Sally Schwartz, Creative Director, Randolph Street Markets in Chicago told me about her view that younger people don’t understand the word “antique.” The buzzwords that do get their attention are “vintage” and “retro.” And so a new breed of “flea market” is rising to cater to these young buyers.
I had to correctively substitute the word buyers for “collectors.” Schwartz also explained that young people don’t tend to collect. That often starts at a point in life when they inherit something.
I haven’t been to the Randolph Street Market, but I imagine it has a lot in common with the Brooklyn Flea. The word “flea” may conjure up image of junk piles, tractor parts and people selling everything from dollar store shampoo to coke cans, but these modern urban markets have even less in common with a typical flea market than antique shows.
Vintage frames painted in bright colors, retro furniture, French-style chairs painted white, vinyl records, photographs, postcards, unique t-shirts and work by local artists are some of what you’ll find at the Brooklyn Flea. One of the primary differences between these markets and traditional flea markets are the dealers tend to specialize in a certain type of merchandise. They’re differentiated from antique shows in that there’s no pretense about what qualifies as an art or antique, and no limitations on dealers adding their own creative touch to the merchandise.
Personally I am drawn more to the antique shows, or the antiques offered at places like the Brooklyn Flea. Lately I’ve been captivated by photography from the 19th Century through the 1950s. I’ve also noticed an uptick in the popularity of old family snapshots. Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Heather Coleman, a photographic dealer from Williamsburg (in Brooklyn) and secured a photograph of a fellow strumming a guitar in a Victorian parlor.
Also of note was a dealer named John Murphy whose colorful photographs fit perfectly into the intensely colored frames that look like they used to be gold. I found Murphy’s offerings to be quite original and groundbreaking in terms of their ability to set the tone for decoration of a room, apartment or home.
Schwartz explained that the Randolph Street Market combines retro and vintage with the Chicago Antique Market, a formula that in my opinion needs to be adopted by longer-established shows in order to bring younger collectors to eventually have an affinity for antiques. If you have the opportunity, visit the Brooklyn Flea or the Randoph Street Market and see what I mean.