One of the best bits of news of the past week is that the antiques trade now has its own museum exhibition, which has opened in the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle in the Peak District.
SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story, has been developed by Dr Mark Westgarth of the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at Leeds and will run until May 5.
While the exhibition focuses on the history of dealing rather than auctions, it does so in a way that demonstrates the contribution made by the trade in general to our cultural landscape. The method is to tell the story through a series of objects loaned by museums across the land, exploring the relationship between the art market and museums, which can be the subject of much controversy and discussion these days.
This is incredibly important because the symbiotic relationship between auction house specialists, dealers and museum curators has been central to the development of the best collections now in public institutional hands. For it is the dealers and specialists who often know more about objects, partially because so many pass through their hands, while the curators are often faced with largely static collections and don’t have access to such variety.
Long may this constructive set of relationships continue!