There was a time when we (and may other fine dealers) would supply interior designers with phenomenal loads of great antiques and decorative furnishing for display at the Kips Bay Designer Show House. It was a showcase where interiors were created to inspire one to the finest in taste, style, and quality. None of those last 3 adjectives describes how I would classify this week’s opening of this esteemed event.
It is not to say that there isn’t talent, but if something wasn’t of the contemporary nature or “faux” edgy, it would not have a place in this Show. Not only were there barely any items over 100 years old, you could probably count on your hand the number that were even 50 years old. Mid-Century was somehow in short supply, and items of outstanding quality, non-existent. What does this say about the state of decorating with antiques and the pursuit of living with the finest? It does say if you have bold colors or just plain white you can decorate on a dime. Cheap is now chic.
The need for furnishing at all is now in question. I bring this point up as I saw a 4 page (a 2 double page pull out) advertisement in the New York Times Magazine). It showed the expanse of looking through the all glass windows of luxury apartment with a man (husband) standing on a terrace on the 1st page and a woman (his wife) in the dining area on the last (4th page). Almost no furniture, accessories, even walls are seen in the panorama of the apartment. Oh, but there was one essential piece, the white on white contemporary art on wall. The decoration is on the outside of the apartment; the lights and views of New York City are meant to be more important than the actual living environment. If this is the future of interior design, I have a lot of old firewood sitting in my inventory.
That actually may be the case. This relentless trend has not abated but is now is a total freefall. Have a conversation with anyone and with the rare exception (especially anyone now under 50) they will not be embracing period (any period) pieces. According to the confirmation of this trend as exhibited at Kips Bay, old is not relevant to today’s world. Having the latest gadget or trophy asset means more than aspiring to have knowledge of quality, craftsmanship, and historical value.
The pity of it all is that antiques and decorative arts of all styles and periods have failed in Marketing 101. Cache is not associated with a Chippendale chair as much as a Jackson Pollack painting. The image of tired, functionally difficult to live with furniture is in full retreat to simplicity of form and color. Perhaps antiques and the decorative arts need a makeover however it’s not going to come from the interior design trade; most of them have already left the building.