It appears that former antiques showrooms stand empty while fairs like the Winter Antiques Show and SOFA have shifted focus to include contemporary pieces. Looking at this changed marketplace, we’re left wondering what happened?
The once-booming market has most definitely cooled, but although it’s a challenging time for many dealers, it’s an exceptional period of opportunity for buyers.
Artnet Databases provided some answers.
“The internet revolution has made antiques seem old fashioned,” says Daniel Stein, veteran dealer and owner of Daniel Stein Antiques in San Francisco. He points to the fact that much of the new wealth generated over the last 20 years has been by young entrepreneurs, and their taste skews decidedly minimal—a far cry from the highly decorative aesthetic of previous generations. In online antique marketplaces such as 1stdibs, contemporary design is the fastest-growing category and accounts for over 15 percent of total sales.
A few types of pieces, however, have still maintained the appeal they elicited in the 1990s, when Baby Boomers were furnishing their homes. While traditional home and office furnishings—such as desks, bookcases, and dining room furniture—used to be solid and steady winners, these days small and quirky objects are in vogue. Daniel Stein shares that recently “a seasoned professional commented to me, ‘twice the size, half the price.’”
Antique furniture has decreased by 45 percent in total value over the past 15 years. Once-hot commodities struggle to find buyers and, when they do manage to sell, can see up to a 70 percent drop in price.
When an elegant Louis XV side table was offered at Christie’s London in 2016, it sold for the not-insignificant sum of $93,750. However, this is in comparison to the six-figure prices similar pieces achieved just 10 years prior—a similar-sized Louis XV marquetry table fetched $2.5 million at Christie’s New York in 2000, it’s the best time in decades to be buyer.