Published: December 18, 2019
When most years turn over, they have a tendency to feel like a drop in the bucket. Another one gone by. And if you live in the North, the new year drops right in the middle of winter — when most folks are already looking ahead to warmer weather. But this year’s turn of the page marks the end of a decade, and we would be remiss to not reflect at least a little.
Our collective culture tends to define eras by the decades we share together. You’ll hear “The 60s were the best time of my life” more than you’ll ever hear “My 60s were the best time of my life.”
So how did we feel about the 2010s? Did we have a nice time?
The antiques market, as in the historic traditional American style popularized in the second half of the Twentieth Century, largely did not.
Conversely, and in large part due to their Twentieth Century and contemporary offerings, the art world certainly did. Jewelry and luxury goods seemed to do well. The collectibles world was solid.
There is more competition for consumer spending than there likely has ever been. The market is flooded. And dealers do not compete only against those in their specific market; they compete for luxury spending against both brick and mortar and digital retailers who sell seemingly unrelated things, like iPhones, Netflix subscriptions and toy cars made in China. It all deducts from the wallet the same. And to boot, dealers — nearly every last one of them a small business, a mom and pop shop — find themselves competing against the eight-figure marketing and digital sales budgets of companies that are driving both style and spending decisions of the next generation.
And that flooded market must be held in contrast with a shrinking pool of buyers. Wealth inequality has soared, meaning fewer folks who have any money to buy anything they don’t need. The general population is struggling. And for those that have benefited from this market, how many things can they buy until they are stuffed? Until the market “is strong for the best of the best, but everything else has fallen aside.” You have heard that line before. We all have. This is where we stand today.
But that is not to say there is no interest in this material. Indeed, the Metropolitan Museum of Art posted record attendance numbers in 2018. So did others. And the Louvre — 10.2 million people visited the Louvre last year, a record for the institution. In fact, I would argue that through social media, there has never been a time that art and artifacts have been talked about more.
But for the antiques market, the way in which contemporary consumers measure value has changed. The means to market have changed. Style and design, in almost every imaginable way, have changed.
Our paths forward are many… and no approach should be discounted. In this next decade, we will endeavor to focus our dialogue on making the antique contemporary. To put it on a pedestal and talk about it in much the same way that the art world does with a canvas. To elicit excitement from an object that hasn’t materially changed for hundreds of years. To speak to experts, to collectors, and to those who know absolutely nothing. To speak colloquially.
Perhaps we should just duct-tape them to walls — people seem to like that.
If the aughts will forever be known for the proliferation of the internet, the 2010s will likely be focused on the explosion of the smart phone, memes, and all the apps that came with. It will include the long arm of social media, whether you like it or not. There is a connectedness in our world that has never once existed on such a grand scale.
Now where does that leave us? A newspaper heading into the year 2020.
It leaves us feeling grateful.
We are deeply indebted to you, every one of our subscribers, who still enjoy reading this format. We receive notes frequently from some who have been with us since 1963, when we were but a page in The Newtown Bee.
We are also thankful to our advertisers, whose support keeps this ship sailing. Without them, there would be no newspaper. And we thank them for seeing the value in our publication and for including us in their budgets and among their growing number of marketing avenues.
We form a collective of the most voracious buyers in the world. You, me, them, anyone reading this. You must be, to seek the kind of news we publish. And not just monthly or quarterly, but 52 times a year. I know of no other media publication in the world that prints more pages on antiques and art news than Antiques and The Arts Weekly. Let us know if you do. We’ll have published more than 4,500 pages this year.
And as we move forward, we want you to be a partner in our stories. If you’re doing something unique, have an object with a remarkable story, want to show off your collection or just have a tip on something you heard, please drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We read them all.
We take pride that we are able to publish news as it pertains to the entire industry: the top to the bottom, on equal footing and in all of its forms.
Loyal reader, we look forward to celebrating our market in the year and decade ahead.
Greg Smith, Editor
April 19, 2023
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