I recently wrote a short article for a local Salt Lake antiques magazine (Wasatch Antiques & Collectibles) about getting the younger generations interested in antiques. I was responding to this article:
The article notes that baby-boomers cannot interest their children in their precious, long-loved antique collection built up over a lifetime. No one under 50 has any interest really, in collecting.
As a Gen Xer who very much enjoys antiques, I felt the need to comment. Of course, my small Sotheby's class was always looked upon as an oddity when we showed up at Antiques fairs and conferences. We were, afterall, 20 '20-somethings' surrounded by a sea of over 50-somethings. I know I am far from the norm, however I do feel there is hope yet for the antiques trade and my generation.
So this was my take:
Last month while reading Michael Ivankovich’s article regarding the younger generation’s disinterest in their parent’s antiques, I began considering why my love of antiques was in fact so strong at my age. As a thirty-something interior designer and appraiser, I am very much aware that many of my generation do not appreciate the beauty of a well crafted cabriole leg or the lines of a rococo revival silver teapot. However, I am confident many Gen X and Y-ers could become devout followers. So how to accomplish this? In my opinion, two simple changes in approach will encourage my peers.
1. Start with what they already find interesting.
Don’t force your children to embrace your 18th century porcelain collection right away. Encourage their stylistic eye. Perhaps ‘antique’ is a relative term, as we often gravitate to what our parent’s find mundane. There is an increasing interest in Mid-Century Modern among my generation; an interest many of our parents generation just don’t understand. Those Eames chairs, or Eva Zeisel ceramics you consider uninteresting or even unattractive, may be the key to your children’s collecting sense. Encourage and develop their interest in Mid-Century, and use their burgeoning interest to develop their connoisseurship. Teach them what connoisseurship is, and why antiques matter. With time and a bit of age under their belt, your children’s tastes will likely mature and expand, and they may in fact, find your neoclassical card table divine after all.
2. Make antiques modern.
How many 20-somethings find the typical ‘old brown furniture’ of the 19th century appealing? Not many. However, seen in a different light, ‘dull’ can be transformed into ‘trendy’. In the design world there is an increasing interest in the Dark Nostalgia and Neo-Victorian movements. Interior designers such as Roman & Williams are creating moody spaces in period buildings full of antiques mixed with slick contemporary accents. Our generation longs for a connection with the past, but the past with a twist. A recreation of our parent’s house with our parent’s antiques is not appealing. A few of our parent’s best pieces mixed with high-tech, contemporary objects create a totally unique and fresh space. Case in point: my own sofa. To the great confusion of my friends, I purchased an American Empire sofa from City Creek Antiques for my new home. It was not an object many of my generation found any interest in; it looked as though it belonged in our grandmother’s houses. However, with the selection of the right fabric, the sofa was transformed, and is highly desired among my circle of friends, all of whom live in contemporary spaces with contemporary furniture. So, with only a slight shift in perspective, there may be hope for your collectables and the industry as a whole.
What do you think of this issue? Is the antiques trade doomed? Or is there hope for us young'ens? I would love some other perspectives on the topic.