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.
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.
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. 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? 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.
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? The 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.
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. 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.
Alice 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.
By Harry Apter for Apter Fredericks Another July and the 6th edition of Masterpiece 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.
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. 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.
Welcome to the Apter Fredericks catalogue, Important English Furniture V. Once again, we have scoured the globe to bring you some of the best treasures from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which are currently available on the market. We hope that they may excite and intrigue you. Here at Apter Fredericks, the atmosphere is a positive and forward-thinking one. We are a tight-knit team which operates professionally, smoothly and efficiently. When appropriate, we can see the less serious side of life and we love it when this can apply to what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis because we like to have fun. We have been described as open, honest and direct and we aim to be accessible and approachable. Indeed, one of Apter Fredericks’ most characteristic traits is the importance we place on the relationships we form with our clients.
By Harry Apter In my early buying days I was trained to follow three criteria, all of which were needed and which had to be followed in their correct order. First, does it appeal? Second, is it genuine? And then and only then, is the price right? With the changing market, I have since added a critical fourth: is it saleable? In my early days I would often be sent into a panic thinking I had missed something special at an auction by the mere question of “What did you think of such and such?” from another dealer. Thirty (plus!) years on and the panicked reaction has gone. I am (usually) safe in the knowledge that I have seen the article but simply ignored it and walked on, looking for other items to set the heart racing.
There has never been a better time to deal with us directly. Taking into account that the commissions charged by auction houses can be up to 40%, add this fee to the charges for handling, insurance and photography, and the inconvenience of waiting for the next appropriate sale, it is no wonder that we are receiving many more requests to buy than at any time previously!