I started writing this blog when the antiques business was pre “Great Recession” in January of 2007. It was when the venerated New York Winter Antiques Show was on its last legs as an event with past glories. At that time the selection of dealer inventory styles was expanding. The extent that the show has now evolved has made it a shell of its former level of quality and cache as well as a barometer of the present state of antique furniture.
Americana was the historical theme of the Winter Show. Years of diversification of styles have taken its toll on the home made wares. The place now to see more and better Americana is at the The American Antiques Show (TAAS). If this is what you like, this is the place to see it. Auctions aside, it had great diversity, quality, and ambiance for an intimate look at this specific field. No mid-century modern distractions.
What was a smaller, focused show made it a collector’s delight. It was almost like going to a grand Sotheby’s or Christie’s Americana sale in the 1990’s, when the catalogues reminded me of telephone books. The success of those sales was a combination of diversity, quantity, and quality. It is also something that this duopoly can’t quite do so easily anymore. It helps to be able to sell merchandise for a fair price when you don’t have to deal with a secret reserve or buyer’s premium. At a show like this, good dealers should not just explain what he is selling, but listen carefully to what the buyer wants, including price flexibility.
In thinking about this year’s newest form of the Winter Antiques Show, there should have been something for everyone. Whether it was figures from Antiquity or sleek 2nd half 20th Century furniture, this show had some samplings. However the biggest void now in this show use to be one of its hallmarks outside of Americana, great Continental 18th Century decorative arts. Where were all of those dealers whose inventory reeked of opulence and wealth? My friends, times in this industry are moving at light speed, and it doesn’t make a difference anymore if you’re a dealer or auctioneer. The buying public is fair game for everyone.
The great question now facing the direction of the antiques business is where now? Is the mid 20th Century style intractable in its grip on current taste, or is the English Arts & Crafts Movement now ready for a rebirth? Is it now chic to mix Contemporary Art with classical antiques or is there need for any furniture at all? As one dealer mentioned to me at the Show, “what should I be buying, I haven’t a clue” and another pondered “is this show English furniture’s Waterloo? My only thought on the matter is, just let them buy anything.