exposes of the year outstripping Frieze, Art Basel and any other fair you wish to mention. 

Back to the 1990's and the English furniture market. I will never forget what one of the British dealers said to me around 1998. He had just sold a desk for close to a million dollars and he had several comments, the first about the buyer of the desk who, he said, didn't even sit at it to try it and the second about the market saying, the market is finished, it's over. In a way, if you reconcile the first comment with the second, you can see that as long as clients were buying because they felt they had to, that there really was no market, the proof being of a buyer whose interest in the piece was nothing personal. For most of us in the English furniture business, it is a passion and very personal. That passion has many facets including history, discovery, renewal or revival, education and, to some extent in that it keeps you going, business. It is very hard to be happy about someone buying a piece because they feel they have to, for form or fashion's sake. The profit is nice, but it doesn't bode well for the future. When that ancillary support that created the sale disappears, it can effect an entire market. And it has.