June 2012 Editorial

[gn_frame align=”left”][/gn_frame]This month the high water mark for antiques is enhanced by the Diamond Jubilee celebrations being held to honour the Queen. The celebrations are varied and widespread, anticipating that further public attention will be diverted to the Olympic Games, which start in July. From the point of view of this magazine, we have not imposed a special Jubilee issue on our subscribers, who will find other Jubilee material abundantly available, but we do have an article appropriate to this month in Clare Durham’s ‘Royal Commemorative Ceramics’. Doubtless in future years there will be many things collected as commemorative of this year, with Diamond Jubilee mementoes treasured in the way that those for Victoria have been, too.

The high water mentioned above is largely one on which distinguished fairs float at levels more elevated than those achieved during the rest of the year, especially in the capital. We have devoted space to listing the London contenders, with three i nparticular making bids for top spot: Olympia, Art Antiques London and Masterpiece. They each have distinct characteristics and their chronological spread reduces overlaps to a minimum, so that an enthusiast would have no trouble visiting all three as well as the more accessible smaller fairs and specialist shop events such as the Eight Days In June put on by Simon Spero and his collaborators. Although the rest of the country does not come to a stop while London luxuriates, the centripetal effect of this concentration must surely be felt elsewhere. We sincerely wish all the fair participants and special exhibition organisers every success, knowing only too well what effort is involved in organising a business to exhibit in such circumstances, not only from daily logistical travail but also from assembling the exceptional pieces suitable for proud exhibition and sale.

At this mid-point in the year we have also taken the opportunity to look objectively at the message conveyed since the year 2000 by the ACC Antique Furniture Index. It has not all been doom and gloom despite the lack of enthusiasm for many pieces, especially in provincial auction rooms. It is worth considering to what extent the auction room performances and statistics of the last decade have been symptomatic of greater changes in social aspects of domestic taste. We are grateful to Dawn Birch-James for allowing us to plunder her degree dissertation on the English Antique Furniture Dealer for observations on the enormous changes to the trade conveyed by current conceptions of furnishing. The research for this dissertation was comprehensive and it is interesting to note its coincidence with LAPADA’s lectures on retail psychology mentioned in April last year. Any visit to IKEA or a similarly progressive and inventive modern furnisher will confirm the effect of such changes. The way in which recent and younger households have preferred to enter into debt by buying new modern furniture on credit terms rather than acquiring cheaper old pieces for very little expense bewilders low-cost secondhand dealers, who are perhaps unaware of the appeal of space-saving modern design. The detachment of antiques from general furnishing taste has engendered a much smaller, specialist business approach for the knowledgeable successors to the residual market, in which smaller numbers of relatively wealthy collectors are paramount. The London fairs this month will indicate whether the cream is being consumed at a rate necessary for the survival of the top end; elsewhere fairs have become a marketing tool used to an extent much greater than it was not so long ago. Those who find visiting London diffcult are much better catered for provincially nowadays than they were in past times, for which we are all grateful. But it is the London events that we shall be watching intently this month.

John Andrews

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