BADA Voices Interviews

Our project to capture the reflections and memories of antique dealers and people involved in the British Antique trade is one of the central research themes in the Antique Dealer project.  And thanks to the British Antique Dealers’ Association, who have very kindly given the project financial support, we are able to continue the oral history interviews – do check out the Oral History pages in the project website for more information of the support from the BADA and the new interviews that we have undertaken as part of the ‘BADA Voices’ initiative, see – Antique Dealer Project Oral History

PrintOf the two most recent interviews we have completed, one focused on the history of the BADA itself, in our interview with Mark Dodgson, Secretary General of the BADA.  The other interview, with the former antique dealer, agent, Forensic Appraiser and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers, allowed us to capture some of Nicholas’ memories of the history of that most famous of antique furniture dealers, M. Harris & Sons, amongst many other things.

 

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Mark Dodgson, Sec Gen of the BADA. Photo courtesy of the BADA.

Mark Dodgson started at the BADA in 1989, as an assistant to the then Secretary General, Elaine Dean, before succeeding Elaine as Secretary General in 2008.

In this engaging interview Mark tells us about the history of the BADA – which was founded in 1918, and has the exciting prospect of their centenary celebrations coming up in 2018. Mark outlined the wide range of activities and projects that the BADA have been involved with over the years – as many of you will know, the BADA was initially founded by members of the antique trade in 1918 to lobby Government as a response to the proposed introduction of the so-called ‘luxury tax’, and the organisation has continued that tradition.  The BADA has been a central player in many of the most high-profile issues affecting the antique trade, from the introduction of Valued Added Tax and ‘margin scheme’ in the 1970s, the (still contentious) issue of the introduction of auction sales buyers premium in the 1970s, to the lively debates surrounding the restrictions on the sales of elephant ivory – currently animating (excuse the pun!) the art world at present.

Mark also talked about his role as Secretary of the Art Trade Liaisons Committee (The British Art Market Federation), and the history of the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair (founded in 1934 as an initiative by some key BADA members), as well as the more recent BADA Fair (established in 1991) and the BADA relationship with, and support for, the conservation courses at West Dean College. With the centenary of the BADA coming up in 2018, I’m sure the interview will be a valuable resource in those celebrations.

Our other interview in the BADA Voices series was with the retired antique dealer, agent, auctioneer, and Expert Witness, Nicholas Somers.

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Nicholas Somers, at his home in London. Photo Antique Dealer project, University of Leeds, 2016.

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Richard Grose, 8 Exhibition Road, London, c.1950.

Nicholas, currently the Master of the Worshipful Company of Turners (he has also been collecting treen for decades!) and has over 50 years experience of the antique trade.  Nicholas started his career in the world of antiques with the dealer Paul Smith (a BADA member) in 1965, before moving to work for Richard Grose at Exhibition Road in London.

In 1967 Nicholas left Richard Grose and became one of the sales team at the world-famous antique furniture dealers M. Harris & Sons, staying with Harris until 1971, when he set up his own antiques business in Worcester  – ‘Somers at the Sign of the Chair’.

Nicolas had some fascinating memories of working at Moss Harris – with some wonderfully evocative descriptions of the showrooms – the business was already contracting somewhat when Nicholas joined Robert Harris in 1967, and, as Nicholas tells us, the showrooms had been reduced by half, but it still had 80 rooms packed with museum-quality English furniture and objects when he joined the firm. Here is the gallery of Moss Harris, in New Oxford Street, London, in the early 1920s, soon after Moss Harris had taken over the firm of D.L. Isaacs, who established the business in 1868.

M Harris 40 54 New Oxford Street Feb 1921 Conn

M. Harris & Sons, New Oxford Street, London, c.1924.

Nicholas has an exceptionally wide ranging experience of the antique and art world, having been part of the management buy-out at the auctioneers Bearnes in Torquay, from the then parent company Sotheby’s, in 1981, and as a ‘forensic appraiser’  and Expert Witness in legal disputes in the art world.

Both interviews make rich contributions to the growing archive of antique trade interviews that we are assembling as part of the Antique dealer project.

Mark

 

 

 

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