The fall in prices of traditional antique furniture has resulted in the rug being pulled away for dealers and many long term businesses are now in freefall. 18th and 19th century brown furniture, which has not only been their bread and butter but also their caviar for generations, is now seriously out of fashion and prices are falling dramatically. Partly to blame for all of this is a serious change of taste, and young taste in particular, where affluent younger buyers find traditional antique furniture stuffy and a constant reminder of their parents’ style of décor.
Delving into the world of modern and retro furniture creates an unpredictability that these traditional dealers are not used to coping with, and for many it is easier just to sell up. For those that hang on and want to diversify, there are questions on what they should buy to provide them with a reliable return? This unpredictability of the modern was highlighted by Anthony Thorncroft of the Financial Times last year when he spoke of a buying frenzy of contemporary 20th century and particularly post WWII furniture. He reported that auction houses like Christies and Sotheby’s in New York and London were quick to jump on the contemporary bandwagon. He provided an example of an acrylic resin chair titled ‘Miss Blanche’ by Shiro Kuramata that went for £145,250. However he also said that other pieces did not do so well. Many other creations by Ron Arad, deemed to be a reliable performer at the auction, went unsold.
It becomes clear that although there is an upturn in the marketplace for contemporary antique furniture, its long term value remains unknown where it has not yet reached the years of reliability that 18th and 19th century brown furniture had before it went out of fashion. Therefore many older more established dealerships may want to play the waiting game and buy best quality brown furniture in the hope that the caviar days will come round again, as they surely will.
As David Dickinson himself says time and time again: “class will out”.
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