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Objects of desire : the lives of antiques…

Objects of desire : the lives of antiques and those who pursue them (1993)

by Thatcher Freund

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In Objects of desire, Thatcher Freund observes that Americans generally do not have a great sense of style and that we are usually too pragmatic and focused on function to attach great importance to aesthetics in the objects we own. Objects of desire is about high-end American antique furniture and the dealers and owners who shaped and drove the market. Focusing on three pieces of 18th century American craftsmanship--a county Queen Ann painted blanket chest, a Chippendale card table and a satinwood sofa table--and set against the 1991 American antiques week show at the Armory in NYC, the story is more about the antiques market than American furniture. I enjoyed this, but some of the business information wasn't particularly interesting ( )
  Bjace | Dec 20, 2014 |
Who would have thought that a book about furniture and the people who own it could be of interest to anyone? Thatcher Freund, that’s who, and he was 100% correct. Objects of Desire was a non-fiction masterpiece which read like a thriller chock full of high finance, investigative analysis and a cast of colorful characters all connected to a bunch of wood.

In just under 300 pages, Freund covers only THREE pieces of furniture which are considered “significant” in the field of art and antiques. Not only does he convey the accepted justifications of what makes these pieces important to their respective fields, but he outlines how some of these evaluations were not always obvious and the trials and tribulations of those who attempted to prove the point. Any viewer of Antiques Roadshow or reader of the Magazine Antiques will recognize many of these individuals (Keno, Garrett, the other Keno, Levy, etc.) and appreciate their respective roles in the saga.

Written with a dynamic style, flitting between the three works (a Queen Anne style, painted blanket chest, a Chippendale sofa table and a Federal, turret-top card table), Freund creates a palpable tension as he provides the details not only on how the pieces were originally created in the 18th century but how and between whom they changed hands and how their tales culminated in their ultimate valuations during Americana Week in 1991. An absolute joy to read.

The ONLY reason I did not give this work a 5 star review is that the publishers made the unconscionable decision NOT to include the photographs of the actual works in the paperback edition. I was crushed. The written descriptions are poetic and quite vivid, but a photograph of the details would have made this volume sing. Alas, that is what the internet is for. The book still holds its own as a powerful read for anyone with an appreciation for world of antiques. ( )
2 vote pbadeer | May 29, 2010 |
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On opening night of the New York Winter Antique Show, Mario Buatta greeted his guests at the entrance to the 7th Regiment Armory on Park Avenue.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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