This weekend, I flew to New York -- for lunch! I was lucky enough to be flying out to the Big Apple to meet my old business colleague and good friend Julian Ellison, founder and CEO of LiveAuctioneers.
Julian founded the company after leaving our alma mater icollector, which we both ended up effectively running for a period of time shortly after the dotcom boom. The sun was shining as I wandered up Broadway and into the trendy 'Meat Packing' district to meet him at Soho House for coffee, before heading off to Pastis for lunch. It's been some time since Julian and I have had a good talk, and this proved to be as invigorating, enjoyable and educational as ever. Thank you Julian! A visit to Philips de Pury to view their latest auction ended a perfect day.
Saturday brought a second highlight of the trip - time to go 'teekin' as they say in the States, or 'antiquing' to you and I. My destination was West 25th St, between Broadway and 6th Avenue, home to a famous open air flea market and a plethora of malls and stores. To be honest, the flea market was even more disappointing than last time I came three years ago. I'd really challenge any serious collector to find anything they want amongst the old (vintage?) clothes, knackered shoes, household appliances, and probably-quite-modern tribal art on display on trestle tables and rugs in the cavernous car parks between buildings. Still, the variety was excellent, and maybe I just didn't look hard enough...
Quick smart over to The Showplace for some proper hunting! This is an excellent source, and really must be visited if you're into this sort of thing. Over 130 professional dealers have stands over three floors, with a selection to die for. Although you'll know what you want to look at, I'd recommend Freeforms for Scandinavian Modern ceramics and glass, Mood Indigo for Deco and '50s homewares, barware and funky plastics, Waves for amazing vintage radios, Soren Jensen for Georg Jensen and Scandinavian Modern metalware and cutlery, and anywhere on the ground floor for amazing costume jewellery.
Despite the choice, I was taken by two Exbor glass 'obelisk' vases designed by Pavel Hlava and ranging from $500 upwards, something that looked like one but wasn't at a similar price, and a Ruscha 'Filigrana' vase, c1960, designed by Adele Bolz. The largest I've seen for ages, I managed to politely barter the price down to $160, but then realised that its vast size and fragility made it impossible to carry back in hand luggage!
Oh, as a final note, don't forget to pop up to the fourth floor. New since I came last time, this vast space is filled with glass cabinets packed with treasures, and also has appealing room sets on display to show you how you can integrate antiques and collectables into your home. I left feeling very happy indeed, even if slightly nervy as I tried to decide whether to buy any of the pieces I had seen.
With the dollar to pound exchange rate being unfavourable from my viewpoint, I decided to save my few hard-earned pounds for the 'best bit'. Undoubtedly THE places to go for true bargain hunting are the two large parking garage floors just on the corner of 6th Avenue. Rumoured to have been closed down, I can confirm that they haven't been, with signs just inside the doors stating a new lease has been signed.
I always get a shiver of excitement when I go up or down the ramps. There are over 200 dealers ranging from 'Mom & Pop' to professionals who have been in it all their lives. Price tags range from under a dollar to over $5,000, but are largely under $500.Whatever you find, always haggle, but do it politely and with respect.
Also always examine pieces thoroughly - trade starts at 6am and it's rare for dealers higher up 'the food chain' to pass over a true bargain. Keep your eyes peeled for damage!
After being tempted by plenty, I limited myself to a superb Winchcombe Pottery cider flagon, potted by Raymond Finch which, despite my luggage restrictions, really needed to be repatriated at $50 (£35), and also a rather sweet Scandinavian look-alike Russian 'Tekt' ceramic figurine that I just couldn't pass by at $12 (£8)!
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