Dealers at shows and antique fairs in both North America and across the pond are now fully embracing stalls and booths that are being labeled as “fashion forward antiques.” These upstart dealers are not only bucking the age old convention that you must have pre-1830 items to legitimately claim the antique moniker, but they’re also replacing much of their stock with contemporary items from artists and designers who are creating bespoke pieces in the here and now.
For some, this is a vast and unsettling change, especially for dealers who just recently recognized the mid-century modern motif as being the omnipresent force in today’s antiques marketplace. As Hal Hoppin, a regular at the Brimfield shows noted, “I just started adjusting to selling things that were 30 years old; now it seems I’ll have to start adding stuff that was made last week.”
Although the practice has not yet become commonplace with most antique shows and fairs, those who are adding contemporary items seem to be reaping the rewards. Thomas Woodham-Smith, a dealer and art adviser from England says that it’s all about relevance - meaning things that people can actually use in their homes. Those dealers who have added the newer pieces say they’re only bringing in one-off items from known artists, or using modern cabinetmakers and craftsmen who already have a well-established reputation in their field. "It's not like we're bringing in items from IKEA," said one such dealer.
Even the show promoters seem to be on board with the developing trend. “What we’re seeing are the antiques of the future,” says Mary Claire Boyd, director of Olympia Fairs in London. “The antiques we enjoy now were modern in their time. It can appeal to a younger audience, but an older audience likes this stuff as well.”
As an overall trend, adding a large swath of contemporary pieces as a mainstay to one's booth is still likely to be considered an anomaly for most North American dealers. However, as more and more dealers become aware of this expanding interest in newer pieces, it would be wise to keep in mind, that it’s likely only to be a short matter of time before today’s hot trends eventually become more mainstream; ultimately turning back once again to the "brown furniture" of years past.
- A.I.A. Staff Writers