From the Fine Art Connoisseur November/December 2020 Editor’s Note:
Kindred Spirits, We Should Meet
On a rolling basis, some of the many artists, dealers, and organizations highlighted in this magazine check in to let me know how the art world is looking from their perspectives. I always value their insights, and today I thought it might be useful to relay one trend I see emerging.
Quite rightly, everyone is concerned about what younger people are buying to adorn their new homes. I am referring to folks in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s who are finally settling down for the longer term, possibly because children have arrived, though not necessarily. Although this generation’s zeitgeist tends to be minimalist and “anti-stuff,” they eventually need to decorate their walls with something, and we at Fine Art Connoisseur believe that should include original works of art.
A huge swath of this demographic has been converted to the spartan lines and dreary oatmeal coloring we see in most of the leading decorating magazines. That’s a shame, and there is not much we can do about those folks. But there is a still-significant percentage who admire diverse textures, rich coloring, and even a bit of clutter; those are people more likely to admire the contemporary and historical realist art we celebrate in Fine Art Connoisseur.
One way to reach them seems to be through the antiques business. We all know that “brown furniture” — and other decorative artworks from the past such as china, silver, quilts, and glassware — have struggled lately, but now younger folks are awakening to two key facts. First, these well-made items are now seriously inexpensive, especially compared to the pricey historical reproductions offered by Ethan Allen or the modernist versions at Design Within Reach. Second, these items already exist, and that’s important to younger generations worried about cluttering up Earth with more stuff. “Vintage” and “gently used” are hot in every sector, so why not home décor?
Two leading voices in this terrain are worth following online. First, the cosmetics heiress and lifestyle guru Aerin Lauder has been championing “heritage with a twist,” which is a nice way to describe this phenomenon. Second, the influencer Michael Diaz-Griffith has organized an online group called “The New Antiquarians” who are taking fear and snobbery out of the antiques trade by highlighting the very human stories behind its objects. (He recently took over the American “friends” group supporting London’s Sir John Soane’s Museum, which has long defied the odds by making 19th-century neoclassicism cool, even on this side of the Atlantic.)
I mention all of this because those of us who make — and love — etchings, bronze sculptures, and oil paintings in gilt frames, be they old or brand-new, need to meet the folks following these trends. Let’s not call them collectors (yet), as that’s putting too much pressure on them. Instead, let’s call them future clients who may buy half a dozen artworks from us and then fall in love with them. These are kindred spirits, and although they didn’t get the memo about our contemporary realism revival during their college art class, they will love what we do. Let’s reach out and start a conversation.
Expect to read about some of the New Antiquarians in our annual Collector’s Issue this coming spring.