Elizabeth Feld is the director of American Decorative Arts at Hirschl & Adler. She joined the company in 1999, and has since curated several exhibitions, including, Of the Newest Fashion: Masterpieces of American Neo-Classical Decorative Arts, and For Work & For Play: A Selection of American Neo-Classical Furniture.
Feld offers her insights into the fine art world of investing and collecting.
The Epoch Times: How should a new collector get started?
Elizabeth Feld: Beginning collectors should begin by using their eyes. You have to love what you collect. You cannot start a collection by checking off boxes of what you think you’re supposed to like. You have to fall in love with something. If you make a connection with a work of art, then it belongs in your collection.
Whether it’s beauty, emotion, or an intellectual undertone that draws you to it, something needs to connect you with a work of art. It’s not just the name. It’s very easy for someone who is just starting out to create a collection based on a list of names, the people who you think you should collect. What’s so special about art is the emotional connection that it can have for you. A wonderful way to start is by visiting art fairs to see what you like, and often more importantly, see what you don’t like.
Epoch Times: What is undervalued in your field?
Ms. Feld: I believe American Neo-classical furniture is incredibly undervalued. The parallel in English and European furniture has been at a prime level for many years, but the parallel American made early 19th century furniture are still great buys. Hirschl & Adler Galleries is interested in work that will defy trends and time. Trends come and go. The market for masterwork, and quality works of art, is very steady. It has been for years. Trendy pieces will have changing market value.
Epoch Times: How do you vet your items?
Ms. Feld: We have a staff of nine director curators here. It’s our mutual interest to handle works of the best quality.
Epoch Times: What is new and exciting in your field?
Ms. Feld: Furniture and decorative arts is my personal field. There is a lot of new scholarship on furniture made in New York and furniture made in Boston in 1800–1840.
In the past year there was a huge Duncan Phyfe exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. It revealed a lot of new information and scholarship about Phyfe, who is probably the best known American cabinetmaker from the 19th century. We did a parallel show that dealt with Phyfe, but broadened the topic to the world of Duncan Phyfe, who his competitors were, what were the decorative arts in the homes in New York City at that time. There’s a lot of new information in that field and that’s exciting for me.
Epoch Times: Which countries or cultures are new collectors coming from?
Ms. Feld: There are a lot of Russians and Chinese collecting now. I think you see a parallel with the real estate market and the art market in New York. When there’re new purchases of large apartments, there’s also a lot of art and furniture being purchased. But the Americans are still buying. Many young Americans are interested in art. Yes, there’s a lot of foreign interest, but I would argue that the young American population is very much a presence still in the international art market.
Epoch Times: What is the highest priced item you know of for sale?
Ms. Feld: That’s not the way people should visit a fair. What’s the most expensive? We will have several things in the few million-dollar range, but that’s not of interest to us as far as how we attract people to the show.
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