It occurred to me a while back that perhaps the reason the proliferation of shows on television about antiques have generally coincided with a down market is because of the focus on the price. For them to be appreciated and appreciate, antiques need to be something you want to own, not something you want to sell.
As they should be.
I’ve been wondering for some time whether the tide will turn for some time. Aside from television, many factors are working against it. Boomers are downsizing, meaning the supply is going up and demand going down. Electronic gadgets continue to take up more of our spare time (and so we’re spending more time virtually and less on material objects). More shopping is being done online, which favors new items over old.
But if television can be a style influencer, it could help usher in the return of a more classical, formal style. The big one here is PBS’s Downton Abbey. No, the average person can’t live in a big manor, but formal furnishings are readily available for prices comparable to new items of similar quality. A second show, Netflix’ House of Cards, features American period furnishings like those in Washington buildings. As the economy rebounds, national pride could be on the rise, and so an interest in historical furnishings could increase.
There is some indication this is already happening. Browsing through my email yesterday I opened an email from the online retailer Gilt. A phrase in the subject caught my attention: American Federal Style. These were for the most part not antiques, but new furniture and other items made in styles from the 18th and early 19th century. Included were a three section over-mantle mirror, a high boy, a print of George Washington, plus lots of crystal and silver. Oddly original items offered include period newspapers.
It may be disconcerting if the manufacturers beat the antiques industry to the punch. But wanting the look may be the entry drug into wanting the real thing.
The intricacies of theology are not usually what concerns the artist. They’re concerned with the big, beautiful fundamentals, and there I have never had any problem. In fact, anybody who has a narrow sense of their religion, whether they’re Jew or Christian or Muslim or whatever, has only to look long and intelligently at the great work of another tradition and they will see what the religions have in common. Sister Wendy Beckett
The Warhol Foundation wants the Smithsonian to stop censoring or lose financing. The foundation sent a letter December 13 to Wayne Clough, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution that says while it is proud to have been a lead supporter of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, it strongly condemns the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s video A Fire in My Belly from the exhibition. “Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for,” Warhol Foundation President Joe Wachs writes. “After careful consideration, the Board voted unanimously to demand that you restore the censored work immediately, or the Warhol Foundation will cease funding future exhibitions at all Smithsonian institutions. Although we have enjoyed our growing relationship during the past three years, and have given more than $375,000 to fund several exhibitions at various Smithsonian institutions, we cannot stand by and watch the Smithsonian bow to the demands of bigots who have attacked the exhibition out of ignorance, hatred and fear.”
According to the New York Times Art Beat, the video was pulled from the exhibition two weeks ago on Clough’s orders after the head of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, described it as hateful to Catholics because it includes an image of ants crawling over a crucifix. House Republicans condemned the exhibition as an “outrageous use of taxpayer money.”
In a statement posted on its site, the Smithsonian says it stands by the Exhibition and that “one of the exhibition’s 105 works—a short segment in a four-minute video created as a complex metaphor for AIDS—was perceived by some to be anti-Christian. It generated a strong response from the public. We removed it from the exhibition Nov. 30 because the attention it was receiving distracted from the overall exhibition, which includes works by American artists John Singer Sargent, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Annie Leibovitz and Georgia O’Keeffe.”
We wish they would stand by the exhibition and the work by Wojnarowicz and applaud the Warhol Foundation for standing up for what happens with its grant money. We’d also like to direct the Catholic League to this important video where Sister Wendy discusses another controversial work that angered some Christians, Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ.
“I think that to call it blasphemous is rather begging the question,” Sister Wendy tells Bill Moyers. “It could be, it could not be”
I’m not sure what size Edward Gorey wore, but I am certain one of his fur coats would make a great Christmas gift for that hard-to-please Victorian. More than a dozen of Gorey’s coats are being offered today at Bloomsbury Auctions in New York, along with a gold ring, limited edition prints and other items.
Gorey of course was a hero to the gothic subculture, and while all of it seems British, Gorey was born in Chicago and only left the U.S. once, for a trip to Scotland. Gorey became particularly well-known through his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! in 1980, as well as his designs for the 1977 Broadway production of Dracula.
Gorey “wrote” more than 100 books, including one of my favorites, The Doubtful Guest, but is primarily known as an illustrator. There are a number of curiosities about him, aside from his dress, that are of note. Although Gorey’s books were popular with children, he did not associate with children much and had no particular fondness for them. Gorey never married and never discussed any specific romantic relationships in interviews. When asked what his sexual preferences were in an interview, he said,
“I’m neither one thing nor the other particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something…I’ve never said that I was gay and I’ve never said that I wasn’t…what I’m trying to say is that I am a person before I am anything else….”
Gorey died in 2000.
Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz are on a mission to recycle America. Their job: to dig through junk piles, abandoned barns and neglected garages for hidden memorabilia. Sometimes they make a buck; and sometimes they walk away with little more than the history of an item. They love their work, and the open road is their office.
Part sleuths, part antiques experts, and part cultural historians— Mike and Frank, business partners of Antique Archaeology based in Iowa, are professional “pickers,” trolling America’s small towns to salvage rare collectibles and good junk from regular folks. AMERICAN PICKERS, a ten-part series from HISTORY, follows the adventures of Mike and Frank, through small towns and back roads for a glimpse at this little-known side of the antiques business. The all new series premieres Monday, January 18 at 9pm ET on HISTORY.
Buddies since 8th grade, Mike and Frank have an entertaining rapport and an instinct for unearthing relics of historical, collectible and pop culture value. Although buying and selling is their livelihood, the thrill is in the chase. Each treasure hunt leads them to fascinating, quirky characters – everyday people with stories about their artifacts and themselves that open a window into American life.
AMERICAN PICKERS follows the highs and lows of the “picking” trade as Mike and Frank get their hands dirty in search of weird and wonderful Americana. It takes amazing expertise to tell good junk from bad. Whether tracking down a one-of-a-kind Ferris wheel or sizing up a vintage Harley-Davidson, they must be prepared to verify an object’s history and judge its value. The pressure mounts as they strike the ultimate deal, find just the right buyer and turn around the item fast. It’s not uncommon for them to contend with a farmer’s physical threats and verbal abuse one minute and laughing with him over a beer the next.
“We’re caretakers of treasures and the stories behind them,” says Mike. Traveling along with the duo, viewers will meet an assortment of American originals and watch as a patchwork of history unfolds – one treasure at a time.