Arts & Culture

Rachel Karr on Collecting Fine Art

BY Epoch Times Staff TIMEOctober 17, 2012 PRINT
Cabin photo. (courtesy of Hyde Park Antiques Ltd.)
Cabin photo. (courtesy of Hyde Park Antiques Ltd.)

Rachel Karr is the daughter of Bernard Karr, who founded Hyde Park Antiques Ltd., in 1965. She grew up listening to the discussions of the city’s most venerated dealers, and joined the family business in the 1990s. Hyde Park Antiques has a renowned collection of 18th- and early 19th-century English furniture. Below, Rachel Karr offers her insights to collectors. 

The Epoch Times: How should a new collector get started? 

Rachel Karr: We do not advocate buying antiques as an investment. We encourage our clients to buy the highest quality antique furniture possible, but that furniture should be furniture they love. When buying antiques, there should be an emotional response to the item and you should want to live with it for many, many years to come.

Epoch Times: How do you vet items?

Ms. Karr: We only purchase items that we have examined, taking note of the construction of the piece. It is also important to look at the overall design, proportions of the piece, and patina of the surface.

Epoch Times: What are the pitfalls for new collectors to watch out for?

Ms. Karr: If it’s too cheap, there is a reason for it! If it’s too good to be true, it might not be “true.” The most disappointing thing that can happen to a new collector is to find out that a recent purchase is not what they thought it was. Not only is it disappointing, but it could also shake the developing confidence [of] a new connoisseur. 
It is important for buyers to be happy with their purchases and the best way to ensure that is to buy from reputable dealers who specialize in specific fields. The knowledge that these independent dealers have cannot be found elsewhere. Collectors should figure out what fields they are interested in and find a local expert who can help guide them into that area of collecting.

Epoch Times: What is new and exciting in your field?

Ms. Karr: There is a move toward a more eclectic combination of styles. A piece of fine 18th-century furniture can act as the centerpiece in an otherwise contemporary setting. A wonderful Regency mirror, made in 1815, might now be seen hanging over a midcentury modern console table. Antiques are being used in a much more varied way than ever before, with a definite emphasis on quality. If a collector is only going to buy one wonderful chair, or a grand marble-top table, he or she wants that example to be superb.

Cabin photo. (Courtesy of Hyde Park Antiques Ltd)
Cabin photo. (Courtesy of Hyde Park Antiques Ltd)

Epoch Times: Where do you see the market going in the next five years? 

Ms. Karr: I think we will see a return to traditional interiors. For many years there has been a focus on very clean lines, not too many objects, and very little color. Walls have been beige or gray and now I believe people are ready for a little variety in their lives. Not all rooms need to look the same, nor should they. 
The beauty of traditional 18th- and 19th-century furniture is that those things are unique items that were never mass-produced. I believe that in the not too distant future, collectors will move away from what I call the “hotel” look where all the rooms are similar. They will want to go back to buying period antiques because simply put, in my opinion, every room needs the warmth of real wood and interest that can only be gained by the inclusion of fine objects. Fads will always come and go, but antiques will endure.

Epoch Times: What is the most expensive item you have in your inventory?

Ms. Karr: The Chippendale cabinet is $950,000. It is a rare bookcase attributed to Thomas Chippendale’s firm for Robert Adam in the 1770s.

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