Antiques Today – June 2011

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Good heavens, we’re almost half way through the year!!! Is it just me, or does time seem to go faster and faster? One good way of looking at it is that at least some of your treasures at home are closer to becoming antiques. Unfortunately a hundred years doesn’t seem that long the older one gets…

The summer season has now also passed and the Cape Town SAADA fair in February was over in a flash! But what a marvelous flash it was! While it was a compact fair, the variety of styles and periods presented by the collection of dealers ensured that every taste was catered for.

While eavesdropping on what really goes on within the Constantia castles on opening night, I snooped around Quagga Art and Books. George and Simon Curtis decorate their stand of books, prints and maps with rare and unusual artifacts that draw one in for a closer look. Once in, one is immersed in an explorer’s world of discovery.

I am particularly interested in cities – and the way they develop and grow over time – so maps of Cape Town and other South African towns always excite me, and Quagga never fails to have a few on display. I also found a fantastic volume of four black leather and gilt books entitled “The Story of the Cape to Cairo Railway and River Route 1877-1922” compiled, illustrated and edited by Leo Weinthal earlier last century, which provides insight into the expansion and development of the African continent.

map-jean-bptisteIf you did not make it to the fair, then a visit to the Quagga shop in either Kalk Bay or Stellenbosch is well worth it. Failing that, their up-to-date website is easy to use (and addictively difficult to get away from!) and you can find a link to it on the members’ page of the SAADA website.

Close by in Fish Hoek, Justin and Shire Kerrod have now opened a permanent by-appointment exhibition space at their home in which to display their superb selection of South African ceramics and vintage “Retro” Scandinavian furniture.

Apart from their mid-century modern furniture, expect to see lighting, glass, art and other interesting eclectic accessories in the setting of a passionate collector’s home.

One such example is an extremely rare pair of patchwork ‘Intarsio’ glass vases in clear and translucent orange glass with encased decorative air bubbles by Ercole Barovier for Barovier & Toso, produced in the early 1960s.

As becomes evident, design and quality craftsmanship are highly important for the Kerrods. Having been in the business for 15 years they take part in the bi-annual SAADA Fairs, and it is sensible to visit them before they take their best to one of these exhibitions for someone else to grab. Their contact details can also be found on the members’ page of the SAADA website.


Albert Coertse, “Dagbreek II”, oil on canvas, 100 x 100cm, Christopher Möller Art

The Kerrods are not the only dealers with new premises. On the way to Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek, find a way to pass through Wynberg, as Tim Curtis Antiques has recently moved from Constantia Village to a beautifully restored Victorian villa on Constantia Road. This larger space, with its old-world glamour, allows Tim to increase his display of furniture and paintings, complimenting his always outstanding selection of clocks.

Also now in a Victorian setting, framed by Table Mountain in the background, is Christopher Moller’s new gallery in Gardens. Close to the Mount Nelson hotel – convenient, should you wish to consider a possible art purchase over a pot of Earl Grey – the gallery, which deals mostly in contemporary art, but also specializing in select South African masters, is situated on Kloofnek road with plenty of parking nearby.

Looking at Johannesburg, the final shop to recently relocate is Bancroft Antiques. Now in Legacy Corner, a smart new wing off Nelson Mandela Square shopping mall, Bancroft’s new store has an exciting and dramatic new look, with warm rich wood tones of Art Deco furniture highlighted against the deep black walls.


Particularly spectacular in its prime position in the second part of the Bancroft gallery is a large George Boys mid 20th century abstract. Born in 1930 in Johannesburg, George Boys is a well-known abstract and modern artist, not only in South Africa, but worldwide in places such as Zurich, Seoul, Lisbon, Sao Paulo, London, Hong Kong and the USA where he has regular exhibitions.

In addition, expect a similar selection of mid 20th century South African artworks, vintage jewellery, men’s cufflinks, antique silver, and just about anything quirky, of what you’ve been used to at Bancroft, but now in the very heart of Sandton’s golden square mile. Looking at the antique industry as a whole, it is very exciting to be collecting antiques and vintage items in today’s economic climate, and as dealers in these rarified objects, we are often asked, “But why invest in antiques?”

Investors have been looking for other outlets in which to put their money that they feel are more secure than the stock market. The spotlight has been on South African art over the last few years, and prices have been soaring.


Dutch mahogany cylinder top writing bureau with fitted interior over graduated drawers on splayed bracket feet. Circa 1780. Tim Curtis Antiques.


It’s been exhilarating to watch! While you might be well-advised to take heed of what the “experts” say – indeed it would seem that the big names in the art market have not yet realized their full investment potential – you might just be better off looking for the “next big thing”: There are many past and current South African artists whose significance and value have yet to be fully recognized.

But, with the current focus on Fine Art, it might make even better sense to look at other sectors of the luxury market that have not yet seen the effects of a sudden surge of interest. While prices fetched for artworks in galleries, fairs and auctions have been staggering, other items on offer at the same venues are going for a proverbial song!

In an age where a premium is placed on the rare, individual, and extra-ordinary, it seems absurd that, for example, antique silver often sells for little more than its metal value, when it’s true value is really linked to it’s age and history – something that, by it’s very intrinsic nature, cannot be replicated or massproduced.

Forget for a moment the inner glee you might feel seating the green-faced Jones at your newly-acquired Georgian twelve-seater, and think instead of the real investment value: such a piece is currently undervalued and crazily affordable in today’s market. The one you might purchase would be one less of the very very few available anywhere in the world.

While retail continues to take strain internationally, one sector of the market that appears to be holding its own – if not gaining momentum – is the sale of luxury items. And what could be more luxurious than a rare artwork, item of furniture made from handpolished solid mahogany, or artifact from a by-gone age of rarified glamour and elegance?

In the next newsletter we will be looking at the October fair at the Wanderer’s in Johannesburg, with a focus on some of the treasures that will be on offer. Until then be in on “the know”, and take quick advantage of it: today is definitely the day to be investing in antiques and vintage items!



By Paul Mrkusic

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