Lifestyles Without Antiques

Show promoter Bob James sent out an email newsletter earlier today referencing John Fiske’s April column in the New England Antiques Journal. Fiske had asserted that among the categories, the small, high-end show would have the smallest chance surviving.

Here’s how Fiske describe these shows (James’ Shows as well as those such as Antiques in Charlottesville I promote fall into this category):

My third type is the charity benefit show that does its winnowing not by category, but by quality/price. Antiques in these shows appeal to a demographic that values its difference from other demographics: The antiques that meet this appeal must therefore be comparatively rare and comparatively expensive.

Here’s some of the reasoning why the shows could be in trouble:

… any one category is sparsely represented, often by a single dealer and rarely by more than two. Some of the dealers at these shows, however, think that by keeping their competitors out, they are doing themselves a service. The trouble is that thin categories keep out browsers as well as competitors.

Most of the non-collector buyers at these shows, however, are motivated by the lifestyles of their social set. They are thus, by definition, more subject to the vagaries of fashion. I’m no fashionista, but I read that the current lifestyles of the wealthy lead them to spend their huge disposable incomes on exotic vacations, self-pampering services, cutting-edge technologies from home theaters to gadget-laden cars and sometimes art, but rarely antiques.

Fiske’s May column provided some insight into the homes of these buyers-they’re often quite open inside and resemble something quite different than the small rooms antiques are often displayed in at these special-interest shows.  Looking at a piece of furniture in a booth it may not be apparent to this demographic how such an item could work in their home.

Fiske says the shows that will thrive in the age of the Internet will be those that work against it. With the average age of dealers at these shows, and I might add the average age of collectors (I hear it time and again–young people don’t collect) probably above sixty, it isn’t hard to imagine that keeping many of these shows running will be a struggle. What can the shows do? We might first ask is the fault in ourselves? It’s clear that for those with disposable income today, the body is winning over the mind.

For these shows to survive, those with disposable income need to tire of being pampered and start to be interested.

About Eric Miller

Eric Miller is co-founder and contributor to Urban Art & Antiques. His website is


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