Archive for June, 2019

June 26, 2019

Year of the Dealer starts!

We are very excited to announce that the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project has officially started – the new project website is being constructed (thanks to Peter Edwards in University of Leeds, Arts, Humanities & Cultures Faculty IT team) – you can see the new website here – Year of the Dealer website 

The ‘Year of the Dealer’ project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the University of Southampton, 7 major national and regional museums (The Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Museum, Scotland, The Ashmolean Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Bowes Museum, Temple Newsam, Preston Park Museum and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery), together with a regional community theatre (The Witham, Barnard Castle) and one of the UK’s leading antique dealing businesses (H. Blairman & Sons). The project runs from 1st June 2019 until 31st May 2020 and is an ‘Impact and Engagement’ project funded (£100,000) by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Over the next 12 months  the Year of the Dealer will be organizing a series of events, activities and museum object trails, using the research arising from the AHRC funded (£231,592) research project ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century’ AH/K0029371/1 (2013-2016).

C. Charles, New Bond Street shop interior, c.1903. Photograph, Connoisseur 1903.

Through these events and activities the project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives among stakeholders and to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

The Year of the Dealer will reveal new and previously marginalised stories of world-renowned and familiar museum objects through the co-production of a series of 7 museum ‘hidden history’ trails; each trail will have a curated selection of up to 20 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object.  So, for example, at The Bowes Museum, we will be drawing renewed attention to some of the museum objects by telling the story about the antique dealers who sold the object to the museum – this rare pair of gilded bronze lamps, made by William Collins in 1823………..

One of a pair of gilded bronze lamps at The Bowes Museum. Photograph, antique dealers project 2018.

…………………..will be reinterpreted through the Year of the Dealer trail in the museum as a pair of lamps sold to the Bowes Museum in 1960 by Stanley J. Pratt, a leading antique dealer then trading in ultra-fashionable Mount Street, London.  How Pratt acquired the lamps and how they ended up at The Bowes Museum will be key elements in the ‘story’ about the objects. Stanley Pratt came from a well-known family of antique dealers dating back into the 19th century; indeed the Pratt family of dealers were established, according to their own publicity, in 1860, and so sold the lamps to The Bowes Museum in their centenary year!

Advertisement by Stanley J. Pratt illustrating the pair of gilded bronze lamps. Connoisseur, June 1960.

Besides the 7 museum trails, the project will also stage 4 art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 3 public engagement ‘In Conversation’ events, hosted by the partner museums. The workshops will consider the relationships between the art market and public museums, drawing in historical and contemporary perspectives and will also consider the challenges and future opportunities for the relationships between museums and the art market.  The ‘In Conversation’ events invite key art market professionals, museum professionals, academics and commentators to discuss and debate the subject of the art market and public museums – all the events will be free, thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding.

Other activities as part of the Year of the Dealer project include museum front of house staff and volunteer training workshops at each of the 7 partner museums to ensure that the project research and objectives are disseminated and cascaded to the front-line interface with the public.

We will also be re-staging the play ‘Quinney’s (1914) at the Witham Theatre, Barnard Castle, and are organizing an associated workshop, ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

Poster for Quinney’s production at Birmingham Theatre, 1920.

‘Quinney’s’ is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The play and the workshop aim to critically engage the general public with the central role that ‘authenticity’ has played in the art market, and to explore and critique the trope of the antique dealer as a problematic character, often associated with fakes and forgeries and the ‘love of money’. The workshop will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on theatre and performance studies and material culture studies as well as the history of antique dealers.

As you can see, there are plans for a very rich series of events, activities and collaborations over the course of the Year of the Dealer project – but we have a great team to help deliver the project – my colleague from University of Southampton, Dr Eleanor Quince, and Vanessa Jones, our project administrator, and my colleagues at the University of Leeds, Professor Jonathan Pitches and Dr George Rodosthenous, and of course all of the curators and staff at the all 10 collaborating partners and a small team of PhD research students to help keep the project on track!……it’s no doubt going to be exhausting, but we hope it will also be a really engaging project…and one that will have real Impact!

We hope to see you at some of the events – we already have some events fixed in the project calendar…so do keep an eye on the project website and the antique dealers research blog.

Mark

June 23, 2019

New Antique Dealer Archive Material – Stair & Andrew (Stair & Co)

Thanks to the generosity of Robert Luck, a former Director of the antique dealership of Stair & Company, we have another cache of antique dealer material for the project archive. Robert passed on a selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues (see below) of various dates, from the 1950s to the 1980s; some of the catalogues retain annotations of prices and stock codes – which make fascinating reading in terms of the changing sale values of antique furniture.

A selection of Stair & Co sales catalogues for the Antique Dealers Research Project.

The catalogues are a very useful resource for the project, and illustrate the changing practices, and changing taste, of one of the leading dealers in antique English furniture and works of art.  Stair and Company was established in 1911 as Stair & Andrew, at first in London and then in 1914 in New York; the business was founded by Arthur Stair, who trained as an architect, and Valentine Andrew.  The partners met at the furniture manufacturer Waring & Gillow, before working at the decorating firm, Crawford & Co in New York and then setting up business together in 1911.

The business became Stair & Co after the Second World War, and from 1952 was owned by Jules C. Stein, (of MCA, Music Corporation of America).  In 1968 the business acquired the antique dealership, R.L. Harrington (formerly Christy’s of Kent), then also, like Stair & Co., trading in Mount Street, London; this allowed Stair to operate from 2 interrelated shops (120 & 125 Mount Street) in one of the most important locations in London for antiques at the time.

Stair & Co., 125 Mount Street, London, 1970. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

Stair & Co 120 Mount Street, London 1970 – formerly the shop of R.L. Harrington. Photograph, Stair & Co archive.

In 1980 the business was again bought by an American businessman, this time by David Murdoch, the Los Angeles based financier and owner of Pacific Holdings Corporation – both Stein and Murdoch were serious collectors of antique English furniture.

The Stair & Co catalogues are fascinating, as I say, but more importantly Robert also passed some rare survivals from the business archive of Stair & Co., including a copy of the first business account books from the Stair & Andrew Limited business.

Stair & Andrew Limited, Signed Accounts book c.1912-1937. Stair & Co archive.

The account book shows the balance sheet and profits of the Stair & Andrew business from April 1912 (when the business made sales of £8445 and 6 shillings and 3 pence), until June 1937 (when the business made sales of £25,071 and 5 shillings and 1 pence). The accounts are an amazing survival and give a unique insight into the working practices and profit and loss accounts of one of the world’s most important antique dealers of the 20th century.

But perhaps more significantly Robert also passed a large collection of the client cards from Stair & Co – these are truly fascinating and an amazing resource for the antique dealers research project.  The cards appear to date from the 1950s up to the 1980s, and record the changing addresses and the changing family members involved in the business, as well as recording changing members of staff, and details of when people left particular firms, or had died.  This information is particularly useful for the data in the antique dealers research project interact map website.

Stair & Co., client card – Stair & Co., archive.

Here’s just one of the client cards – this one recording the information on fellow antique dealers Norman Adams Ltd, then trading in Hans Road; the verso of the cards also record the purchases made from Stair & Co by the particular client – here’s the verso of the Norman Adams Limited card, listing purchases from 1964 to 1968 – it’s a great pity that the actual stock books of Stair & Co no longer survive – Robert Luck believes that they were destroyed when the business closed in 2004.

Stair & Co., client card for H.C. Baxter & Sons, verso recording purchases. Stair & Co archive.

The client cards may need sensitive handling in the archive, given the nature of the personal information that they contain, and will probably be need to be partially embargoed for a number of years.  But even so, the Stair & Co archive material that Robert Luck has so kindly donated to the Antique Dealers Research project archives is an amazingly generous gesture and will be a major resource for future researchers.

Mark

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