When we opened to the public almost 6 years ago, our assumption was that, driven by our advertising effort and that we were in the midst of an established antiques venue, we’d have the odd browser who liked something, it fit into the their budget, and presumably their home, as well, and they would purchase it. Nothing exotic- we are a retail establishment, and all our stock is offered for sale.
What surprised me, though, was how much engagement with the public was necessary to accomplish each sale. No- ‘necessary’ is not really the right way to express this, as it implies that we found this aspect burdensome, which we never have. Sounds verbose, but ‘concomitant’ is the better term, in that, in the sales process, buyers unfailingly wanted at a minimum for us to tell them the merits of the piece, the buyer would want at a minimum to tell us the space in which the piece was intended, and there then has always followed a synthesized dialog between us and the buyer about the merits of the piece in the space. This sort of palaver to effect a sale certainly sounds like a classic, nearly stylized case of a meeting of the minds, an essential element of any contract. What’s more, this meeting of the minds results incidentally in our getting to know the buyer, their getting to know us, and, with their siting something purchased from us in an intimate setting- their own home- negotiating a sale likewise takes on a level of extraordinary but not too surprising intimacy.
It is seldom that the sale to a collector doesn’t result in our going out and directing the putting into place of the purchased item- always with the eager concurrence of the collector-buyer. Collectors are always looking to make additional purchases, and never don’t want to discuss with us what they are looking for. Keith and I have spent some of the most pleasant afternoons in the homes of new buyers, following them from room to room as they happily discus the merits of their existing collection, and providing a wish list for future purchases. Often, we deliver pieces that, when put in place, look like they were made for the space. It still surprises me how often this happens, though as a believer in synchronicity, it shouldn’t. We only rarely have a collector who makes a single spot purchase- one purchase always leads to others.
An amazing level of affinity manifests itself when we make a sale- and, ultimately, although the collector must make the first affirmative move by entering our gallery space, Keith and I must, it seems, have an enormous amount of influence in likewise choosing the collector. They like us- our look, our intellect, our overall way of doing business, and we typically like our collector customers for many of the same reasons. This is certainly something Joseph Duveen understood- he chose his clients as much as his clients chose the artwork. Can you imagine Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’ anywhere else but in the collection of Henry and Arabella Huntington? I doubt that Joseph Duveen could imagine anything else, either.
Tomorrow, a move away from private collectors to a discussion about our interior design clients.