“OBIT”: CHRISTIE’S SOUTH KENSINGTON IS CLOSING DOWN

Date: April 5, 2016

This is indeed sad news for all dealers and collectors of antique textiles. Some of the most interesting pieces used to come up for sale there. It was such a great place to wade through piles of textiles coming from the four corners of the globe. And needless to say some of the best Kashmir shawls came under the hammer there. For dealers sitting on old inventory collecting dust it was an easy place to recycle dead wood and pocket some money. But as society moves rapidly into the 21st century, the hidden closets and musty attics of those who had worked for the East India Company, returning to England after years abroad in Asia, with collections of accumulated exotic textiles, those storage places have dried up. For dealers in this trade the halcyon days were the 1970s, 80s 90s and even up to 2010, but as the century turned and the internet took over and the auction houses raised their commissions- many of them now approaching 30%, it became increasingly clear that the smaller dealers were being pushed out or being extremely careful in purchasing or selling through auctions. SK also provided a venue for like dealers to get together, trade stories, meet new people, collectors, even if they felt like later on they had to tussle over auction bids.

The advent of websites specializing in antique textiles also became a challenge to the auction houses. Christie’s and Sotheby’s have virtually ceased their specialized sales of carpets and rugs. The turnover of auction house specialists that went off on their own business ventures meant that auction client lists were no longer secure. The explosion of social media meant that dealers and collectors can now connect quickly. Its only in the last 30-40 years that a plethora of specialists books on textiles have become available. People tinkering with the idea of collecting can now arm themselves with detailed knowledge. Easy access to past auction results is there at the click of the mouse. The large antique shows are also fading. New York’s famous Triple Pier show is gone. Dealers were paying increasingly large fees for a booth only to sell to old clients whom they could have easily sold to without the hassle or expense of setting up a booth.