28 January 2009

Antiques, Alan Flusser and Appreciation

Pretty impressive invite, huh? Actually, "Joe Shit the Rag Man" can score this. You want to be at opening night.

Last night I walked up to the Armory for the 55th Winter Antiques Show. My first one was in 2002 at the Hilton. The venue had been changed since the Armory was in use following 9/11. I attended the '02 show with a Brit and Scot who drank copious amounts of beer while insulting each other. Employees of an auction house, they steered me into their favorite NYC pubs and into their favorite stalls at the show. Our first stall was Tom Devenish. Just writing the name gives me chills and makes me smile at the same time.

Devinish scolded my guides and said the auction house they worked for was, "fookin useless, yea." The Scot hopped right in and asked what had happened. Devinish complained the auction house wanted to be paid right away and he needed time to sell the piece first. There was a moment of silence before the Scot firmed up his hunch, "You're telling me Tom that you wanna take the lot to your store, sell it and then pay us?" Tom replied, "Yeah, what's so fookin' hard to believe about that?" Tom looked over at me and added, "Who's this asshole. He gonna buy anything or just ask me a bunch of stupid questions." The first stall of my first Winter Antiques Show and I'll never fookin' forget it as long as I fookin' live. I later learned Mr. Devinish passed away just nine months after I met him.

This year was very different. Alone, I ambled slowly and noticed the Taylor Williams stall. Taylor passed away about four years ago after a fight with cancer. A charming man who I had the pleasure to work with on some odds and ends. We had lunch together a couple of times on the 4th floor at the Union League Club in Chicago where Taylor educated me about the antiques business.

You rarely sell for a profit. But when you do it can be massive and feed you for years

She's a generalist and a lousy one at that

This auction house asked me to appraise a large collection of enamels. It was like letting the fox in the hen house

I paused outside the stall and saw Taylor's partner behind the display case of English enamels. I thought about saying hello but couldn't. I had no idea what to say.

Across from the William's stall I struck up a conversation with a dealer from Malcolm Franklin Antiques. It was good to talk to someone from Chicago. There's a real decency about people from the Midwest that's crystal clear in a New York City antique show where money talks and shooting the shit can walk right out the door. Alan Flusser appeared and walked by. I thought of interrupting my conversation and excusing myself to chase Flusser down...but that would have been rude. Not many "Sold" stickers this year. Big surprise there.

Beautiful things that you hang on the wall and call your own. People come over to your house and nod approvingly at your stuff. Ponder what it cost and wonder if you have a trust or if you just found all this at a flea market.
$24,000 for the white mahogany French cabinet circa 1930 and $35,000 for the chair and it's mate off camera. I looked at this stuff and thought about friends missing friends. People who, simply by living their lives, made a mark in my life. More valuable than anything I saw last night.


Holly Goes Lightly said...

another fabulous post...maybe next year I'll see you there.

tintin said...

Thank you, Holly. It was a fun but reflective night. Quiet and slowly paced. I usually have the attention span of a ferret on a double expresso but things seem to be slowing down for some reason.

Michael Rowe said...

God, I want to live in those showrooms.

tintin said...

Michael- No kidding. Some nice stuff and always the best of the best.

Anonymous said...

Scots are also Brits... however much they might wish otherwise

Ben said...

You Right Bastard. Now I want that cabinet and won't be able to live without one.

Anonymous said...

I haven't heard "Joe Shit the Rag Man" in a couple of decades. Thanks for bringing him back to mind.


tintin said...

Anon @20:57- Not to mention low land versus high land.

Ben- As a good liberal I take offense at "right" bastard.

Scott- "Joe Shit the Rag Man" was Popular Army slang that I've never heard from the civilian world but is so very poetic.

Often used in the Army to describe strap hangars who were "along for the ride" to get bobbles and citations but contributed nothing to the operation.

A very common occurence in military as well as civilain life... where people wait for the train to start pulling outta the station before they hop on. Gutless cretins are everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Never heard "Joe Shit the Rag Man" before. I'll clearly be using it.

I did not know that Taylor Williams had died. My parents bought their first piece of period American furniture from him -- a mahoghany chest of drawers, Philadelphia, 1770 - 1780, with quarter-rounds. Nothing spectacular, but very well proportioned, with a good color and a nice old finish. It's now in my younger daughter's room, as part of my conspiracy to shape her taste.


tintin said...

ScurvyOaks- Taylor was a no nonsense guy. I liked him a lot. And he loved to gossip about people in the business.

I have a tiger stripe mahogany chest from 1780 or so. English. Beautiful patina. Cost less than most particle board furniture today. Bought it from a shop on Pine St in Phila about 10 years ago. Nothing special but there's a good story that comes with it.