Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanks for the response!

It's been a while since our last post (sorry!), but in the mean time, we have received such tremendous response to our recent column. A bit bleak, to be sure, but we think a much needed reality check.

Yes, it's true that there are some dealers and auctioneers out there trying to make some changes and do things differently, however, it's a long, steep, uphill climb to get new faces at shows and auctions. That is precisely why we need an industry-wide image makeover. We need to get rid of the gameshow image of the Antiques Roadshow and the gotta-make-a-buck image of American pickers. We need to convince non-collectors that you don't have to turn your house into a museum to enjoy antiques. We need to get rid of snobbishness masquerading as connoisseurship.

Perhaps we need to simply drop the words "antiques" and "collector" from our lexicon. What about "historic furnishings"? What about "enthusiast"? Surely there are terms we can use that are less antiquated and less fussy. Any thoughts??


Author said...

It is definitely safe to say that in terms of the public perception of mid-range antiques as being fun, accessible and frankly - desirable, contemporary art/forms and catalogs are winning.

Much of this has to do with the unwavering consistency of presentation the antiques trade has shown over the years and how contemporary art and modern forms are dynamic - changing frequently.

Over the years I have heard designers, as well as mainstream media refer to antiques as stuffy, dusty and as 'that horrible stuff you see on the antiques roadshow' (ouch). At the same time contemporary art and modern forms have been branded as the party you want to be seen at.

As I write this over 40,000 people are attending Art Basel in Miami and, while not as strong as 2008, sales at all levels seem to be rebounding and attendance is high. Lots of mixed comments - some bad art, some great - but that's where the attention is.

When one reads articles about the extensive branding which now goes into the contemporary art market, it is easy to flich. Many artists and collectors think it's gotten out of hand. I tend to agree with them, though this does not negate the desperate need for antiques to be modernized in presentation.

For myself, when I look at antiques as shown at a mid-range shows or in galleries, I see the same 'look' and 'personality'. For myself, what does catch my eye are those dealers who have been able to meld great contemporary art with antiques. They also are the ones which have gained much attention for themselves. It makes sense - It breathes a new life and innovation to the material which people can relate to. Merchandising will be key to creating a new audience on the retail level and I agree it has to be based on visual strength and innovation as opposed to a lifestyle which is long past.

With regards to a term, I like 'material culture'. It's true to intention, but also oddly modern in many respects.

james conrad said...

Tough column, maybe it will wake up some of the folks in the antique industry, even a few would be a start. It's just not 1990 anymore & many in the industry need to stop whining about the way it used to be and deal with the realities of the current situation.Let us just face it, the marketing of antique objects to a far to large extent, is simply dreadful.

Nicole Belolan said...

I think you're right that words/phrases like "historic furnishings" would be too 'fussy' or jargony. I'm not sure that I have any alternatives, though. I ran into a NY TIMES slide show that might interest you and your readers: It's interesting to see people valuing "make-dos," but only if they are "artful."

Kathryn Gargolinski said...

Great ideas! I'm in my 20s and new to the auction/antiques business, and I would never have thought to try to buy things for my home at auction because of "old and fussy" (not to mention "too expensive") stereotypes. Now I know better. Writing about these topics on blogs is a great way to attract attention! On the Skinner blog, Stuart Slavid wrote a post about the lack of young collectors in the world of fine ceramics:

He wonders at the end if online communities/social media could help boost declining membership in antiques societies. New terms like "historical furnishings" to go a long with these new technologies certainly couldn't hurt!

Lin said...

Love your column on MAD!

I would like to suggest we exchange the site link.

Urban Art and Antiques is our site which reports antiques show and museum exhibitions, discuss individual items and also issues editorial articles about the antiques industry. We have many contributors across the countries for different antiques show events.

Vintages said...

I personally like your current title. As a dealer in things hand crafted, "vintage" and antique, I look forward to your insight into trends and news about young collectors. Too often antiques are associated just with antique people! Thanks, and i look forward to continuing news.