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A Question of Taste?

Posted May 2nd, 2017 by Robert Shaw and filed under Dealer Corner

Television programmes about antiques or food dominate our television screens.

The British palate no longer satisfied with the traditional when it comes to food, hankers instead for cheffy additions to recipes involving exotic foams, salt crusts, and elaborate reductions with which to fully stimulate the nouveau diner’s taste buds.

The same rationale also applies to the present day consumer of antiques who is more inclined to seek out dramatic elements in their purchases, choosing the industrial or the rustic over traditional brown furniture and often prizing distressed, flaky, and painted surfaces over the fine finishes and ornamentation of the 19th century.

No longer are customers inclined to study and admire the fine construction of a drawer’s dovetail joint on a Pembroke table or muse over the quality of a Royal Worcester porcelain potpourri’s exquisite flower painting.
These were the ‘meat and two veg’ of a previous generation; alas these dishes are no longer considered to be fine dining.

Much of this is understandable. The new generation inevitably views fashion differently as the prevailing aesthetic changes and an often younger cohort of buyers add the natural value due to these ‘lived-in’ objects which unashamedly show their age. 

It’s called ‘character’ and the fact that not every crack or imperfection has to be filled anymore is to be welcomed. 

It does a service to the antiques business that much of this previously under-valued character is now being appreciated and realised in a monetary sense.  

So it’s true that the shabby chic mob, the brocanteurs, the steam punks, the leather suitcase fraternity and even the ‘let’s paint it grey’ brigade have all positively added to the dynamic and changing face of the antiques world in the twenty first century. 

But while I like an up-cycled industrial lamp as much as the next man (ok maybe I don’t) in certain areas of the decorative business it feels like we’re reaching overkill. 

We should perhaps remember the fate of ‘stripped pine’ which thirty years ago had all and sundry rushing their furniture to the nearest available caustic tank before the whole waxy mess fell off the proverbial.

And it seems  the painted furniture market is heading the same way; the cliff edge moving ever nearer over which these latest marvels resplendent in chalk paint post-sand paper are about to tumble. 

It’s not always enough to schlep paint on pieces of furniture before rubbing them back and to suggest that they have any kind of artistic integrity – I’m reminded of my daughter buying pre-ripped jeans- they never look authentic.

An image of an artistically lit interior may look good in a glossy magazine but does not always translate into something functional or comfortable in an authentic home environment.

Accepting that an object can have a beauty beyond its function does not mean that a crudely knocked together bookshelf placed next to an uncomfortable tweed covered armchair underneath a mirror which is so spotted you can’t see a reflection  will not always pass muster in a real life situation. 

It only serves to illustrate the present day’s triumph of style over substance.

So I say, let’s keep the sumptuous and do away with the rest, lets enjoy the mouth watering additions to our modern cuisine in which cross-cultural flavours enliven our taste buds and enrich our dining experiences, but let’s ditch the idea that adding a spoonful of chilli powder, a crystallised kumquat or an anchovy foam to any old food stuff is necessarily going to improve it.

And let’s remember also, that sometimes a good old fashioned roast dinner is hard to beat.
So offering a nod to postmodernism, food still has to be tasty and the chair I sit in still has to be comfortable.

by Robert Shaw |  mincedpenny@gmail.com

Robert has been buying and selling antiques for nearly thirty years, sourcing a variety of antique objects but with a special interest in Chinese pieces.He is based in Chichester, West Sussex. Robert can regularly be found buying and selling at fairs and markets both in the U.K and Europe including the massive Newark antiques fair where he exhibits in the George Stephenson building.

The next IACF fairs are at: Shepton Mallet on 5th - 7th May, Newbury Showground on 12th - 13th May, Alexandra Palace on 21st May and Runway at Newark on 22nd May.  For more information go to www.iacf.co.uk

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