If you are a beginner to the world of art and antiques, the best way to get started is to go to museums, galleries, antique stores, homes that contain fine art and antiques, browse the web, and start making notes of what you like. Once you find something that piques your attention, seek more of it out to determine if you are finding an area of real interest. Don't be afraid to ask questions. The process of living with art and antiques can involve a lifetime of looking and learning.
A matter of taste:
Everyone has different styles that they like, usually things we are used to seeing or already know, as well as styles we don't like. Often it is just a matter of exposure and education, which leads us to admire and appreciate styles we never imagined we would enjoy.
Just as in fashion, there are trends in collecting different periods and styles. Overall, nothing is more important than buying what you love. The wonderful thing about collecting art and antiques, is they not only beautify your home, they lend history, teach you about technique and craftsmanship, and illuminate what moves you in some inherent way.
Factors that determine the value of antiques:
Quality of original piece
Artist or maker
Period it was made
Current condition of piece
Reproductions vs: Antiques:
When looking at reproductions, be aware of the term. There can be a 19th century reproduction of an 18th century piece, versus a 21st century reproduction of an 18th century piece, the latter being less valuble. Modern day reproductions lose their value the moment they leave the showroom floor. True antiques only increase in value over time, and can often be found at exceedingly competitive prices compared to their newly manufactured counterparts.
Understanding the terms:
"Antique": over 100 years old
"Vintage": 25-75 years old
"Period (epoque) vs. Style": Made at the time of versus made in the style of that period.
"School of": Looks like something that this artist would have done
"Circle of": Was created by someone actually working in that artist's studio with some involvement by the artist
"Attributed to": Believed to have been created by this artist but not conclusive
"Signed or Stamped": The specific "mark" of a particular artist or furniture maker
"Provenance": The history of the ownership of the actual object
"Vetting": A process of authenticating the objects to be offered at an antique or art fair
Style or Period Furniture:
The term period, refers to the time period when a piece of furniture was originally designed, made or manufactured. Changing lifestyles and tastes affected certain periods of furniture: Periods are usually defined by the reigns of Kings, Queens and/or political preference in each country. Often, similar styles have different names, depending on the country it was made in.
England: Queen Anne; George I, II, and III, Regency; etc.
France: Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, Directoire, Consulat; Empire, etc.
Certain periods witnessed many changes in design due to influential designers of that time. For example, the George III period in England was affected by the designs introduced by Chippendale; Hepplewhite, Sheraton and others.
What to look for when evaluating antiques:
Look to see how it is made
Ask questions about the piece and its history
Does it look like it has been repaired?
Does it look like it has been refinished?
Does it look like pieces have been added to it or has it been adapted?
Evaluate it for its intended purpose...For example; do you want a museum quality 18th century table for your kitchen table? There are museum quality antiques and there are antiques that we want to live with!
Are there ways that you can use the piece for something other than it was originally intended?
Antiques & art as investments:
Just as in basic economics, supply, demand and trends directly affect the market value of art and antiques at any given time. The market value may rise and fall on any given day, depending on current trends, availability, condition and quality compared to related items. What remains a constant is the fact that art and antiques have historically proven to be a sound investments.
Jianping Mei and Michael Moses, two profs at NYU's Stern School of Business who have created the Fine Art Price Index, recently published a study of what four recent wars and 27 recessions did to painting prices. They confidently concluded: "During the armed conflicts of lengthy duration of the last century, art indexes outperformed major stock indexes."
In summary, the overall value of art and antiques appreciates, and actually out perform many other forms of investment, while providing the double pleasure of allowing you to live with and enjoy one of your ventures!
Written by: Ruth Corrigan