A Luxury Conference on Antiques, Auctions & Appraisals

In selling antiques on November 18, 2010 at 6:36 pm

There has been a lot of buzz lately about new associations for antiques and art dealers. Several grass root movements are afoot that purport to educate newbies about why they should buy antiques instead of clothes. While I support these efforts, I think that it’s time the trade took a tip from their luxury counterparts in retail, the ones making money.

Silver Set from Luxury Antiques Weekend, Stapleford Park England

Manufacturers of luxury fashion, watches and porcelain don’t form associations.

  • They promote.
  • They build brands.
  • They do trend forecassting.

They  also talk to one another.  Many also connect via the Luxury Society, a by-invitataion-only business network and online publication that helps luxurists make business.

Recently, an incredible group of  luxury business leaders  got together in London, November 9 -10 at the International  Herald Tribune’s 10th Luxury Conference.

A suggested list of attendees targeted publishers, management consultants,importers/exporters, marketing companies. And because this year’s conference was fashion forward, they targeted independent designers.


So that everyone from CEOs to graphic designers could have “an unparalleled opportunity to debate to debate the latest business developments and trends.”

Past IHT Heritage Luxury Conferences have focused on Modern Luxury, Sustainable Luxury, Techno Luxury. This  year’s luxury conference brought together heavy hitters in fashion, and that included the  porcelain manufacturer Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg.

Headliners included Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld (arguably of the old guard luxurists), Burberry’s Christopher Bailey (young Turk at helm of traditionalist house), Jörg Richtsfeld, CEO, Porzellan Manufaktur Nymphenburg and others.

Before you say you’re  not in the luxury fashion world, let me ask you this: Is there anything you sell or appraise that wasn’t ever “in fashion?” Wasn’t everything you sell or appraise at one time or another top of the line or reaching for it?

My point is that to revive the business, antiques dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, show promoters, and publishers  need to establish a beachhead  on the Luxury Atoll.

Before you pooh pooh this slightly OTT line of thinking – take a look at the Wall Street Journal’s 2010 fall magazine on how to buy  everything from investment handbags (great for vintage bag sellers) to estate jewelry.

Luxury Buyers Get the How Tos

While the Wall Street Journal’s editors didn’t actually talk investment furniture,  a table from Rau Antiques made it into a photo shoot.

Frankly, I think Bill Rau would make a terrific keynote speaker for the inaugural Luxury Conference on Antiques, Auctions and Appraisals.  Here’s a business man who turned a family antiques business into a global luxury brand.

And how about another innovator and survivor, Sanford Smith of Sanford Smith & Associates? This guy saw the market contracting and watched dealers squirm while prices at the Armory rose and what did he do? He restructured the shows and found an alternative venue.

So, for the first luxury conference we’ve got  at least two potential headliners. Then there’s Bill Ruprecht of Sotheby’s, who dug the company out of a legal quagmire that no one remembers anymore. And what do you think you could learn from Michael Bruno of 1st Dibs? Or the inimitable Souren Milikian?

At other levels, there’s Thomas Coleville, who drew private American art dealers together in the National Academy American Art Show and Josh Wainwright, show promoter, who had the vision to bring Antrhopologie in to draw a circle around antiques and style.

Clearly, there are plenty of people in the business sitting on a body of business experience that could be beneficial to the trade at large.

Equally as important, promoted correctly, a Luxury Conference on Antiques, Auctions and Appraisals would have sex appeal. Given its depth of  information leaders,  it would attract the same paying list of potential attendees as the IHT’s Luxury Conference.

Luxury is what people want to spend their money on. Fashion and luxury are an insuperable couple. Luxury and contemporary art also are also so entwined. (Just wait to see what results from Art Basel  and it’s companions, Red Dot, Scope, Art Asia in a couple of weeks.)

Sy why not break the mold? Bring the trade together under the auspices of a for-profit conference and share the wealth of knowledge. It would be good for everyone. And the profits, given there are profits, could possibly help power the grass roots efforts to make antiques green, get collectors to get another collector, professional  associations in their embryonic (and probably, underfunded) stages.

Everyone wants to make the old fashionably new.

A Luxury Conference on Antiques, Auction and Appraisals could be the tipping point.


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