The alchemy of knowledge and passion can usually result in a productive creation (not necessarily legal either). However, in the decorative arts as a dealer or collector, it now requires a new calculation of the supply/demand equation. The reality of how goods surface on the market has drastically changed and with it is a radically different consumer, who has an expanded or minimal visual perspective of space.
Filling the space to suite a lifestyle will usually require some sense of taste and style. Today, the buyer of antiques for the home has not changed much and has always been the largest application for their functionality. The home will always be the easiest destination for one’s own passion be it living or working. Where you want to show your passions and interest can range from an apartment with dramatic panoramic views of New York City, to bomb shelter garage housing a collection of vintage automobiles. It is all in the perspective of having enthusiasm and satisfaction.
Knowledge is much more tangible and easier to quantify. What you know presents a clear advantage that does not require an interpretation when the facts are self-evident. You know a Tiffany lamp when you have seen thousands. The decorative arts has so many nooks and crannies of makers, materials, shapes, and functions. How can’t you just keep learning? The search for knowledge and recognizing a great object requires an inquisitive mentality that has many competitors for your attention. It requires a motivation, which also includes money and valuation.
Since I first went on a European buying trip with my grandparents in 1963, I have witnessed some of the most critical junctures in the pricing, supply, and demand for use of decorative arts by interiors designers, who also work with collectors. Acquiring a 40 foot jumbo container of great merchandise was almost literally like a walk in the park. That fantasy period has completely disappeared and has now being transformed by the complete lack of dealer price support in the market. Are you kidding, who is buying things at auction for stock? Not nearly as many as in years past. The critical number of dealers to support auction pricing is vastly different and private purchasers cannot make up the difference.
Because of this disruption to the buying side of the decorative arts, new and exciting options will avail themselves to those dealers that afford to control or take advantage of the lack of competition both to buy and sell. As economists talk about generational passing of assets from parents to children, the amount of inventory potentially coming on the American market is staggering. There was such a tremendous importation of decorative arts into the United States in the last century and a half. Not much has gone back. For me there is no financial advantage to try to load up a container in Europe; it is already here, somewhere.
This gets me back to my original thought, how the changing market dynamics offers an opportunity for someone to wants to own and live with these items. It should not be a case of making it difficult to find and buy at a reasonable price. The decorative arts needs to embrace design, and expose minimalism for what it really is, stunted creativity.