Is Brown Back?

by Guy Apter

Recently returned from the Winter Antiques Show in New York, we felt compelled to put pen to paper to give a short run down on our experience at the show and what that means for the market.

As always, it is a delight to attend. The organisers were as keen as ever to ensure our experience went smoothly and create an atmosphere that is conducive to making sales. We achieved a great deal of publicity, with the highlight being the illustration of our Red Japanned Bureau cabinet in the New York Times and being featured in an article in the Art Newspaper.

Business at last year’s show was certainly effected by Trump’s election and inauguration. However, this year the show occurred in far more favourable circumstances. Taxes are down, the stock market is up 25% on the year and people were keen to spend.

We have spent many years developing our approach and we would sum it up with one word: attractive, used three times.

Attractive piece, attractive display and attractive price.

More particularly, we take a broad range of styles and forms and allow each item the space required to be seen. Judging from the compliments, we did not disappoint. Indeed, with a record number of sales, our approach was correct and we sold across the board. Sales included lighting, objects and furniture.

We select each item on colour, patination, originality and value. This can be illustrated clearly by the wonderful bench in the image below. This was in untouched condition with a rich patina and being priced sensibly, it sold within an hour of the opening.


What became abundantly clear during the course of the show was that there is an increased interest in and demand for fine pieces of English furniture.

Winter Antiques Show 2018

Apter Fredericks will again be participating in the Winter Antiques Show which is held at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The opening night party is the 18th January, with the show opening to the public the following day.

Visiting hours are:

Open daily 12 PM–8 PM
Sundays & Thursday 12 PM–6 PM
Tuesday 12 PM–4:30 PM

We have been featured in some media coverage of the Show by both The Art Newspaper and The New York Times. (Links to both articles).

We look forward to seeing you there at Booth 28!

Orchestrating Elegance: Apter Fredericks at The Clark

Several months ago, we were approached by Kathleen Morris, curator of decorative arts and acting senior curator at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  She was putting together an exhibition called “Orchestrating Elegance: Alma-Tadema and the Marquand Music Room.” 

The exhibition, and its accompanying catalogue, focuses on the famous music room designed by Alma-Tadema for the New York mansion of Henry Gurdon Marquand.  The extraordinary suite of furniture made for this room, of which the Clark owns the grand piano and matching piano stools, was fabricated in London according to Alma-Tadema’s designs by Johnstone, Norman & Co.

We were asked if we would be kind enough to provide an example of one of the expanding on telescoping dining tables made by this firm, or their direct predecessors Johnstone & Jeanes.  The firm was well-known for this patented table, and took care to keep control of the patent, even during changes to the firm principles.

Happily, we had a suitable example in stock which we were able to loan, and now the table is proudly on display in Williamstown. The exhibition runs from 4 June to 4 September 2017.  Further details about the exhibition can be found here: http://clarkart.edu/Mini-Sites/Orchestrating-Elegance/Exhibition

 

 

A Retrospective of our 70th Anniversary Celebrations

by Alice Freyman

As you may know, Alfred Fredericks first opened the doors to an antiques shop at 265-267 Fulham Road in 1946, in a post war Britain, when the country was still on rations.

An awful lot has happened in the last 70 years, but the family have stood here steadfast trading and selling the best of eighteenth century English furniture.

We wanted to acknowledge this land mark year in a number of ways.

First our annual brochure was a special 70th anniversary edition with a front cover which (we believe) visually demonstrates how well-designed and well-constructed furniture can transcend time. A dedication was made to Harry and Guy’s parents – Bernard and Carole Apter – who worked tirelessly to further the business in the last few decades.

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The main focus of our celebrations was a party held at the galleries in June to which many old and new clients were invited.  We wanted an opportunity to say “Thank You” because without clients there would be no business.

We decided to follow a 1946 theme in honour of the first days of Apter Fredericks.

 

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The Save the Date Cards took the form of ration books, with various forms of antique furniture replacing the food types….  “Each page of this book authorizes you to purchase rationed goods as designated by the Ministry of Antique Furniture. Price ceilings have been established for your protection, but as with all rationing, goods are available on a first-come basis.” Later, formal invitations were issued in the form of a telegram.

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In keeping with the theme, the gallery was decked out with vintage props and perhaps most importantly a cocktail bar which served some bespoke drinks that had been made specifically for the event. We had fun inventing their names – The Very Old Fashioned, the Long Island Iced Tea Caddy, etc.

 

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We decided to include a famous Apter Fredericks window display for the evening, and we added live performance art in the form of a lady in vintage dress who entertained guests and bemused passers-by… For more party photos, please have a look at our Facebook page.

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In the run up to the party and in keeping with Apter Fredericks’ desire to be relevant and current, we also undertook a more contemporary form of celebration – a social media campaign: #707070 – in which we posted 70 photographs in 70 days to celebrate 70 years. A mixture of stock, behind the scenes shots, and other amusing or interesting photos helped to boost our social media following, particularly on Instagram.

In our anniversary year Apter Fredericks participated in four art fairs, starting with the Winter Antiques Show in New York in January, then the Palm Beach Show in February, Masterpiece London in June and finally the inaugural TEFAF New York Fair which was held in October. The shop also remained open throughout.

Our award winning booth at the Winter Antiques Show 2016, a room set complete with 'windows' with a view of Manhattan.

Our award winning booth at the Winter Antiques Show 2016, a room set complete with ‘windows’ with a view of Manhattan.

Our 'contemporary plinth' booth at TEFAF New York 2016

Our ‘contemporary plinth’ booth at TEFAF New York 2016

For a front of house team of just three we hope you appreciate our continued efforts to bring beautiful furniture into your lives – and hopefully into your homes! We certainly enjoy talking about the pieces and if you have any questions at all, as always, we would be happy to try to answer them.

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Have we lost the thrill of the exotic?

By Guy Apter

In the British Museum lies a preserved duck billed platypus. In the eighteenth century, the descriptions of this absurdly unbelievable animal which were reaching London seemed so preposterous that its existence was fiercely debated and bet against. It was not until specimens started arriving in London in sufficient numbers that their existence was accepted.

A pair of cloisonné incense burners in the form of quails.

A pair of cloisonné incense burners in the form of quails. Chinese, c. 1820 £11,500

We use this example as a comparison to our current age of instant access, with a quick google search, to information about everything from everywhere. Have we lost the sense of wonder and excitement at discovering something foreign and exotic?

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Detail from a Chinese Export Lacquer Screen, Chinese c. 1850 £49,000

Back in the Eighteenth century the Western world had already been trading with the East for over 100 years yet still it retained its marvellous sense of the mysterious, and was certainly still capable of inspiring some of the most exuberant and fanciful decorative art of any period. We are referring, of course, to Chinoiserie, and in a timely manner we are tipping our hat to Asian Art Week.

English furniture of the eighteenth century is rife with Chinese influence, indeed an entire genre is referred to as Chinese Chippendale. So powerful were the images and descriptions reaching England from China that there were no less than three distinct periods of Chinoiserie style, culminating in possibly the most

A stunning example of a Chinese Export Centre Table, c. 1840

A stunning example of a Chinese Export Centre Table, c. 1840 £49,000

extraordinary example of architectural creations in the Regency Period – the Brighton Pavilion.

It is important to note a distinction about Chinese style and the eighteenth century. Whilst Chinoiserie refers to the decorative arts produced in Europe and inspired by the Chinese, also available at this time were the goods created in China for export to Europe, what we now refer to as Chinese Export Ware. The tables illustrated here provide us with a very good comparison of the two different approaches.

A stunning example of a Chinoiserie centre table, English c. 1815

A stunning example of a Chinoiserie centre table, English c. 1815 £85,000

Chinese export furniture and decorative arts found a more than ready market in the European homes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and has never waned in popularity since. In recent years a number of major collections have been formed and whilst the market is still priced accessibly it can only be a matter of time before Chinoiserie and Chinese Export Ware finds favour amongst Chinese collectors and demand outstrips the supply of great pieces.

For further reading on this subject, see Sheila Gibson-Stoodley’s article for Art & Antiques Magazine which can be found here.

Care of your antique furniture

Gallery Manager Alice Freyman asks Mark Fitzgerald, who specialises in the conservation and restoration of patinated surfaces, some basic questions about how to care for your antique furniture.

Imagine the scene. Your Apter Fredericks dining table is laid immaculately, and the candlelight from your recently acquired candelabra is glowing magnificently on the warm mahogany table top. The flowers are fresh, the ambience is perfect. You are filling your water glasses as a finishing touch for your dinner party when suddenly, you lose your grip.  Help! Disaster!  You accidentally spill the whole jug of water all over your beautiful antique table. What do you do?

markThe trick with any kind of spillage is to dry it up straight away, preferably with something like a clean dishcloth. When cleared up immediately, water is not usually a problem.

If the water is left on the surface for only a short length of time, it may be possible to fix this yourself with the addition of new wax. Use any commercial wax, such as Town Talk Polish Luxury Furniture Wax, and apply with a lint free cloth such as a duster.

However if water has been sitting on a surface for some time – for example a friend putting a glass with a wet bottom down and leaving it on the table overnight, then it would need professional attention. Be aware that drinks with ice can sometimes cause condensation on the outside of the glass.

A worse problem altogether would be if you spilt alcohol or a hot drink, because these liquids could perish the wax and damage the patinated surface or dissolve the shellac varnish.  This would be a problem that you couldn’t deal with yourself, and you would need to seek professional restoration. 

In order to retain the colour and to protect a piece for the future, what technique should the housekeeper / mother-in-law / small-child-after-some-pocket-money adopt when cleaning the furniture and how often should it be done?

Apart from dusting with a soft cloth, how often you wax a piece would depend on how often you use it.  A dining table which is used regularly could be waxed once a month. Just use a commercial wax as described above.  You should never use a spray cleaner as they contain a silicon ingredient which takes the surface off.  For furniture which isn’t used regularly just use a plain duster. Don’t over think it.

My grandmother said you should always keep a bowl of water near or inside furniture. What’s that all about?

This has to do with the moisture content in the air and is to do with the timber splitting or warping.  The problem is caused by modern-day heating systems which dry the air. The bowl of water is just a rudimentary form of humidification. It won’t do any harm so by all means if you’d like to keep one in your furniture then do – just make sure it doesn’t spill!

If you notice signs of the furniture drying out – for example lifting veneers or cross-banding, the doors not closing properly, or the locks not throwing the bolt so smoothly, then the best option is to buy a proper humidifier. You should aim for about 50% humidification.

Mahogany Chest with Swags

Mahogany Chest with Swags

 Is there anything else we should be aware of with regards to the care of antique furniture?

UV light and sunlight can be a problem. Whilst a bit of light can really give a wonderful colour to furniture, direct sunlight can over-fade the furniture and more importantly it can heat the wood which can then be in danger of splitting or warping when one would need professional help to restore them. I believe you can buy a clear plastic film to go on windows which can stop UV light if you are really worried.

As a final, very important point, antique furniture is valued for the surface that has developed over 200 years of history and usage.  The marks on the surface can be those very spillages that we have been discussing and an assessment must be made as to the whether more damage would be done in removing those marks than by leaving them to become a further part of the story of the antique.  Sometimes it is better to merely improve the mark than to remove it and the entire old surface along with it.  Be wary of a restorer who does not at least entertain the possibility of improving the mark before suggesting refinishing the whole piece.

 

Problems with Provenance

Guy Apter discusses the problems of provenance and eighteenth century English furniture.

Some of our clients may not realise that the production of our annual catalogue takes months of preparation. The photography shoots, the wording of the text and the in depth research has begun already, even though the catalogue is not published until late spring.

One of our greatest ongoing challenges in doing the research for our brochure is establishing the original houses that our furniture was made for. But why is this?

There are various reasons.

An Extract from the Christie's catalogue of the Stowe sale of 1848...please note unhelpful descriptions!

An Extract from the Christie’s catalogue of the Stowe sale of 1848…please note the unhelpful descriptions!

First, we look to eighteenth century house inventories. Paintings were often listed by title and artist, making them easily identifiable. Unfortunately when furniture was listed, it might have been described simply as “A Pair of Side Tables” or “Gilt Candlestands”. This vagueness and lack of detail is hardly conducive to later exact identification.

Unfortunately, early auction catalogues are often no more help. The largest dispersal of decorative arts in this country occurred during the 1930s due to the economic circumstances of the times and the imposition of death duties, when owners of large houses needed to raise capital. Photography was only used for a small number of items in each auction catalogue. The remainder of items were listed, again with a very brief description, making later identification difficult. As an example, although taken from an earlier period, the Christie’s Catalogue from the sale of the contents of Stowe in 1848 included the descriptions “A noble pier table” and “A carved and gilt pier table. This is a very curious old piece of furniture”!

Furthermore, it is par for the course that the antiques trade had to accommodate discretion if owners did not want to advertise their need to sell, and on these occasions the history of the item was typically hidden. Even in my time in the business, we have purchased major works through agents, acting on behalf of titled families, who had been instructed not to reveal the provenance.

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A view of Percival Griffith’s dining room at Sandridgebury, showing the mirrors currently in our inventory.

So where does that leave us?

It is necessary to alter one’s expectations.  In collecting English furniture today, the history of a piece subsequent to its original commission becomes far more important and relevant.  For example, for a piece to have been in one of the great collections formed in the first half of the twentieth centuries by the likes of Messer, Griffiths and Sykes, all advised by Symonds, now carries great kudos. Interestingly, all pieces included in any of these collections were selected for their rarity, their colour, patination and form, all the characteristics by which we judge the furniture we are buying and selling. Although the original provenance might well have been known at the time the item entered one of these collections, it was not necessarily recorded! Whilst on occasion the provenance was concealed by dealers protecting their source it is certainly true that provenance was not the measure by which an item was judged. A piece of furniture stood or fell on its own merits and not by whom it was commissioned. It is for this reason that furniture from these collections is so highly prized regardless of not knowing its former history.image of GHF cat cover

Likewise, discovering items illustrated in exhibition catalogues also carries weight and value. To discover an item illustrated in a handbook of the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair (arguably the World’s first fully vetted and most prestigious antiques event from 1936 through to 2009) is of great significance and should certainly not be under-estimated.

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Extract from “18th Century English Furniture, The Norman Adams Collection” by Christopher Claxton-Stevens and Stewart Whittington showing the Set of Twelve Hepplewhite Chairs currently in our inventory

Apart from fair and exhibition catalogues, dealers such as Apter-Fredericks have produced catalogues illustrating the furniture they have for sale. When subsequently resold by others, our names are added to the provenance, testament to the respect in which dealers such as ourselves are held. Put simply, by handling a piece we are authenticating it and we are marking it out as a piece that meets our high standards. This adds to its provenance.

Finding the original house for which a piece was made may seem like an impossible task but it is achievable on occasion. Sometimes we discover a bill or an inventory that is detailed enough to be certain. This was most certainly the case with Mrs Hutton Rawlinson’s Bookcase which will feature in a future article where we will discuss some of the discoveries we have made.

We would reassure clients that research is always ongoing and on occasion we do have success even after we sell an item.  We are continually buying catalogues of old house sales, exhibition catalogues and dealers’ brochures. On a fairly regular basis, possibly years after selling a piece, we will discover an item illustrated in one of these catalogues and will then be able to go back to the client with the good news.

For me, the research is one of the most exciting tasks of our year. The detective work, the red herrings, the discoveries, even the frustration of getting so close to a provenance or a maker but not quite, are one of the joys of being an antiques dealer and of course, there is the enormous amount one learns by writing our catalogues.

If this has piqued your interest and you would like to be notified of our next article or when our next catalogue is published please register here.

 

The Art Business Conference

Art Bus Conf 3Alice Freyman represented Apter Fredericks at the annual Art Business Conference held in the stunning, and very circular, setting of Church House in the heart of Westminster. Here she writes about her impressions of the day.

The well-attended conference included presentations from influential members of the art community here in London. As antiques dealers are in their own funny little world which bridges the gap between ‘art’ and ‘interiors’, not all topics were relevant to us. But the ones which were had been concentrated together in the afternoon. Most convenient, thank you very much. Hence a review of the afternoon sessions follows.

First, we learnt about How to Protect our Art Business against Money Laundering. Essential really because as dealers we could inadvertently be caught up with someone undertaking a criminal act. Not something which is in our mid to long term business plan or goals. Fortunately, here at Apter Fredericks we already have strict procedures in place to minimise our risk, but it made for some interesting listening, at least.

Next came the most exciting bit – the dynamic Josh Spero chairing a youthful but eloquent and confident panel on Instagram and the art market. People take note: it is a beautiful tool to spread awareness about our passion and interests if used correctly. At AF we opened our Instagram account only 11 weeks ago, and will now be making a concerted effort to Insta more often and more interestingly, and with some hash tags (now I finally understand how they work and why to bother with them).

Third was a talk on internet retailing, in which Paul Skeldon heavily relied on statistics, many of which came from the Hiscox Online Art Report. As part of our market research when deciding whether to undertake the build of our new site, we had already had a very helpful meeting with the founders of ArtTactic, whom Hiscox had commissioned to write the report so I slightly felt “been there, done that” during this session.  I also got the impression that while Paul knew his stuff on the mobile retail front, the art world was not his forte. In conclusion, whilst it was a half hour where we felt very pleased that we had already invested the time, energy and effort into a producing a mobile responsive ecommerce site, I realised we cannot now sit and rest on our laurels.

Art Bus Conf 2The final session was a bit vaguer ‘Professional Risk and Reputation’ and I felt the biggest, albeit perhaps obvious conclusion to be had was: stories on the internet last, best not to get yourself into hot water in the first place. There are a number of tools in place for dealers who accidentally or inadvertently end up with a potential media scandal on their hands so it was useful to hear about these JUST IN CASE!

Overall impressions on the conference were that last year it seemed much easier to network. Perhaps that was because we were sitting in round tables whereas we were in rows this year, and last year there was only one break room as opposed to a confusing three this year. Nevertheless, it was an excellent meeting of minds, with interesting talks. It is great to have a time in the calendar when the art world thinkers make a concerted effort to get together to discuss relevant topics. I definitely hope to return next year.

 

Post Masterpiece Blues; A Tale of Two Hats

By Harry Apter for Apter Fredericks

Another July and the 6th edition of Masterpieceharry-330 has been put to bed.

Within two weeks of closing, the tent and associated structures have been removed from the Royal Hospital Chelsea site and all that’s left is an empty grass field in serious need of re-turfing.

Exhibiting and organising Masterpiece, together, is a strange phenomenon. 

As an exhibitor your primary goal is simply to sell all of your pieces. Whilst you are happy for other dealers to also do business, you can’t help but also wonder if there was anything you could have done differently to ensure the client buys your bookcase, for example, as opposed to someone else’s.

As an organiser, you want each and every exhibitor to sell out.  A successful exhibitor will return which therefore removes a large part of the work in filling the stands for the following fair. 

Having said that, Masterpiece now happily has a waiting list for space.  Yet having competition for space creates a buzz around the event and also ensures everyone keeps their standards as high as possible.

Additionally, 160 happy exhibitors means that the organising team do not get too much of an ear bashing.  At the exhibitors meeting it is safe to show one’s face in person, rather than, say, from the end of a Skype call from New Zealand. 

Just to confuse matters even further, we originally founded the fair with our dealer hats on because we were fed up with our suggestions for improvements to other fairs ignored or rejected.  As dealers we felt we knew what we needed to do business and to help us show our goods off to the best effect.  So despite opening in 2010, in the middle of a seriously damaging recession, we persevered and have finally come of age.

With over 40,000 visitors, great press and praise from nearly all who visit, it seems the fanciful dream we three mad dealers had, has become a fixture on the international arts calendar. All we need now is to persuade either the Prime Minister or the Queen (or preferably both) to pay a visit.  Roll on 2016.

 

Masterpiece London 2014

Masterpiece London 2014

 

Masterpiece 2015

Today, Wednesday 24th June, is the Preview Day of the wonderful Masterpiece Fair. Apter Fredericks once again has some thrilling offerings on their stand – C6 (enter and turn left!) – and we are looking forward to sharing our treasures with you. The fair is open to the regular ticket holders from Thursday until Wednesday 1st July.

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Apter Fredericks’ “Social” Table to designs by George Hepplewhite

Amongst other gems, we are presenting this amazing ‘conversation piece’ – a social or drinking table – to designs by Hepplewhite.  We only know of one other example which was made for the Marquis of Salisbury and is currently at Hatfield House.

We have had lots of press interest in the table from both the UK and the US and Pol Roger are coming to see it tomorrow.  This is an opportunity for ‘the man who has everything’ to buy something which is sure to get any party started – and the champagne is included with the price of the table!

We welcome your impressions of Masterpiece and look forward to seeing you at the Fair.

Harry, Guy and Alice

The Apter Fredericks Stand at the Masterpiece Fair 2015

The Apter Fredericks Stand at the Masterpiece Fair 2015

 

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