It's a far from sleepy summer in the antiques business, as a series of expansions, mergers, and, in one unfortunate case, essentially a bankruptcy shake and shape the field in both Europe and New York.
In London yesterday, stalwart Partridge Fine Art, founded in 1902, was placed under the control of administrators (the British equivalent of receivership) due to outstanding debts with its bankers and creditors. Headquartered in a 17-room townhouse on New Bond Street, and at one time antiques dealer to the Queen, Partridge's was one of the most influential and well-stocked antiques firms of the 20th century. In 2005, a controlling interest in the shop was sold by the Partridge family to porcelain dealer Mark Law in an unusual deal funded by a Christie's loan. (At the time, Mr. Law said, "It would not be good for the antiques market to see Partridge's go out of business.") Almost immediately, Mr. Law added a jewelry business and then signed up Princess Michael of Kent as a well-connected "ambassador" to the firm in 2007. But now, while open for business, the firm will be overseen by a bankruptcy specialist. British publications report that design firm Candy & Candy had previously expressed interest in acquiring the firm.
On New York's Upper East Side, in a surprising collaboration, neoclassical furniture dealer Guy Regal is going into partnership with Newel Gallery, which has a long history dealing in everything from art deco to Moorish chairs to Louis XVI mirrors. Over the years, the two firms together have boasted clients such as Richard Nixon, Mariah Carey and Barbra Streisand, among others. Newel is well-known for its large and varied inventory, and for being one of the rare firms to publish its prices. It was founded in 1939 as a Broadway props business and it later expanded to movies, furnishing the sets for "The Godfather" films and "The Thomas Crown Affair," among many others. Today, Newel provides objects that appear in the houses of the swankier characters in "Gossip Girl," "Ugly Betty" and "30 Rock". Regal is known for creating period rooms and for juxtaposing modern art, neoclassical antiques, and older pieces. Writing in his well-perused antiques blog on the gallery's website, Newel director Lewis Baer (a third generation at the firm) says "my industry is now challenged" and dealers "need to morph into a creative, collaborative structure" to take advantage of some of the problems that auction houses are currently facing. Regal dubs the partnership a "win-win situation" for the pair.
Two major dealers are expanding their premises. Bernard Steinitz is moving to a 7,000-square-foot space on Paris' Rue Faubourg St. Honoré from the Rue de Cirque. Steinitz is so large and so well-known that it appears in many guidebooks to Paris. In New York, Deborah Buck, whose work is frequently seen in architectural and shelter magazines, is consolidating her two spaces in Manhattan's East 90s into one. Buck House Antiques will move into three floors at 1318 Madison, and have a formal re-opening around September 1.