Mid 20th Century decorative and fine arts has been the dominant period of collecting and decorating, certainly for the last decade. The classical English, French, and Italian designs have been relegated to the dust bin of the out of fashion styles, or have they just been dormant and unnoticed by the public. Taste has always been an evolving phenomenon and the present affinity with 20th Century and modern design will invariably change, but how and when?
My glimpse into where trends are heading comes from my contact with interior designers and what they are looking for to satisfy their clients’ needs and comforts. Residential interiors have always been about matching a life style environment with the costs to attain such appropriate furnishings. There is a certain balance in the use of antiques that matches availability and functionality with knowledge and value. Certainly Mid-Century modern items were made to be functionally easy to live with and are readily available on the market, as they were produced in great quantities. Their price points are also quite reasonable.
These factors have justified the growth of dealers and sites like 1st Dibs, which cater to this market; it is the only market in the antiques industry that has experiences any form of growth. However, I believe there is a significant tradeoff between this period of design and those of earlier forms; the approach to craftsmanship and limited quantities of production should make for a more unique and discriminatingly finer product.
As much as I am not a fan of a mahogany 18th Century Chippendale arm chair, there is no denying its special qualities of aged patina and labor intensive cabinetmaking techniques. I feel the same way about the sinuous form of an Art Nouveau inlaid and carved table designed by Louis Majorelle, or a Neo-classical Italian piece with all its history, powerfully bold design, and decoratively painted finish. These classical styles were not and can never be mass produced; copied yes, but the reproductions made today would drive me to seek shelter to even Mid Century Modern items.
I am a believer that “what comes around goes around” and the Mid-Century Modern trend will eventually be absorbed into the vocabulary of another style of antiques. As tastes and style evolve, so will demand and appreciation of antiques of specific forms and style rise and fall from favor? With the present shrunken number of dealers outside of the Mid-Century market, the opportunity for those that see an evolution in taste will present a great opportunity.