Any family owned business run by the third generation, probably has had to evolve or have a format that is very predictable. I would be ignorant if I didn’t think luck and timing never hurt either. A fourth generation of family is lurking in my business; what must the possibilities of the decorative arts trade future be?
Reports that the antiques trade is rebounding is the biggest joke in the fine and decorative arts world. You just can’t keep contemporary or 20th Century modern sculpture and fine art down. As a fourth generation dealer focused on the decorative arts, you better have luck and timing, or a real business plan. Business plans in the decorative art aren’t currently being well marketed, but probably don’t exist. The state of this part of the arts industry is rudderless and even the Sotheby’s/Christies duopoly can’t and don’t want to deal with it. If there ever was a reason to expose the reserve, these sales would be cannon fader for everyone.
Auction methods aside, the opportunities for Newel are to enhance our fantastic rental business to TV and motion picture productions, with the salability of the items. Selling is a challenge. Today’s customer is savvy and knows how to procure information about anything, anytime, anywhere. Frankly, I don’t see how my experience in the industry gives me any clarity about tomorrow and what opportunities could out there. We need now the energy and thinking of the next generation, a 20 something.
For me as a dealer, I still have a fond memory of how my grandparents build Newel with a no-nonsense focus on a rental business starting with Broadway, and then movies and TV along with window display and commercial photography. A land line telephone and a mechanical adding machine was all the technology you needed. Somehow, the second generation missed something between that technology and an iPad 2 technology. It must have been luck and timing back then.
Number four will have quite a different method of operation, but it will always come down to substance in our industry. The proverbial “eye” will never be out of fashion, and is the only requirement to be “in the trade”. Without that there is limited entry in the art world. However, having ultimate physical control of inventory presents the greatest opportunity. For Newel, it isn’t wasted space; it is a rental possibility and/or a saleable item.
I am truly excited about the potential creative opportunities if a family member wants to participate in this business’s future. However, the roots of success and long standing of the company has to do with the unique relationship my grandfather developed with clients who needed his products. He provided service and attention to detail. Perhaps this is still a requirement for any business to continue.