November 2012 Editorial

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This Fine Art issue comes at a time when art galleries seem to be more numerous than they were not so long ago. It suggests that there is more confidence in buying artworks of all kinds, from prints and watercolours to oils and sculpture. This is a marked change. It was once common for antiques to sell readily and for collectors to be bashful about buying paintings for fear of derision of their taste. A painting seen as a personal statement was something rather daunting. The obverse seems now to be the case. Antiques do not have as many ‘galleries’, i.e. shops, than they used to have, whereas art galleries have multiplied.[gn_pullquote align=”right”]With the closing of many shops due to high overheads, antiques fairs have become a convenient means of reaching potential customers…[/gn_pullquote]Their spread suggests that art for domestic decoration is on the rise and no longer daunts the prospector. Perhaps this is a spin-off from the extraordinary sums paid at auction for art of international interest and much public gallery encouragement. Alternatively, it could be influenced by the enormous popularity of art, especially painting, as a hobby. The enthusiasm is not confined to conventional art, because it embraces Surrealism and experimental concepts. Antique shops started rather gingerly to include art of uncontroversial character a few decades ago but the boom in art auctioneering has ensured that art of all kinds occupies a strong position alongside antiques and has a noticeably high presence at antiques fairs.

Art fairs are becoming important to the promotion of galleries and artists but, it seems to me, have not yet reached the situation currently affecting antiques. Although increasing in number and prominently promoted in some cases, they have not yet proliferated in the same way as antiques fairs, in which there is usually a strong and increasing art element as well. With the closing of many shops due to high overheads, antiques fairs have become a convenient means of reaching potential customers, just as boot fairs bring junk to people who once browsed in second-hand shops. Many antiques fairs include contemporary as well as period art, with the art element a major presence. This is in no way to suggest that art galleries have it easy; as ex-chairman of an art gallery with ten years’ service I am all too aware of the old joke about how to make a small fortune from an art gallery: start with a large one. In this magazine we have always included art prominently in the editorial content, with Charles Hind, Richard Kay, Anthony Lester and others writing informative articles and complementing one another in historical, biographical, contemporary and market-orientated information. Many articles on prints have been commissioned, with Elizabeth Harvey-Lee and others advising readers on techniques, availability, costs and what other factors to bear in mind when collecting. Auction features often cover prints, watercolours and oils, for it is unlikely that our subscribers would be satisfied with bare walls.

All this art activity is taking place at a time when the Internet is encroaching rapidly on traditional selling space. Art and antiques can be bought online without the need to view them in some premises or another, even though much purchasing still depends on physical viewing and websites work as a complementary aid. So it will be interesting to see how the varieties of selling space, whether in beleaguered shop, proliferating gallery, dominant auction room or promotional fair, in competition with and yet assisted by the electronic ether, will balance out in changed proportions in future. The places in which we expected to buy were unchanging for many years but selling spaces are altering enormously. Fine art is present in most of them although after auctions the traditional gallery still seems to predominate. We consider it fair to assume that our readers have strong visual senses and that, therefore, art in all its expressions will continue to ornament these pages.

John Andrews

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