“Vintage” furniture and decor is no stranger to young, urban professionals, with the proliferation of markets like Brooklyn Flea and do-good stores like Housing Works. But rarely do fine antiques enter the equation, often being tossed aside for their higher price points. But the antiques market has undergone a major shift in recent years, and no one has been more privy to it than Ben Macklowe, the second-generation president of the Macklowe Gallery who describes collecting as “the intersection of passion, taste and happenstance.”
After standing as a fixture on Madison Avenue for nearly 50 years, gaining international recognition for its collection of French Art Nouveau furniture and objects, Tiffany lamps and glassware, and antique and estate jewelry, the gallery recently relocated to a 6,000-square-foot space on 57th Street and Park Avenue, which, according to Ben is “thanks to our existing clients and a new generation of passionate collectors.” For this new generation, Ben believes the time is ripe to start collecting. Antiques are sustainable by nature, they lend themselves to cultural exploration, and, because of a generational shift, are more affordable than ever.
Ahead, we break down the top-three reasons to start an antique collection.
1. It’s green
This might sound like a no brainer–of course, buying used furniture is green–but the Macklowe Gallery’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond this. All of their finishing methods are environmentally friendly, and they use sustainable shipping methods whenever possible. If Ben is able to send a piece via freight rather than plane, he’ll always choose the former option. Further, because the gallery mainly deals with museum-quality pieces, it’s likely that they were made from pure wood or metal, which also means that the piece will last longer. Lastly, when you invest in a few high-quality, unique pieces, it’s easier to adopt the “less is more” model and reduce your footprint.
2. The market is in your favor
“Our parents’ generation rediscovered art and antiques and got incredible pleasure out of collecting. Ours is still finding its footing as regards taste and budget. However, since the Boomers are retiring and selling, this is an unprecedented moment when good quality antiques of all periods is available for a fraction of what it would have cost 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. If you are adventurous and haunt the local antique shops and auction houses you will be amazed at what you can buy for less than the cost of a weekend in Vegas,” says Ben. Believe it or not, today, you can get a high-quality antique for the price of furniture at Restoration Hardware. And even if you change your mind about a piece after a year or two or have to move, the market is such that you can re-sell it with no more than a 20 percent loss, also due to the fact that NYC is home to three major auction houses.
3. It’s about more than just buying furniture
As Ben explains, “It’s no great insight to say we’re living in a disposable age. But as aesthetics go, we are also living in an age of conformity. Shelter magazines are filled with homes that look like each other and resemble hotels rather than places where people actually live. Take a chance and buy something wacky and take it home and live with it. Learn about it. Read a book written in the time and country when your piece was made. You can actually time travel by collecting, without ever leaving your neighborhood.” Take NYC, one can visit the Met or the New York-Historical Society to see their antiques collection or attend events with other collectors. It’s a great way to meet people and opens the door to explore the history of a time, place, or decorative style.
Overall, Ben believes that through collecting “you will find yourself in different worlds following your aesthetic desires, you will expand your mind and your social universe.”
“Don’t be afraid of what your friends might say, go ahead and buy something old. It will secure your footing for the future. These are objects made with passion and skill and patience, three qualities we all could benefit from increasing in our lives. Whether you purchase for green or frugal reasons, be bold and purchase outside of your comfort zone. Something great will happen as a result.”
The Macklowe Gallery opened its new location at 445 Park Avenue on November 19th. Macklowe welcomes walk-ins to explore their collection.
All photos courtesy of the Macklowe Gallery