Back in the day (the 20th Century), you either bought antiques and decorative arts at auction or from dealers spread throughout the US and Europe. Sourcing merchandise was easy but competitive, with a robust dealer/auction base and a consumer market bursting with demand. Anyone of means could open a shop and be a “dealer” of fine objects in any small or large city. A sense of taste, knowledge, and a little capital for inventory and a shop were the requisite requirements for success. Fast forward to the present and the necessities for survival have a completely different format.
The showroom and shop structure has gone the way of Amazon Prime. It’s not about scholarship and knowledge but design and trends. Passion and appreciation has taken a backseat to form, function, and availability. The need to have it now supersedes the thrill of the find and pursuit of the extraordinary. With these new parameters, the internet offers the only resource to cast the widest net in the need to find, value, and secure items of interest. That interest now fights with travel, food, entertainment, and technology among the many demands for one’s attention.
Interior design and the residential environment has morphed from a space of primacy to one of means to an end. When was the last time you entertained guests (not family) in a dining room; then again when was the last time you had dinner in your dining room? And the living room, does it have any function anymore? We live in a different reality where the home serves a different utility than in the traditional sense. Rooms have been redefined as to purpose and meaning, with an eye on a different approach to space, color, and light. Perhaps the view from the 45th floor takes precedent over the interior décor, or maybe it’s the architectural minimalism that sets the tone. Interior furnishings seem to take a secondary role, but that’s where there is opportunity for the decorative arts.
With the new availability of merchandise through the internet, the means for procurement of interesting items has never been easier. And in the scheme of pricing, there has been such a downdraft in prices over the last decade that overpaying is marginal. Yes, I overpaid for my Mercedes and I know someone got a better price than me, but so what. I’m driving a nice car and I enjoy it as much as the guy who made the better deal. Pricing antiques has a negotiable metric that should also equate to some form of satisfaction and pleasure beyond the cost.
The possibilities for antiques and the decorative arts in the home or office will continue to evolve. Methods of purchase will always be in a state of dynamic change and the internet will be that engine (what’s after 1stdibs). The touch and feel aspect has already made the leap into the digital world. The future demand for these items rests on a change in perception. Today, being a dealer or an auctioneer offers little cache to a sale. Antiques must solely rely on a change in taste and attitude. Everyone can and wants to live in an environment that defines their personality with furnishing that give some meaning and definition of that individual.