Have you wondered what it would be like to materialise in an Art Deco music hall, and flow with the flappers, dance a jig in the jazz age? Or perhaps you would prefer to appear in a perfumed and powered Parisian palace with Louis-this and Louis-that, nodding your head wisely to the costumed court counsel? Impossible you say, shaking your head in stern admonishment? Well actually, yes it is!
It is, sort of. Whizzing about in a time-warp has been a fascination of mine since I was a kid, when I witnessed Marty McFly do just that with Doc Brown in their modified DeLorean. Zoom ahead thirty years, peer through my black and white photographic stereo viewer, and be transported straight back to the turn of the last century: you can find yourself sitting in a dirt and dusty Transvaal camp taking tea with the Boer War soldiers. You thought Samsung invented virtual reality? Take a look at this curiosity on my Bancroft Antiques online store and think again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself (that tends to happen to a time-traveller) – the real reason I am writing this to expose the cheery-faced South African Antique, Art & Design Association as the group of covert chronovators that we are!
Proof? Well just the other day I took a wary wander through some of our member stores in Joburg’s northern suburbs, and in each one I swear to you I was whisked through a wormhole to an entirely different epoch.
At Take It For Granted I was suddenly somewhere in the 1700’s sitting in a grandly carved dark oak Wainscot throne. Perhaps I should term it a “thronet” (I coined it first!), for this was smaller in proportion than some I’ve seen and I know that the relative size and splendour of these chairs marks the status not only of the castle or manor house they sit in, but also of the person who in turn sits in them – not for a commoner (they sit on the floor, or a stool if they are lucky), this must belong to the Lady of the land, and I was careful not to rub the natural organic dye from the surface, as I know that back in my day this is where the value will lie.
The splendor of these chairs marks the status not only of the castle or manor house they sit in, but also of the person who in turn sits in them
There must’ve been something about chairs that day, for I blinked my eye and found myself in the late 18th Century perched elegantly on one of a pair of fine Cape Stinkwood Neo-Classical armchairs. I smiled to myself, for I know that come 2016 one of these will form part of the Iziko collection on display in the Koopmans de Wet House, Strand Street, Cape Town. The other, however, is for lucky you to acquire from SAADA’s Riaan Bolt Antiques.
I could hear a distant titter: could that be Lady Anne Barnard herself? South Africa’s very own Duchess of Cambridge, a style-monger whose influence on Cape culture was enduring, and whose lavish balls and parties were awe-inspiring. As it began to fade, I glanced around the freshly arranged room and thought, “Yes, this could be the Castle itself! I’m certain Lady Barnard asserted new English elegance (and dominance) in its redecoration”.
Ten times stronger than the same size of standard timber, furniture could now be lighter than a futuristic Danish daydream
When my sight restored, however, I was resting on a plushly upholstered mahogany reclining chair. “This chair is awesome – a Lazy Boy, dare I say it, but beautiful!” I thought. “I’m either in Ashley Judge’s uber chic Hunter Gatherer Parkhurst store, or some vintage Victorian mansion”. The latter seemed equally plausible – one just doesn’t find such a rare chair in the future – and so I adjusted the bespoke seat’s back to a comfortable angle, opened the arms wide, pushed out the foot rest, and turned for a tumbler of Scotland’s finest…
But time had other plans for me: I bent my head back to find the chair had evolved into one cleanly shaped in plywood. That was my first clue: time travel can be bewildering – you never know where you are at first – and, while laptops can travel with one in time, the internet can’t. Instead I recalled that the use of plywood in furniture and industrial design was a post-World War II innovation.
Obviously plywood itself had been around for quite some time – everyone knows that! – but it was only now that designers looked at something as simple as the tennis racquet and applied the principle of heat and moisture to bend the panels into almost any shape imaginable. Ten times stronger than the same size of standard timber, furniture could now be lighter than a futuristic Danish daydream.
Ah ha! This must be an AX chair! Designed in 1950 by the architects Peter Hvidt & Orla Mølgaard-Nielsen, it was produced by the Fritz Hansen furniture design company. I’d seen one just the other day in… now where was it? WHEN was it even?
I looked up into my head to find the memory: of course! I glanced back down, and found myself posted to the present, sitting in Jeremy Stephen Antiques. That’s where!
Enough time-travelling for me, now it’s your turn: follow in my flighty footsteps, watch design evolve, and don’t miss this (and more) at the annual SAADA Antique, Art & Design JHB Expo at the Wanderers club house Illovo, Friday 28 – Sunday 30 October. Call 011 880 0815 for more info.
We’re Making History