In this article – the first of what we hope will become a regular feature on our blog – we get to know one of iacf’s regular dealers: Robert Shaw, who is a regular stallholder in the George Stephenson building at Newark International Antiques Fair. He is based in Chichester and can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you define the field you trade in/your area of expertise?
I’m a general dealer but with a specialism in Chinese antiques. I sell both at auction and at several antiques fairs in the UK and Europe.
What is one little known fact about your field? Or dealing in general?
It’s my experience that the best dealers aren’t afraid to make the occasional mistake. I’ve made plenty, but then I’ve also had a few ‘winners’.
One great discovery you’ve made?
The highlight about ten years ago being a Chinese Ming bowl (Jiajing mark and period) which made £135,000. More recently I bought a Chinese eighteenth-century porcelain fish bowl which made £25,000. I bought the bowl from a shop and the fishbowl at an antiques market. Both cost very little. Indeed, many of the best objects I’ve sold have been inexpensive. These days when such bargains come along, they tend to be unusual or unmarked pieces on the margins of a mainstream collecting field. Their esoteric nature making internet searches less useful in aiding the vendor to make an accurate appraisal. This, however, is just one part of the business and like many dealers, most of the time I work on modest profits, a few ‘money-backs’ and the odd loss with these occasional successes providing a necessary boost to keep the business on track.
What is exciting and/or encouraging about the art/antiques market this year?
In the ‘real economy’ confidence is low and the antiques trade as a whole faces challenging times. Hopefully, my thirty-year apprenticeship will serve me well for the future.
What is one challenge that buyers and/or collectors currently face?
I enjoy visiting antiques fairs in Europe, but it’s anyone’s guess how operating in Europe will be impacted if the UK leaves the EU. It doesn’t look good – Brexit seems more and more like an act of national vandalism.
What is the best exhibition you’ve visited recently?
Mercantifiera, Parma, Italy. Not what it once was, but still a great show.
One question you wish people would ask before buying?
I wish people would ask whether they can take a photograph of an item on my stand. Such images are often sent around the world in order to get the go-ahead as to whether or not to make a purchase. It can be irritating when an individual hangs on to an object waiting for a response, particularly when others are waiting to look at the same item. As I said earlier, the best dealers know their business and aren’t afraid to make a mistake – I see this as part of the trade. There’s a collective pot and we should all toss a few quid in from time to time.
One object you couldn’t do without?
A little magnifying glass with a built-in torch, which I keep in the small pocket of my jeans, it cost about £1, but I’m lost without it!
Robert Shaw has been a professional dealer since 1994 and is one of the British Antiques Trade’s leading experts in Oriental decorative objects and Object d’Art. He is based in Chichester and is a regular stallholder at Newark Antiques Fair in Nottingham – you will find him in his regular spot directly in front of the double doors (towards the back of the hall) in the George Stephenson building.
If you are a regular dealer at one of iacf’s events and would like to be featured on our blog, please email email@example.com
The world-renowned Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair is the largest Antiques event in Europe. Over 2,000 stalls spread over an 84-acre site with stalls inside and out.
The next Newark International Antiques Fair is on Thursday 4th & Wednesday 5th of April at the Newark & Nottinghamshire Showground. For a full calendar of iacf events go to www.iacf.co.uk