So, it came as a welcome escape a couple of weeks back, when I took myself off to Sloane Square for the British Antique Dealers' Association annual show. This is not the kind of trip that I would normally contemplate, but I was lucky enough to come by a ticket thanks to the generosity of a friend who works in these circles. It was too good to refuse.
Now, the whole thing was rather a contrast to my own poxy operation, as you can imagine. I wonder whether the best way to describe this kind of event is by describing its toilets. Let's find out:
[A supplanted washroom. Veneered boxes, into and out of which step impeccably groomed men and occasionally a ragged iconoclast. They groom themselves further and make declarations, along a row of basins and man-sized mirrors. Cups of unlit josticks attend them, in case of emergency. The urinals are just for show, until one receives an occasionally unfurling corduroy hose.]
So that's what it was like, see? In a lot of ways. I'm generalising of course, but the gents really were like that. Needless to say, neither did I buy nor sell anything, but here were my observations:
- There was some remarkable physiognomy on display. That's breeding for you. Some funny noises as well. Braying chuckles underscored by the light percussion of fingers tapping on calculator buttons.
- Okimono, on Laura Bordignon's stall. Bordignon specialises in these things, which are cousins to my beloved Netsuke, being small, 5-6" carved ivory statues. Mostly they depict people being startled by things (rats, spirits, children, their own foot...) but there are some other more placid scenes, such as this one:
Yeah, you guessed it, it's Hotei the god of wealth, and he's playing Go with Jurojin the god of longevity. Who's going to win? It could be quite a long game. Most of the other things on the stall are also up on Laura's website here: http://bit.ly/HsKOkC
- Royal Doulton Flambe. It's pottery, but with a red-and-black glaze, which makes it the raddest pottery available. It was on a stall with some pottery by Jean Cocteau. Standard, if you ask me. Here's one for you to look at:
- A life ticket to the theatre royal Newcastle. I've never had a life ticket, but it turns out that they come in the form of a modest bronze coin worth £1800. That seems a bit steep, right? I'd rather just pay as-and-when there was something good on. Their current season involves a couple of Propeller Shakespeares, An Inspector Calls and some dancing shit. Even if I'd shelled out for the ticket, it had someone else's name on it so probably wouldn't have worked. I hope this Stephen Kemble guy managed to see a lot of stuff before deciding to cash in on his grossly appreciated trinket. Apparently he was the manager of the place and the ticket was made back in 1808 so he's had plenty of time.
- This ace cartoon, Breton Girls, by Rudolph Ihlee.
- Some stuff by Dame Laura Knight. I didn't know about her, but she seems to have been something of a legendary figure in the art world. Apparently she headed off from home and got a place at the Nottingham School of Art when she was just 13, back in 1890.
- The Object of the Fair! It was a heartstopping 1680 Rosewood cabinet with pietre dure marble inlay panels. I'd hoped to put up a picture of it here, but the bugger's sold it so it's not on his website anymore. Bloody thing was worth £285,000, so I'm surprised he's even bothered to update his website. I'd be out running up and down the streets throwing cash in the air if I were in his position.
- "...it was 15 carats. I real pig to wear." "yes, quite ugly I thought actually."
- A white-gold snail brooch, with a pearl shell and flat-set-diamond encrusted skin. 17.71 carats, made by the crown jewellers Woolf and Co. The chap got it out of the cabinet and I held all £7375 of it on my barren palm. I said thank you very much for letting me have a look. He said 'yes it's a fun thing isn't it?' I fainted clean away.
Look at him, he is is quite a fun thing I suppose.
- Through gritted teeth: "My goodness me, that was a bit dramatic the whole thing, wasn't it?"
- Portrait of a Lady in a Coral Necklace, water and gouache over pencil. You can keep your pearl earrings and dragon tattoos. This was beautiful, and the first thing that I saw when coming round from a faint upon seeing the £12k John Piper collage that it was hung next to. It was a vision. Her hair!
- A group of hunting scenes by Rubens. Not by P.P. himself you understand. No, when you're a big enough name as that sucka, you can just paint something and then get your apprentices to do etchings of it while you look over their shoulders and whinge about your gout. One of them had a bunch of guys breaking up a fight between a crocodile and a hippo, and it was all like 'Hippotamus Crocodilum dum dente impetit hostem. Too fuckin' right boys. That one was done in the 1640s buy a chap named Soutman, although I preferred the style of his buddy Bolswert, who was more refined.
- Hungarian modernist tea service, y'all!
- Geoffrey Breeze. This dude just had a whole stall of antique canes. (Ain't lying: www.antiquecanes.co.uk) Pimps from across the south-east will be flocking westwards to his shop in Bath. A great pimp pilgrimage. Pimpgrimage.
- Rogers de Rin of Chelsea won the bronze wossname for best stall presentation. I can't say I noticed who won silver or gold but Rogers' stall was great, with Wemyss ware pigs all over it. Those pigs were staunch and enigmatic. Here, tell me I'm wrong:
- A bronze box in the shape of a monkey getting stung on his bum by a fly. This was a nice thing, from 19th century Japan, and it was worth £1750. Not a big deal. Except...I've got one on my shelf at home. Got it for Christmas last year. Aw shit.
- 'I've spent about £3000 so I rather think I should have a bag.'
- Finally, a 1920s deco 'smoker's companion' in the shape of a dinky aeroplane. The fuselage was a cigar box, the wings were removable cig cases, there were four ashtrays in the cockpit, the propellor was a sprung cigar cutter. Made by J.A. Henkels in Solingen. I didn't have the required £6k on me because I had to leave my bag in the cloakroom. See below to be unnerved by an uncannily accurate diagram:
That's all for now. This whole lot was just to distract from my recent failings in making money off the trade, but I'll be back onto that stuff forthwith.