Journal

22 December 2014

NEW YORK WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW

23 January - 1 February 2015

"We are excited at the prospect of exhibiting for the 15th consecutive year at this most highly respected and longest established Antiques Fair in the United States. We will soon be be publishing a catalogue featuring some of the items that we have sourced and selected to show at this premier event. The exhibits are currently on their way over to the USA and we look forward to presenting them in our re-designed booth (No5) and to meeting with friends and clients, old and new."

If you would like to visit us at this year's Winter Antiques Show in New York, please email office@robertyoungantiques.com for a complimentary Guest Ticket.

 

17 December 2014

It’s really here now, the sun kept shining for so long and the warm autumn extended to keep Winter at bay, but it's arrived and now it’s almost Christmas.

Always a busy time here as we pack up and send off our consignment for the New York Winter Antiques Show , prepare the Spring Catalogue and finally get ready to enjoy the seasonal festivities.

Most of the work for these now completed, our minds turn towards log fires, candlelight, ordering real tuck and indulging in nostalgic memories.

Our business revolves around a kind of aesthetic nostalgia. Lifestyles that were dictated by the seasons, traditions, folklore, old ways of making things, homespun fabrics, artificial light made with oil, homemade tallow candles and rush lights, the storage and preparation of food all somehow relate to the artefacts and objects we now revere for their wonderful age honoured forms and tactile surfaces.

The survivors are objects and works that were cared for and have a quality about them that multiple generations have recognised and which have saved them from being discarded as obsolete or unfashionable.

A rare diminutive Spice Cupboard from the Queen Anne period, the door enhanced with detailed geometric parquetry and enclosing a fully fitted interior with nine original drawers. This fine little cupboard retaining its working lock and key, hinges and drop ring handles, just as it was made, yet now enhanced by a glowing patina and aged individual character.

A simple and well drawn domestic Wine Goblet dating from the mid seventeenth century, how can this have survived? Turned from a single piece of solid pear wood, with an historic repaired age crack down one side, expertly “sewn” together with metal wire in an intricate pattern, to hold it together and still retain liquid. Now patinated like old leather, burnished and glowing.

Then a little turned wood Spice Pot from the mid nineteenth century, not so ancient, but wonderfully hand decorated to simulate serpentine stone, (a material highly prized in the Renaissance and by collectors of “souvenirs” on the Grand Tour in the early C19th), still with a tightly fitting lid, the little spire finial intact and paintwork as clever and deceptive as the day it was made.

None of these are constructed of precious materials, but they survived, they are the winners, the ones that made it through to tell us their story and help enable us to imagine the world and circumstances in which they were created. To still enjoy the musty hint of spice engrained in them and the glorious character and “skin” that their journeys have bestowed upon them is our pleasure.

These, like all the pieces we handle, have been around for many Christmases.

We hope you will enjoy some traditional festivities and cheer. Enjoy some live music and song. Be merry, share happiness and smile with those you love.

Happy Christmas from all of us at Robert Young Antiques

 

18 November 2014

Our new Winter Catalogue #40 has been published and distributed and we have already started work on our Spring Catalogue #41.

However, between these and our couple of major shows, interesting and exciting pieces come and go. Earlier this month for example, amongst other things we sold an extraordinary and documentary massive early Leather Bombard. Measuring 2 ft (61cms) in height, inscribed with name, place and date 1765 and with direct Provenance to two exceptional Private Collections, it was one of the finest and most impressive examples known to exist and a privilege to handle. It has now gone to another remarkable collection. We are permanently on the lookout for such things, as well as previously undiscovered or unrecognised works of Vernacular and Folk Art, but cannot be everywhere.

Happily we have developed a great network of contacts and friends who send us details of works they discover or know to be coming onto the market in out of the way places or from local estates, which they believe will appeal to us and have the qualities we look for. Between them, they help unearth some fine pieces that we may otherwise never get to see or know about. During the course of this weekend for example we were offered pieces from Scotland, the East Midlands, Dorset and Sweden, all interesting in one way or another. From time to time, we like to acknowledge the importance of the people who find such interesting things for us and remind others of how important such relationships are.

In a world that has gone information bonkers and everybody knows what you had for breakfast before you leave home, it’s wonderful to have people with informed and selective eyes, out looking for things to share with us. So while we do the washing up after breakfast on a Monday morning, sometimes we have already started off our week with purchases of things that have been sourced elsewhere, before we head off on the scent of something in another direction.

We never know when we will find or part with anything, such is the excitingly random pattern of our working life.

 

29 October 2014

Battersea Park is beginning to be tucked up for winter and the fallen leaves are creating patterns over the grass of the playing fields.
The clocks have been turned back, the open fire is flickering in the shop again and we accept that Autumn is here.
So as we stacked up a new pile of seasoned logs today, our thoughts turn indoors again.
We have just received a new batch of our “Signature” scented candles, so for those who have been asking, we now have them in stock again.
Our Winter Catalogue #40 is being mailed out this week and the digital version should also be available soon.
Somehow wonderful old things keep finding their way to us, then leave........and the cycle continues.

 

 

03 September 2014

LUCK, CHANCE, HAPPENSTANCE and...INFORMATION.

Antiques Young Guns Heavy Artillery Mentoring

Daniel Larsson won me as a prize in the 2014 Antiques Young Guns Awards, ouch!

Perhaps it would be rather more accurate to say that in recognition of his achievement of building an internationally known antiques business, specialising primarily in original Swedish vernacular furniture, in a remarkably short time, he was selected as one of the winners of the innovative AYG Mentoring initiative and I was dumped on him as his personal mentor.

The mentoring scheme was introduced for the first time this year and as it has no history to build on and no formal guidelines or template to adhere to, neither Daniel nor I really knew what form it should take, or how to approach it.

However, I like the principles behind the Young Guns and have followed the development of the movement over the past couple of years. I admire their enthusiasm and vision and think the most talented of them are introducing a creative energy and individuality to their business’ and therefore also into the trade as a whole. All this during a period of remarkable change in taste, presentation and marketing of art and antiques.

So with this in mind and having been invited to act as a mentor, my intention was, and remains, to make as genuine a contribution as possible and do what I can to help move Daniel and Cristina’s business forward.

The antiques business has an amazingly rich history of “mentors”. Ask any successful dealer their story and you will find it will inevitably be peppered with references and anecdotes of older dealers who influenced, encouraged, helped or inspired them, but never previously in a formal framework like this. So I wondered how, in this slightly artificial environment,  I could condense some of the important things I have learnt from others and pass them on to Daniel and Cristina effectively.

So, prior to meeting him, I set about doing a bit of research, (as dealers do), into D.LARSSON Interiör & Antikhandel and gradually prepared what I considered might be a helpful “agenda” for us to consider on our first day together and looking forward.

My initial research showed Daniel and I to have a few potentially relevant things in common. He is married and working in a family partnership with a foreign girl, they will soon have two children, he is practical and hands on, he has a sensitivity for the vernacular and historic painted surfaces, he has a small shop, he works internationally, he likes the sea, a chat, a drink and is ambitious. Seemed like a good start and I don’t know how the Judges selected the pairings of mentors and mentees, but it felt like I had been dealt a good hand.

We emailed a few times, chatted on the phone a bit and arranged to meet in the UK a week or so ago. I picked him up at Gatwick.

He had the smallest carry-on bag for two days and nights in London you could imagine, (which I later discovered also contained a large pack of the most delicious coffee he had brought me as a gift from his hometown of Helsingborg, "just hoping you would like coffee"), was comfortably and casually dressed, in that cool Scandinavian way, topped off with headgear that somehow defines his generation. He excuded energy and warmth. First impressions were positive.

We chatted as we drove. At this stage I did not share my pre-prepared "agenda" with him, because I needed to know more about what his objectives were and to somehow define his ambitions. How did he hope to develop his business? What was his personal history, what were his motivations, passions, interests, inspirations and most importantly of all, what did he hope to achieve from our time together?

It seemed pointless to try and influence things at this stage, as this initiative is only likely to achieve anything if it is tailored to meet his targets. We chatted all day, I can’t remember ever having such a full-on conversation, for that length of time, certainly not with somebody I had only just met, since heady student days.

During the course of the day we visited a few dealers, had a pub lunch, dropped in unannounced to see one of my clients homes, (just because we were passing), looked at some of their collection and wandered around their garden, drove back to London, had supper at a little local Italian and a nightcap with Don Grant, the Arts Correspondent of Kensington and Chelsea Today and his welcoming family. We were still chatting.

During the course of the first morning I mentioned to Daniel that there are probably two major components to developing an antiques business. The first is the selection of stock, the second is to establish a clientele, (as any business can only be as strong as its client base). Leaving the prerequisite demands for edited stock selection and pricing aside for now, in my experience the other significant elements common to most successful dealerships, are: Information, Presentation, Eye, Reputation, Individuality, Intuition.......and Luck.

The problem is that all of these vital ingredients, with the important exception of "Information", are largely out of our direct control, (since Presentation is inextricably tied up with Eye and Individuality, which are somehow innate), so we need to understand that Information is our most precious and valuable controllable asset. Hence it is neither prudent nor natural for us to give it away! I explained that it may from time to time be difficult for me to answer questions for this reason and that for the purposes of this exercise we needed to be as open as possible with each other and respect absolute confidentiality between us. So I'm afraid that I am not in a position to share the juicy details of our discussions or action plans here. 

However, Daniel now has some new ideas and objectives, both specific and general, that dovetail in with the vision that he and Cristina had already formulated for their development. The "agenda" I had prepared did prove useful when we addressed it later in the day and when we reviewed it again, through slightly bleary eyes and with thick heads the next morning, before heading off our separate ways. Exciting.

Daniel has already worked himself into a good position. He has a great geographical, cultural and linguistic advantage to exploit his expertise in early Swedish furniture, he is developing his international business relationships and online presence, he has energy, passion and ambition. I think I may learn a lot from our times together.

It may seem churlish to mention, whilst discussing the possible merits of a mentoring scheme, but I did tell Daniel that luck, chance and happenstance have really been the most powerful forces in moving our business forward. Occasions when a chance word or meeting led us to valuable information, a great discovery, important clients or opportunities. When I look back it was moments such as these that have had the most significant impact on our business. But we have still always had a vision, supported by plans and objectives which we review regularly. Maybe without these we may never have benefitted from the luck?

Being nominated as mentor to D. Larsson Interiör & Antikhandel may just prove to be another such "lucky" moment for both of us.

 

 

 

 

 

29 August 2014

SEEING IS BELIEVING

Tradition dictates that summer business activity is generally quiet and holidays restful.

We left for the Wyoming Rockies the day after Masterpiece London closed and lost our normal daily preoccupations and responsibilities in the sage brush and rivers, under huge blue skies and cotton wool clouds.

Hardly normal in the conventional sense, but excitingly invigorating to wade waist deep in wild waters and to occasionally cover and enjoy the dramatic landscape on horseback, however uncomfortable, stiff, knackered and thirsty it may make you. Certainly it all seems further away even than the thousands of miles that actually separate our everyday lives from there. That is of course the reason we cherish it and feel so privileged and choose to return year after year.

Our time in the West is not relaxed nor restful in the conventional sense. Our days are generally long, hot and dusty punctuated with occasional short dramatic storms, bursts of hail and heavy rain. We start early, are active all day, showered and on our first beer by twilight, sharing stories of spectacular wildlife, reporting on river conditions, productive fishing flies and hatches, together with inevitable tales of fish we caught and the monsters that got away.

No mobile phones, no emails, no queues or traffic. Simply energetic, often humbling outdoor hours, spent in a naturally commanding landscape, rewarding for the dramatic contrast they make with our normal routine existence. Which is why it is so restful and restorative.

Life of course continues as normal at RYA in our absence and the summer weeks of July and August 2014 broke the trend and have been unusually busy Summer months.

The landmark British Folk Art Exhibition has continued to attract thousands of visitors to Tate Britain and has been acclaimed in multiple positive reviews, (we will post many of these on this site in due course). Generally this first National Exhibition has exceeded all expectations and as a result we have received new visitors here, who have been inspired or stimulated by the exhibition. It is wonderful that it will be going on to Compton Verney from 27 September to 14 December 2014 , so more will have a chance to see and enjoy it.

We at RYA have also enjoyed some exciting reviews and coverage in the press and media over the summer and it seems that finally Folk Art has been invited to “come out” into the mainstream art environment and has done so in style.

Masterpiece London 2014, is now confidently established. It has an air of calm assurance in its stylish temporary structure, in its elegant setting on the south lawns of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and attracted more visitors and active business than all the preceding years. It has built on strong foundations and in our eyes is now firmly established as London’s premier commercial art/antiques event. This year we met and conducted business with clients from all over the world and are delighted to have exhibited consistently since the inaugural show in 2010. We hope that those of you who came enjoyed your visits and will be inspired to return again next year.

Curiously visits to us here in Battersea, and to our website have also increased during the course of this year and possibly because of the British Folk Art Exhibition this trend did not slow down during July and August. The RYA website has become increasingly active as a separate “shop front” and selling platform with photographic images becoming increasingly important in our professional lives.

A similar trend has developed in the Wyoming valleys, where sightings of huge bull moose, brown bears, longhorn sheep, mountain lion and massive birds of prey, or tales of great wild fish, caught and released, can no longer be told with hand gestures and descriptions. In any self respecting bar, where fly fishermen and outdoorsmen gather in the gloaming, all stories now need to be supported by photographic evidence and details.

So this is the point where our professional and recreational lives share common ground. Where rarity, great beauty and the exceptional are concerned, seeing is believing.

 

20 June 2014

Masterpiece London 2014

These last two weeks have been very exciting and I write this having just loaded our collection for exhibition at Masterpiece London, 2014.

We will be at stand C11, which is currently having a bespoke hand painted wall canvas installed.

We have also created a new layout for the show this year and look forward to putting it all together over the weekend.

The shop will be open as usual during the run of Masterpiece 2014 and if any of you have not yet received your complimentary tickets, please contact the office and we will make the necessary arrangements for you.

For those of you who have not yet had the chance to visit Tate Britain to see the first national exhibition of British Folk Art, please note that it is conveniently situated just along the embankment from the South Grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Masterpiece is the pre-eminent Art | Antiques | Design event in London and 2014 is its fifth incarnation. Housed, as always, in a remarkable purpose built temporary structure, there will be a wide range of exhibits from some of the world’s leading specialists. It is spacious, comfortable and inspiring. Each year there are exceptional works to see and enjoy, we are confident that this year will be no exception.

We look forward to seeing many of you there next week.

 

10 June 2014

We are in the countdown to our exhibition at Masterpiece London 2014, for the fifth consecutive year, where we will be showing some fine works of British Folk Art, to compliment and compare with works on display, further along the Embankment, at the Tate.

British Folk Art at Tate Britain is now open. I feel like pinching myself as I write the words.

The nature of the works which we have sought out, exhibited and valued for the best part of forty years are no longer quite so “fringe”, “niche” or “neglected”.

Tate Curator Martin Myrone and artist Jeff McMillan have together curated the show which they describe as a “proposition”.  They have selected works which they believe have artistic merit of one kind or another and that have previously been described or exhibited as “Folk Art”.

They have not been drawn into explanations or definitions, they have simply put together a visually compelling collection, in multifarious media, to propose the idea that they have qualities worth recognising and exploring.

After the Press and Preview day yesterday, notices and reviews have already been published in notable newspapers including The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The London Evening Standard and in specialist press including The Art Newspaper, ATG “London Summer Capital of Art” and House & Garden periodical. British Folk Art has finally “come out”.

I will re-visit, maybe later today and probably then again on other occasions. I already knew some of the works very well, but enjoyed seeing them there, in the joyfully coloured galleries of Tate Britain, as conceived and directed by Martin and Jeff.

Most importantly this small exhibition announces a formal recognition of British Folk Art and acknowledges that it has played a part in the history and development of British Art.

Please make time to visit the show. You may not respond positively to it all, but I believe it plays an important role in the development and understanding of the qualities inherent to genuine naive and primitive art and that it will make you smile. Try it!

06 June 2014

We have been planning and looking forward to June 2014 for a long time and now suddenly everything seems to be happening so quickly!

The fifth Masterpiece London, Art, Antiques and Design Show opens in twenty days time.

We are happy to say, with confidence, that we shall be exhibiting some “museum quality” works at Masterpiece 2014, as other similar and important works of British Folk Art are being shown in the Tate Exhibition, which will be open and runs concurrently with Masterpiece, just along the Embankment from the Royal Hospital Chelsea South Grounds.

We have exhibited at Masterpiece since its inception and recognise that the founders, had the courage and conviction to give the London summer season the premier Art, Antiques and Design show it deserved and had long been waiting for.

They had the foresight to secure a wonderful central London location and the creativity to develop a unique space and atmosphere in which to showcase great works from multifarious disciplines and periods, sourced and presented by some of the world’s leading specialists.

Like all well managed events, it has been tweaked and fine tuned each year, culminating in the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful year in 2013. With such positive momentum and an amazing rapidly established international reputation, we can only see it developing the brand, already associated with extraordinary works, shown in a convivial space, in a remarkable temporary building and are proud to continue our participation and association with it.

We will be sending out a series of Newsletters/Journals over the coming days, illustrating some of the pieces we will be exhibiting and other details in the build up towards the opening.

For those of you who may be interested in visiting Masterpiece 2014, who are not already on our mailing list, please contact us if you would like a complimentary invitation to visit or if you would like any further information or details about the event.

As we thought, June 2014 is set to be an exciting month.

05 June 2014

Our 2014 Folk Art Exhibition is over and almost all the sold pieces have left us for their new homes.

It has become an important and enjoyable couple of weeks for us, as we see many of you here enjoying the pieces and sharing your thoughts and responses.

Curiously we continue to see as many visitors at the exhibition as we used to, but the visits have become more evenly spread out over the exhibition period, since much of the buying is now done directly from the Catalogue and our Online Catalogue, rather than at the Preview.

Direct catalogue sales and online business have increased greatly over the years, from both British and overseas clients and it is always rewarding to hear from those of you who write or call to say how pleased you are when you receive the pieces in the flesh.

Now our attention turns immediately to the preview party and opening of the Tate Exhibition of British Folk Art next week.

Excitement is building and there has already been some excellent press coverage of the show including:

"Folk Revival" in the BBC Antiques Roadshow Magazine

"Folk art, does it include your nan's knitting?" in The Guardian

"Tate Britain rejects ‘elitist’ Old Masters as Turner makes way for thatched king" in The Times

"Toby jugs and a straw King Alfred: The Tate celebrates British Folk Art" in The Express

"Remembering art's folk heroes" in the ATG supplement London Summer Capital of Art.

"Folk Tales" in House and Garden, July 2014

We have spoken to several other art critics and journalists who are interested in seeing the exhibition and in the concept of Folk Art being shown in Tate Britain.

Innovative Tate Curator Martin Myrone, Co-Curator Ruth Kenny and artist Jeff McMillan have worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to make this happen and will present the works they have selected in this groundbreaking show in an unconventional way and with fresh eyes.

We cannot think of a more fitting institution than Tate Britain to host this first national Exhibition of British Folk Art and applaud their initiative and vision.

Hopefully many of you will be able to visit the show which opens next Tuesday 10th June and runs until the end of August 2014.

 

14 May 2014

Our 2014 Exhibition of British and European Folk Art has three days left to run.

We have had many visitors over the past week and it is rewarding to have had such enthusiasm for the pieces, so many positive comments and consistent sales.

Hopefully we will see a few more of you here before the exhibition closes on Saturday.

We try to keep all the exhibits here for the run of the show, only a very a few have already gone, (as they needed to be go as part of international consignments) and a couple more leave tomorrow evening. The vast majority is still here to be seen and will remain here until we close on Saturday.

If you purchased pieces and would like to collect, we would appreciate it if you come after lunch on Saturday. We close at 4.00pm.

Then we immediately have other excitements to look forward to, firstly Tate Britain’s innovative exhibition of British Folk Art, “The House That Jack Built” opens on 10th June in under a month followed shortly by Masterpiece London on 26th June.

 

 

 

30 April 2014

Dear Friends & Clients

Please note the gallery will be closed from Friday 2nd May whilst we set up for our Annual Exhibition of British & European Folk Art. We will re-open on Thursday 8th May at 11am, and items illustrated in the catalogue will be on view at that time. 

We will be answering telephone calls and emails during set-up so please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

The Exhibition will be open from 11.00am - 6.00pm on Thursday 8th May and will then be open daily from 9.30am - 5.30pm on Weekdays, 10.00am - 4.00pm on Saturdays. The Exhibition closes on Saturday 17th May at 4pm.

We hope you will find a moment to come and enjoy the pieces over a drink and a chat.

The Team at Robert Young Antiques

09 April 2014

EXHIBITION OF BRITISH & EUROPEAN FOLK ART

Robert Young Antiques


8th -17th May 2014 

This year our Annual Exhibition opens just a month before Tate Britain hosts the first ever National Exhibition of British Folk Art. There are historic connections of naive and folk art with Tate. Jim Ede, for example, worked as an assistant curator at Tate before setting up home and gallery at Kettles Yard in Cambridge. Ede collected works by and explored the relationships between Ben Nicholson, Christopher Wood and artists from the British Modern and St Ives Schools, with untutored primitive artists like Alfred Wallis and Bryan Pearce. Pioneering Tate Curator Martin Myrone, working together with contemporary artist Jeff McMillan have brought together a diverse collection of works in multiple media for the Tate show. Their intention is to challenge historic conceptions of the genre and to help reconceptualise this body of non-professional, untutored native artwork, by considering the creative process and the “Art”, rather than the “Folk”. Tate Britain is the National Gallery of exclusively British Art and there is nowhere more appropriate for this pioneering show to be held. The curators say they see it as a “Proposition” rather than a survey and are optimistic that it will awaken interest and provoke a re-evaluation of the influence and significance of these works in a wider context.

The "Art World" has recently witnessed an explosion of interest in “Outsider” and “Self Taught” art which culminated in significant exposure at the 2013 Venice Biennale and The Hayward Gallery's "The Alternative Guide to the Universe" 2013 Exhibition. So gradually these previously fringe and often overlooked works are being reconsidered for their inherent expressive qualities and finding their place in the overall narrative of Art History.

It is hugely exciting and rewarding for us to see this evolve and to see British Folk Art represented at a national show in the hallowed galleries of Tate Britain.

Our 2014 Exhibition includes works in various media and reflects the qualities of creativity we believe are at the heart of Folk Art. We cherish the individuality of composition, form and texture found in these pieces. This is uninhibited art reflecting the pleasure and sensitivity of the makers and artists, which somehow celebrates a freedom of expression and an inspired vision.

Our new Summer Catalogue #39 illustrates and describes over fifty pieces from the Exhibition and will be available from the first week of May.

The Exhibition opens at 11am on Thursday 8th May and is open to everyone - collectors, curators, designers, enthusiasts, students, dealers and artists alike. We find this is a great opportunity for old friends, clients and those of you who have not previously visited us, to come and discover and hopefully be inspired or moved by the works over a drink and a chat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

03 April 2014

CURATING OUR FOLK ART EXHIBITION AND MASTERPIECE LONDON 2014

Curating is what we do.

It is a small word that disguises multiple disciplines. 

Initially we need to identify, examine and source authentic works which are also interesting and of some significance in their field. 

They then need to be professionally conserved, photographed, researched, catalogued and ultimately earmarked for specific exhibitions. 

It is exciting selecting groups of objects and artworks for these major shows, whilst it is also a detailed and challenging process. 

Now is the hectic season here at RYA, as we discuss the pieces and combinations for  our Annual Exhibition of Folk Art and installation at Masterpiece London 2014. 

It is a rigorous process, driven by our belief that composition, space, colour, texture and juxtaposition are important elements in every catalogue and exhibition we create.

Our new Summer Catalogue, No.39, has gone to Press, so we are now preparing some other material and a Newsletter entitled simply “Details of our Exhibition” and it will include just that. 

Please contact us if you would like to be included in our Newsletter Mailing list, would like a Catalogue or a Ticket for Masterpiece London.

 

 

28 March 2014

"HOW COULD I KNOW OR UNDERSTAND IF I HAD A GOOD EYE ?"

We work in an industry rich in oral tradition, we learn from each other, from our peers and predecessors and we all need some kind of support or help at various times.

Jim Kiddell must have been in his late 70s and already a legend in the Art and Antiques world, when I had the luck to meet and chat to him socially, entirely by chance.

Mr Kiddell, as I knew him, had spent his professional life at Sotheby’s and apart from being highly regarded, was also passionate, articulate, modest and generous.

At the time I was a junior trainee at Sotheby’s and unknown to him. I was an uninformed 21 year old, ambitious, enthusiastic and addicted. I was in awe of several junior cataloguers, only a year or so senior to me who seemed already to have spectacular specialist expertise and I aspired not only to develop my own, but to harness such knowledge with energy and ambition to create a life working for myself as an independent dealer.

I asked Mr Kiddell for his advice about this and how I might set about following such a dream. He spoke to me for a long time and as though there was nothing else that mattered to him. He asked me questions about how and where and with what I was planning to start this business enterprise, (none of which I honestly had any clear idea about), but he was patient, interested and considerate.

He chatted freely and informatively, but in summary he said that he would basically advise against such an initiative because there were too many hurdles in a profession where the rewards were generally small, the work demands total dedication, the competition is fierce and few succeed.

But he added that if it was something that I felt I “really needed to do, rather than wanted to do; if my passion to do it overrode such realities; and I was prepared for the setbacks and hurdles I would inevitably encounter”, then neither Sotheby’s, he or anyone else would probably be able to stop me. In which case he said I would “need to work harder and longer than the others, to study, look, and look again, remember what I had looked at and look again” and I would also “need luck and most importantly a “good eye”, the vital ingredient”, he said, “and the one that can’t be taught or learnt”.

How could I know or understand if I had a “good eye”? I enquired hastily and earnestly. “Ahh that’s just it”, he said, “You can’t, it‘s only others who can judge that”. It was hard, but sound advice.

The Director of the training scheme at Sotheby’s at that time was Derek Shrub, he was difficult, demanding, acerbic, charismatic and canny. I hated him for months, but as the curtains opened and the world of analytical observation he was introducing to me gradually came into some kind of focus, suddenly I found that I knew and could asses things about objects I had never seen before. I warmed to him greatly, and remain hugely indebted to him. He was a support and friend to Josyane and I in our early years. He built my foundations for me. One of the most helpful things he ever told me was “always go with your initial instinct when judging something, don’t be tempted to talk yourself round it, your gut will invariably be right”.

Frank Berendt was the founder of Alexander and Berendt. This was a firm of international repute with a gallery in Davies Street opposite Mallets at Bourdon House. They were the world’s leading specialists in the finest French Court Furniture of the C17th and C18th, they dealt with leading collectors and institutions and virtually the whole collection of this material at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles was sourced and supplied by A&B.

Before joining Sotheby’s as a trainee, I knocked on the door of Berendt’s armed with a vague family introduction, spoke with Mr Berendt and was taken on to dust the furniture and fill the humidifiers, along with any other menial tasks that arose. As time passed, occasionally the great man would invite me to sit at his bureau plat with him for a “tutorial”. I was enraptured. Again his breadth of knowledge and confident connoisseurship was awe inspiring and we developed a close bond at these tea time sessions. He was and continued to be supportive and encouraging to me, indeed it was he who shoe-horned me into Sotheby’s because, “you know nothing and there you will see and handle a lot of things and broaden your vision”. Then you can come back here when you can be some help to me”.


One day I asked him what “rules” were helpful when buying, how did he know where to invest his capital and hope to see a worthwhile return. He smiled a little indulgently and said that there were no “rules”, there was just a feeling that informed his decisions combined with the certainty that he knew what he was looking at. But he said “it may be helpful to consider the following, in this order, just to make sure that you tick all the boxes before following your heart”. His list read as follows;

“Rarity, Quality, Condition, Provenance and Price” in that order.

There was no internet, no Twitter, Pinterest, mobile phones, fax machines. There was no telephone bidding or Antiques Trade Gazette, only a very few illustrated catalogues, it was honestly a different world. But I would have loved to have been involved in an initiative like the Antiques Young Guns. This is an initiative that grew on social media, a world where young people, enthused by old things share stories, information and ideas. It has a positive energy and represents at least something of the future of the Art and Antiques Trade in Britain and wider.

This world is a long way from Jim Kiddell, Derek Shrub and Frank Berendt, but some within the Antiques Young Guns community I believe may be driven by the same passion and enthusiasm that guided them to the very top of their profession and I am delighted to support it and hope to be able to pass on some of the encouragement they gave me.

I am not yet sure what responsibilities or qualities are required of an Antiques Trade Heavy Artillery mentor or what contribution I will be able to make, but I applaud their energy and ambition and am happy they invited me to become a part of it.

 

20 March 2014

Busy times in our local "Battersea Design District" this week.

It certainly feels as though interest and demand in our field are as strong or stronger than at any time in our working lives. Great Folk Art and Vernacular pieces are of course increasingly hard to source and when they come on to the market are competitively contested.

In these circumstances, we have been feeling excited as we put together the Catalogue for our forthcoming Exhibition of Antique Folk Art. It is exciting putting the collection together for our show and this year is made extra special by the forthcoming Tate Britain Exhibition of British Folk Art. This week we have been scuttling about all over the place tying up loose ends, arranging logistics, photography and all the fiddly things involved. Next week we have the major catalogue meeting when all will be finally agreed and put to bed. Then we just wait while it is printed, until we install the exhibition over the first weekend of May ready for the opening on Thurs 8th May.

The Royal College of Art opposite us have been hosting their annual exhibition “RCA Secret” for the past couple of weeks, showing post card sized original works on various media. The anonymous works are shown in a large floor to ceiling grid, equally spaced and identifiable only by a number beside each one. After the exhibition the works are sold either to the few who queue or by ballot at £50 each. Currently there is a little settlement of tents outside the RCA for the hardy enthusiasts who are determined to get the first chance to back their judgement and buy a small work by a big name.

Street gossip has it that the old Buchan’s restaurant site, just down the pavement from us, has finally been sold and new tenants are due in soon. Luckily since the closure of Buchan’s, talented French restaurateur Franck Raymond has opened up the delightful new Augustine Kitchen just over the road, serving well balanced, authentic French food without any pomp or ceremony. We lunch there sometimes and have always had delicious tuck. The other day Josyane, Ilse, Jen and I popped over and had a scrummy meal, the girls all had a green salad and his home made ravioli with lobster sauce, (see image on left), and I enjoyed a succulent piece of veal with a richly flavoured reduction sauce, served with sautéed spuds and tasty little grilled lardons. All from the Daily Menu for under a tenner each.

News of high attendance and significant sales is filtering back from the TEFAF Fair in Maastricht, as the BADA fair opened its doors yesterday. We benefit here, from visitors who have been or are going to the BADA show, many of whom have been impressed by the number of visitors and report evidence of demand and good sales. Michael Cohen, the newly elected Chairman of BADA is moving things forward with this venerable Association and helping to adapt it to today’s market. The BADA Fair this year is a little sharper and more focused and it looks as though things are moving in the right direction. BADA members have each been individually elected for their recognised expertise and integrity, which has helped to make it the most respected professional National Association in the industry, so it is exciting to see that these qualities are now being harnessed with a vision for the future and an innovative approach to marketing.

So in the meantime our attention will turn to our preparations for Masterpiece London, now comfortably less than 100 days away ..... ouch! I sense just a little urgency ....

 

 

 

12 March 2014

British Folk Art ..... now it’s suddenly “Sexy”

Sometimes we stumble upon extraordinary examples of otherwise ordinary pieces. These are not “important”, just works that have something special about them, some kind of inanimate genius quality. We all recognise it when we see it, although we never knew it existed before that moment and such pieces take on an iconic quality in our visual reference library.

Recently we found two such things, neither is hugely valuable, but they both raise the bar for their type and help remind us why we do what we do.

The 2014 Art/Antique “Season” is well under way now, with TEFAF opening in Maastricht this week and the BADA Fair, opening up the road from us here in London, next week. Our shop has also been unusually busy with visitors from both the UK and abroad, there is something in the air!

Last week Sotheby’s held a unique and colourful auction interestingly titled “1000 Ways of Seeing”, the last in a series of sales offering works from the private collections of Stanley Seeger and his long time partner Christopher Cone. It was a multidisciplinary collection spanning continents, centuries and cultures. However, at the viewing it was immediately apparent that these pieces had been selected by a discerning and confident eye. Over the years they had found a few things with us and we had witnessed their genuine enthusiasm and appetite for collecting works that excited their eye, at first hand.

This led them to buy some great and extraordinary Masterpieces and today’s market enthusiastically endorsed their selections, though they were well ahead of their time and somewhat “off piste” when they originally bought some of them. There were several pieces that fell into the general category of Folk Art which were all strongly competed for and established some remarkable prices. There was for example the iconic work “The Naming of the Animals” by the well documented British Naive artist John Miles of Northleach, which made just on £100,000. Also a curious hybrid Dug Out Armchair with the classic hollowed tree trunk back with a joined frame creating the seat, front legs and spectacular broad arms. The tree trunk back was split and the boarded seat a little time worn and ropey, but it benefitted from being a unique model, with exceptional colour, surface and character. English and dating from the late C17th this unique example made just shy of £50,000. There was also a small group of trade signs, generally rather youthful examples, but with scale, colour or drama, all of which made multiples of their estimates. Most, in their individual ways, had something special about them.

None of these pieces were originally bought “for investment”, but the owners had been guided by their instinct, their passion and motivated by the joy of finding and living with them.

There are odd little landmark moments in our professional careers where an Exhibition or a Private Collection at auction changes perception and somehow alters the landscape. I believe that we as Folk Art specialists are witnessing such a moment in 2014. At a time when we are told that antiques are unfashionable and the market sluggish, extraordinary demand and appetite for the best and most magical pieces of Folk Art has led to a dramatic growth in interest and perceived value.

This year alone I have had four interviews with art/antiques related publications and periodicals and been asked to write an article on British Folk Art for the longest established and most respected antiques periodical in the USA. We have two regular new, (and encouragingly young), visitors to the shop who are excitingly enthusiastic about the material and starting to build collections. Another contemporary art collector who wants some accent pieces of British Folk Art “of museum quality” to compliment his art. It is also curious to note that several general antique dealers are now promoting Folk Art among their interests and specialities.

How does all this happen at once? Why has perception changed and what has made the rhythm we have been banging on this drum for nearly forty years suddenly become “sexy” ? Who knows?

What we do know is that we are still focused and ridiculously excited when we find extraordinary examples, particularly when they are up there amongst the best we have handled. However humble they may be as objects, if they have that indefinable, yet instantly recognisable “genius” quality, they can take their place at our high table and be celebrated.

 

 

18 February 2014

2014 has started off excitingly. The New York Winter Antiques Show was very well attended again and our British Folk Art and Vernacular pieces were well received. RYA was featured in Roberta Smith’s Preview of the show for the New York Times  and Robert was also one of the specialist dealers selected for a video profile of the show.

This year the NYWAS celebrated its Diamond Jubilee on its 60th Anniversary and for the first time they introduced a Phoenix Award for Booth Design and we were delighted to win the Award for Best 3D Object Presentation, an honour at such a venerable and prestigious event.

In the year that Tate Britain is hosting the first National Exhibition of British Folk Art, (curated by Martin Myrone, his assistant Ruth Kenny and with the contribution and eye of contemporary artist Jeff McMmillan), Sotheby’s in New York held a record breaking auction of American Folk Art with the single owner Esmerian Collection selling for a total just shy of 13 Million US Dollars. This has inevitably brought Folk Art to the attention of a much wider public.

Excitement is already building around the forthcoming Exhibition at Tate Britain and it seems that in the wake of the 2013 Venice Biennale where “Outsider Art” had a high profile and was exhibited and discussed in a contemporary context, Folk Art is finally being embraced by the mainstream and being understood for its artistic qualities rather than any sociological interest. These are exciting and busy times for us.

Apart from the Tate Exhibition, we are now working towards our Annual Exhibition of Folk Art here in our Gallery, at the heart of the recently named “Battersea Design District”. Our show opens on Thursday 9th May at 12 noon and runs through until Saturday 17th May. We no longer host an evening preview, since many of you said it was difficult to plan to be here at 6.30p, and the works are for sale on receipt of the catalogue. However, we do try to keep all the pieces on display for the run of the show, even after they are sold, so all visitors have the opportunity to see the works in the flesh. If you would like to be added to our Mailing List, please do contact us.

Then towards the end of June we will again be showing at Masterpiece London 2014, (26th June - 2nd July 2014), this is a spectacular event which exhibits some of the most exciting and interesting works of art available on the market, in an amazing contemporary structure in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the home of the Chelsea Pensioners. We highly recommend a visit if you have not been before and if you have been we are confident you will wish to return, (If you would like a ticket to Masterpiece, please do not hesitate to ask .

Last week RYA was selected by Judith Miller as the selected Antique Shop for her “Miller's Choice”, Judith Miller's pick of the world's best antique shops in the Telegraph Luxury online publication. Olivia Parker wrote an informed and insightful piece about RYA and our history which we hope some of you might like to read.

2014 already looks full and is inspiringly busy.

 

 

 

 

Gallery Tour