Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century, a cultural geography

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Fine Art History of Art&Cult Stud

Abstract

This 30 month research project seeks to document, map, contextualize and critically analyse the development of the British antiques trade during the 20th century. The project will assess the cultural geography of the trade in antiques in a British context with a consideration of its international dimensions, especially the relationships to the European and North American markets. The project will document the trade in antiques, investigating a series of research questions related to the evolving business practices of the trade and the exchange and circulation of antiques, placing these practices into social, political and economic contexts and mapping these against the evolving cultural landscape of the consumption of antiques. It will result in a number of discrete, but interrelated academic and public-facing outputs, including an edited volume of essays, a conference and workshops, and a web-based interactive (keyword searchable) virtual map of Britain highlighting the locations of dealerships. Using GPS technology, and based on Google Maps, the interactive map will include consistent 'thumbnail' information and data sets, such as trading dates and biographical information for each firm; images of any significant objects that passed through the firm's hands; and links to any objects in public museum collections (in the UK, Europe and the USA). The website will also allow public participation in the research project through user-generated content, keying into the increasing interests of local histories through local heritage societies and family history groups. At the heart of the project will be discrete historical case study research projects into the history of a number of influential British-based dealerships utilizing previously unexplored archival material. An oral history archive based on interviews with retired and semi-retired members of the British trade will be assembled as part of a broader ethnographic study, concentrating on the more recent history of the trade, and in particular the transformation of the antique trade in the last few years of the 20th century.

There has been a significant shift in emphasis in terms of art historical studies in recent years, with an emerging and consistent focus on the mechanisms and practices of the art market, and several major investigations into the history of the art market. But whilst there have been a small number of studies on antiques in terms of the history of collecting, the history of the British antiques trade itself remains a neglected subject. The preliminary mapping of the development of the 19th century antiques trade has already begun to highlight the significance of the development of the trade in the 19th century, but in terms of the 20th century trade there have been only a handful of published journal essays that have directed attention to this subject. Indeed, 'Memoirs of a 20th century dealer', the reflections on the trade in the period c.1940s-c.1980s by the late Roger Warner (2006), and 'Hotspur: Eighty Years of Antique Dealing', a celebration of the firm of Hotspur (2004), remain the only substantive pieces of writing on the subject of the 20th century trade, albeit emanating from the trade itself. This project will therefore direct further attention to the significance of antique dealers as active agents in the markets, highlighting the importance of their socio-economic and cultural practices. It will direct attention to the relationships between the history of the antique trade and the commercial antiques markets and established histories such as the history of 'decorative art', the histories of collecting, and the history of the public museum. It will also provide a new set of data that future studies and investigations can build upon, expanding the possibility of further analysis across a range of disciplines and approaches.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of the research will be the general public, museums and galleries (in the UK, Europe and the USA) and the commercial sector (antiques and art markets). The research is to be presented through a co-edited publication, an interactive website, a conference, workshops and public talks in museums, as well as filtered through appropriate popular media, and will ensure that the research is disseminated through a range of modes and a rich series of diverse engagements with the research material. The museum and gallery communities will benefit from new research into the history of their collections and new sets of provenance data, offering new opportunities for interpretation. Through the project new links will be formed and existing links enhanced, leading to further potential projects, exhibitions and collaborations and strengthening the bonds between academics and museums in the UK and the USA.

The public will benefit from completely new research delivered into the public domain through the project website. This is an important public-interface, with potential for sustainable development and it is envisaged that the project website will extend the life of the research project beyond the 30 month funded period. The intention is to build user-generated content into the website, ensuring a public and collaborative research dimension to the project. The project also keys into the obvious popular appeal of antiques and collecting in wider media, evidenced by the continued success and appetite for antiques-related television programmes (there are over 20 antiques-related television programmes currently on air), as well as popular magazines such as Art & Antiques, Antique Collector and the Miller's Antiques Price Guide series. The public will benefit from enhanced understanding of the history of the antiques trade and its practices and structures. Efforts will be made to ensure that the project website is disseminated beyond academic websites and will be linked through popular media sites such as Antique Collector and Homes and Antiques Magazine.

The project conference will take place at a public venue (Temple Newsam House museum) allowing academics, museum professionals and the wider museum-visiting public, to engage with critical issues in the histories of collecting and the histories of art. There will also be a series of workshops and public talks at museum venues in Leeds and London associated with the research project.

The commercial art and antiques sector will benefit from further highlighting the historical significance of the antiques trade, allowing the British art and antiques sector to actively present the significance of its contribution to the histories of collecting and the histories of museums and galleries. This is particularly important in the context of the highly competitive global art and antiques market. The latest economic survey evidence (2010) from the British Art Market Federation (BAMF) on the British art and antiques market indicates that it comprises c.10,000 businesses, providing direct employment for 60,000 people, and indirect employment for a further 66,000 people. In 2010 the art and antiques businesses contributed £911 million in UK tax revenues. The proposed project keys into to some significant anniversaries in the history of the antiques trade; the centenary of the British Antique Dealers' Association (BADA) falls in 2018 and this date may offer potential for future application of the results of the research project. It is envisaged that the research project could have further and sustained impact through a future submission of an AHRC 'Follow on' funding application in 2015. This proposed future funding application would develop the public-facing dimensions of the research by the development and staging of an exhibition on 'The Antique Trade' in a public museum.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The research is still in progress
Exploitation Route The findings are still provisional, but we envisage they will influence further investigations into the significance and impact of the history of the antique trade.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail

URL https://antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Description The research has been foregrounded in two related sectors: 1. The museums and galleries sector, in the creation of new interpretative narratives for museum objects (based around the history of the antique trade). 2. The antique trade sector, in highlighting the historical significance of the antique trade in the history of collecting, the history of museums and the cultural economy.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Retail
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Art Market courses
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Title Interactive Project Map 
Description The development of a new software programme for tracking locations of antique dealers and objects through time/space as a visual research tool. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Development of supplementary research questions arising from the visualisation of data. 
URL https://antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Title Antique Dealers Website 
Description A web-based database of locations of antique dealer shops in Britain 1900-2000, using GPS technology. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact TBC 
URL https://antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Description BADA 
Organisation British Antique Dealers Association (BADA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have had knowledge exchange meetings with BADA staff and members.
Collaborator Contribution The BADA are sponsoring the research project conference (April 2016) and have supported the research activities by donating the archive of the BADA (est 1918) to the project (to be deposited at the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds).
Impact TBC
Start Year 2013
 
Description Bowes Museum 
Organisation The Bowes Museum
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Research on history of collections in the 20th century at the Bowes Museum
Collaborator Contribution Curatorial advice, access to archives
Impact Research on history of collections in 20th century at the Bowes Museum
Start Year 2013
 
Description Leeds Art Fund 
Organisation Leeds Art Fund
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution n/a
Collaborator Contribution The Leeds Art Fund offered financial support for the acquisition processes for antique dealer archives coming to the Brotherton Library, University of Leeds, as part of the research activities.
Impact ongoing research
Start Year 2015
 
Description Leeds Museums 
Organisation Leeds Museums and Galleries
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Research on the history of the collections made in the 20th century at Leeds Museums and Galleries
Collaborator Contribution Curatorial advice, access to archives and supply of conference venue
Impact Interactive research map on the history of the antique trade in Britain in the 20th century.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Antique Dealers Interactive Map 
Description A software programme for tracking locations of antique dealers and objects; based on Google Maps 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2015 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact wider dissemination of the research into the public domain. 
URL https://antiquetrade.leeds.ac.uk/
 
Description AHRC Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Publicity for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/publicity-for-the-project/
 
Description Antique Dealers Project Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Development of the project website and the project blog and associated Twitter feed has led to increased engagement with the project from the sector, which has in turn led to increased research activities (more oral history interviews) and further highlighted the significance of the research in various communities.

dissemination of project information and engagement activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.antiquedealers.leeds.ac.uk
 
Description Antiques Trade Gazette 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Editorial on the front page of the Antiques Trade Gazette (cir c.25,000) on 20th November 2013.
Letters column in ATG January 2014.
Editorial on page 3 of ATG on 20th June 2015.
Editorial on page 12 of ATG on 13th February 2016.

Dissemination of the research project; offers of help to the project and several dealer archives promised.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/
 
Description Arts Scholars Guild 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Editorial in the Newsletter of the Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars in Spring 2014 (issue no.18).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.artsscholars.org/
 
Description BBC Radio Solent 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Radio Interview.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02vk6c2
 
Description Bowes Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public talk on the research project at the annual lecture for the Friends of the Bowes Museum, on 20th January 2015
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description British Antique Dealers Association Presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation to the British Antique Dealers Association at their AGM on 15th May 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Furniture History Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A presentation at the Furniture History Society AGM on 22nd November 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Leeds University Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Publicity for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/publicity-for-the-project/
 
Description Patrick Sandberg Antiques 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Publicity for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/publicity-for-the-project/
 
Description Pieces of Time website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Publicity for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/publicity-for-the-project/
 
Description Project Blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research project blog has increased the presence of the research and acted as a catalyst for expansion of the research activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/
 
Description Project Twitter Feed 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The research Twitter feed has promoted the project on an international digital platform and has increased engagement with the research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013,2014,2015,2016
URL https://twitter.com/AntiqueDealersA
 
Description University of Southampton website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Publicity for the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://antiquedealersblog.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/publicity-for-the-project/
 
Description Yorkshire Post 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Newspaper article in Yorkshire Post on 16th June 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/