If we look at the recent trends in antiques, the first thing that stands out is that the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictive measures all over the world have seriously affected the state of the antiques market. Imports and exports have significantly shrunk due to lockdowns. Despite that, prices on the Russian market have gone up. Since antique dealers usually calculate prices in dollars, the growing exchange rate obviously factored in the price hike.
In general, the market focuses on estimating the value of objects — for example, based on their unique features, the time of creation and provenance. The latter is usually a challenge because it is difficult to establish provenance on antiques — primarily due to world wars and the uncertain times of the 1920s and 1930s when Bolsheviks sold away artworks and moved them around the country and abroad without keeping any records. As a result, the main obstacle preventing full-fledged development of the antiques market is believed to be the lack of trust in the system and in the quality of evaluation.
Foreign travel restrictions boosted domestic tourism and, consequently, Russians’ interest in their own culture and traditional trades. The middle-class which used to prefer importing peculiar antiques from European flea markets, is now hunting for folk art and trades in the Golden Ring towns and in northern Russia.
Unfortunately, many antique collectors passed away in 2020. Their art collections are being put up for sale, sometimes in their entirety. With this sad trend in view, many collectors prefer to sell off the collections they spent a lifetime acquiring as they do not hope to live to see better times. They know that their relatives who have nothing to do with antiques cannot estimate the real value of the artworks, and could sell them for far less than they are worth.
Another recent trend has been the distinctive rise of courses teaching antique lovers and collectors. For instance, they teach how to start a collection, how to find a trustworthy expertise, how to spot fake antiques, and others.
However, together with an increased number of online courses devoted to the history of art, there are only a few educational programs related to antique appraisal and valuation, especially when it comes to investing in art and collectibles. The idea to invest in antiques makes sense. But in this case, the investor has to constantly monitor the changes on the market. Naturally, it is a risky business for those who lack relevant skills and knowledge.
Education courses help people take the first steps into the world of art and antiques. For instance, there is a 20-lecture course at the Institute of Art Business and Antiques. For a more extensive knowledge of the antique market, one can apply for a one-year program at the institute: they offer both remote and evening classes.
In my opinion, there are no other quality courses except this one that is offered by a professional market player. It is probably because to the insufficient demand for such education. Most of such skills are passed on from person to person, or one can gain experience by working with experts at antique shops or auction houses on a daily basis.
The appearance of art podcasts is one of the unique online trends. This format has a bright future since it is much easier to create a digital audio file than a video story.
We have to agree with experts’ opinion: new people are appearing on the market, a younger generation of collectors and investors. Since the beginning, they are more comfortable with dealing with the online format and for them, buying artworks via a messenger or Instagram is a usual practice. I believe it is a positive trend which will become more common over the years.
There is no doubt that messenger apps and videoconferences made a breakthrough in 2020. Just a year ago, one could not imagine that deals worth millions could be scored in a WhatsApp chat. Now, it is a reality.
These are the main trends on the antiques market, but new ones will continue to emerge due to collectors’ passion for surrounding themselves with beautiful things.
By Natalya Tatarkina, Director of the Creating Heritage gallery of Russian icons