Magazine article The Spectator

Old Is the New New

Magazine article The Spectator

Old Is the New New

Article excerpt

Damien Hirst's two-day auction of spanking new works at Sotheby's in September signalled the end of an era. Our idea of what is desirable has changed dramatically since. 'The definition of luxury today is something that can't be made in one day, ' Sir David Tang said at the Luxury Briefing Conference in London in November. 'Look at all the wonderful items of quality that we buy in auction houses.

Real craftsmanship can't be rushed.' 'Anyone can buy contemporary art, ' says Giles Hutchinson Smith of Mallet Antiques, 'but antiques require more thought and more consideration.' Antiques take more knowledge to buy and therefore even more knowledge to give. They also won't end up in a landfill next Christmas. 'People want things that they can hand down to their children, ' says Charlotte Avery of Scantique, a company that sells vintage Swedish design.

'It's part of our green awareness but it's also about valuing things.' Bill Gates and Henry Kravis are currently buying up French 18thcentury furniture. This is because the finest quality antiques that took months, if not years, for the craftsman to make are still cheap compared to £1,441,250 for a Hirst 'Butterfly' painting (one of many) that he is unlikely ever to have touched.

The return of interest in the past -- and with it antiques -- is one of the positive offshoots of the credit crunch. 'We are seeing a lot of new customers, ' says Kevin Weaver, co-owner of Guinevere Antiques on the King's Road. 'There is a sense that nothing is of value any more. It's all going up in smoke. People are looking for things that have some intrinsic value.' Antiques are not only a safer bet in terms of investment, but there are bargains to be had because the market was low to begin with.

Guinevere Antiques caters to almost all tastes, though Weaver has some Christmas suggestions. 'Victorian or Georgian decanters [£300-400 -- they have a huge selection] make the perfect gift. They retain their value and they have decorative quality, too, ' he says. As people slowly return to entertaining at home (because going out is too expensive), how you set your table and with what will take on more importance. Nineteenthcentury champagne flutes retail for £80-100 at Guinevere. 'Brand new glasses are about the same price but they lose their value as soon as they leave the shop, ' he says.

Another great personal gift are old French linen napkins (which are much more generous in size than anything new). …

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