Are Antiques Green?

Seeing Green in Used Furniture
Seeing Green in Used Furniture

In a word, yes! Antiques are green because they don’t need to be created, they already exist. That means no carbon has been burned (not recently anyway) to produce an antique. There could be a qualifier, however, and that is assuming the antique hasn’t traveled around in a truck from show-to-show until it’s purchased. If it had, driving heavy furniture around can hardly be called a green practice. If we go back far enough, most of what anyone did in say the 1830s was comparitively green–outside of burning wood for heat, most people didn’t have much of a carbon footprint.

Increasingly, purveyors of antiques are using the “green” angle to sell their wares, or at minimum, pointing it out. It’s unclear if buyers yet are looking at antiques because they are green. While as a consumer, the concept of green appeals to me, I’m not sure that would be a motivation in buying a piece of furniture.

“We have the opportunity of a lifetime here: green is hot and antiques are green,” wrote John Fiske, Editor-in-Chief, New England Antiques Journal. I suspect that “green” may be a better way to sell used furniture than antiques, however. Collecting antiques combines an appreciation for both art and history. “Green” only applies to antiques in that they weren’t produced recently. An appreciation of the quality may reveal some practices, regardless of when they occured, that were/are very green or not very green. For example, using local woods, hand tools and local production: very green. Using imported exotic wood: not so green.

I am simply issuing a cautionary advisory about jumping too quickly on the “green” bandwagon and using it as a major selling point for antiques. Yes, it is a very good practice to consider buying a used piece of furniture instead of a new one. Yes, antiques are green. The major attraction to them isn’t any component of the production process, however. It’s the art in the antique, and a sense of our local, and human history.

I think buying antiques only or even primarily because they are green, sells them short. Antiques are desireable because they are unique… in most cases they are art. Most anything that’s not mass-produced (and some of what we think of as antique was mass-produced), is almost inherently green. Yet, I can’t imagine choosing a painting based on it’s environmentally-friendly qualities. An antique doesn’t stray far from not needing such a litmus test.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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