Its been a constant tendency over the last decade that 20th Century modern design and decorative arts have been the number one topic for publications to promote and elevate, at the expense of other periods of antiques. It was to my amazement that last Friday (April 24) in her Antiques column, Wendy Moonan of the New York Times started her article by suggesting that “antiques were creeping back into favor”. Well it’s about time.
Her source for this epiphany was none other than the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, which last year I criticized as being the poster forum for Mid-Century Modern design when it was showcased in an apartment building constructed in the 1950s. The use of antiques then was practically nonexistent. Now, with the format back in a traditional town house location, she commented that the designers created setting that were “more eclectic, and many more antiques are in evidence, a lot of them unusual pieces from different countries and centuries”.
The interior design trade for the last decade has abandon antiques, and their use in coffee table design magazines has been spotty at best. Decorators were eagerly availing themselves to client who avoided the stigma of “old furniture” verses the cache of new and modern; the interior design style trend went hand in hand with the contemporary art craze. Just like financial bubbles burst, we are now seeing that phenomenon taking place with modern art and design. Perhaps the public is starting to recognize that antiques and classical designs are timeless and really don’t go out of date.
More importantly, with antiques “what comes around goes around” and cycle the of what trend is presently in vogue will always be fluid. As I have observed prior to the 1970s, French, English, and Victorian were the lead styles as seen in the shelter magazines of the time. The iconic decorators like Billy Baldwin and Sister Parish kept their clients in classically designed and furnished interiors. In the 1980s and 90s we saw a proliferation of new periods such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Biedermeier become popular and successfully enter the public’s acceptance.
I always felt that with the approach of the 21st Century, 20th Century designs would become desirable. As we cross the millennia, Mid-20th Century works of art began to distance themselves from the 21st Century. Now that we are almost a decade into this present century perhaps we are now tiring of over exposure to this period style. Maybe antiques aren’t so old after all; maybe they just have to be freshened up.