It’s time for me to stop belly aching about the auctions for a moment and reflect upon what I think is the most significant trend in the decorative arts market in the last 5-10 years.
The dominance of the decorative arts from the second half of the 20th and even 21st Century in the last decade has had a monumental effect on everyone in the industry. If one were to look at a pie chart of the styles being sold 25 years ago, the percentage of classical French and English styles would stand out as the order of the day. In 2006, those 2 styles are clearly being overwhelmed by these modern designs.
In other words, the world of fashion and taste has taken a turn that has had a profound effect on what is being sold and who is selling it. As an industry observer, I have never seen so many dealers liquidating their inventory at auction and just giving up on the business. Most are dealers that have stuck with those traditional periods, where the demand has weakened.
However, dealers of modern design decorative arts have benefited from this trend, as revealed in the propagation of dealers, antiques shows, and auctioneers that specialize in this area. Again I go back to my old faith in market forces; if the demand is there, the market will react. Dealers will die out when they are not able to respond to the market’s forces, just as new dealers will want to enter it.
I remember going to Paris 15-25 years ago and seeing many small dealers valiantly trying to sell these 20th Century items and trying to compete with established dealers of classical French periods. The pie was a sliver for their goods. 15-25 years ago, Toyota has a sliver of the demand for cars in the US. With the evolution of style, functionality, and design trends, the dynamic forces of the market will alter and shrink the slice of the pie for complacent industry leaders. The antiques market is true to this doctrine.