From the Standard
It’s a brave writer who makes optimistic predictions in this miserable climate, but there is a hint that unlike the stock and housing markets, the antiques market may not be collapsing.
In recessions, the old no longer seems boring but tried and tested. Antiques look reassuringly solid, and as far away as you can get from the new-fangled financial instruments which brought ruin to the world economy.
When the City was roaring ahead, they fell out of fashion. I live near Camden Passage, and in the boom years worried dealers complained that the visitors who once thronged Islington’s antique quarter had gone astray. Restaurant and bar chains bought out their shops, as the young decided they wanted IKEA furniture, and older and wealthier customers headed to the upmarket modern stores.
The apartments the Candy Brothers designed for the global elite encapsulated fashionable taste. They were filled with metal and glass. A Georgian dresser would have been as out of place as a pensioner at a rave.
For all the green politics of the time, few consumers were interested in reducing their carbon footprint by recycling old furniture.
Now when I go to the Criterion auctioneers on the Essex Road, I have to push past potential buyers inspecting the lots. This is a place for the London middle class. A fair-sized Victorian mirror normally fetches £500. Victorian breakfast tables in good condition go for about £400. Dinner services, chest-of-drawers, old prints and original pictures are much cheaper For reasons which are not hard to guess there are plenty of sellers putting their heirlooms under the hammer, but equally there are more than enough bidders willing to buy.
Martin Miller, the founder of Millers’ Antiques Guide, told me he was seeing the same phenomenon at the up-market auctioneers in the centre of town not least because antiques were still good value.
If the trend holds, it would show that this recession is producing the same changes in taste as its predecessors. In hard times, people want the comfort of the familiar, and antiques are the nursery food of interior design. Even those with money like to tone down the conspicuous consumption, and an antique looks less flashy and more in tune with the austere mood of the day.
Miller, however, provided a more hard-headed reason for the old returning to popularity. An expensive piece of modern furniture is like an expensive car – its value plummets as soon as it leaves the saleroom. With an antique, however, you can always hope to get your money back if your world caves in and you have to auction your possessions.