Folk Art legend Robert Young reveals what to collect

Folk Art collector Robert YoungcskphrnoAntique Collecting goes behind the scenes with Folk Art legend Robert Young as he reveals his top tips on what to collect
Robert Young is one of the UK’s leading dealers in folk art. However, his folk art is not ‘folksy’. His pieces might be primitive or naïve, but have been chosen for having individuality and an aesthetic.

He said: “It is not about collecting, but about texture and form. What we do is incredibly subjective; the objects need to be different or a bit quirky. Normally this is about texture or eccentricity.”

Young defines the term folk art as `objects that don’t have an authorship, are not part of the main art-stream narrative. Pieces that were made for use and not decoration, by tradesmen, by unknown makers.’

His priority is `strength of image’, something that stands out; that you can read from a distance.’ This applies not only to a painting, but needlework, stick chairs, tavern tables, treen and ceramics. Coupled to this, it has to have what he calls an integrity of surface. It also needs to have retained original colour, the layers of old paint and polish we describe as patina, retaining its wear and faults through use and time. Folk art was made for use, so the history of an object should be preserved. He hates anything over-restored or stripped.

Robert, however, values objects for their history – you must be able to see what’s happened to them. An old sign writer’s tavern sign for example had no value when it became surplus to requirements, but the fact it survived, meant it must have been valued by someone. How it survived in the first place remains a mystery, He said: “Basically someone in the past did not want to scrap it.”

Young celebrates the object and its history but not in an academic sense. Objects have an aesthetic appeal that he hopes his clients will share.

When it comes to design and how to place objects in interiors, Robert and his wife, Josyane, who deals with the decorating side of their business, have some basic rules.

This is an excerpt from a full article taken from the September issue of Antique Collecting. To read the full article take a look at our subscription options in both print and digital.

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