We’ve been traveling to Argentina for over 35 years. In that time, we’ve watched the changes in the antiques market there. Early on, we were able to buy fairly well, especially French Art Deco glass by companies like Schneider, who made Le Verre Francais. There was a plethora of Le Verre Francais, as a result of the success of Argentina in the 1920s. Argentina was wealthy and influential and much of that wealth was directed to France for the purchase of the finest quality glass and furniture. Unfortunately (for buyers), times have changed. The world discovered Argentina and siphoned off the best items, so today there is a much more limited supply. With access to the Internet, Argentines are up-to-the-minute on prices all over the world. Even 35 years ago, dealers would show me catalogs from Sotheby’s and Christie’s to justify their prices, so even then they weren’t in a vacuum.
Argentina hasn’t suffered as badly as some of the countries of the world during this latest recession. Tourism is up, so foreign dollars are flowing in, and that seems to be a moderating influence. I saw tourists from many different corners of the globe, including Australia, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, and the US. Many people I spoke to said that business was fairly good. I’m quite pleased because Argentina went through a terrible crisis starting in 1999 that lasted for about three years. Many people lost their jobs, crime was up and civil unrest was high. During that time Argentina developed a bad reputation which scared off many tourists. Today there is no evidence whatsoever of the crisis. Buenos Aires is as safe as any other major world city.
But I digress — back to antiques shopping. The prices I was asked for the types of items I buy were so high, that they sounded like telephone numbers, rather than prices. The same stores are still in business from a few years ago, so they must be selling to someone, but I certainly don’t know who that might be. I wish I did. For instance, I sell original Louis Icart etchings starting at $850, in great condition, with a certificate of authenticity. The lowest price for the same etchings in Buenos Aires was $2,000, in relatively poor condition. A Gallé vase that should have been priced at $6,000 was priced at $14,000. To top things off, Argentine dealers price their antiques in US dollars, not just now, but always. That’s smart for them, but takes away the exchange rate advantage for foreigners.
I still suggest you visit the bohemian San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, which is the antiques center. There are many stores, with a wide array of items. It’s fun to search. I’m sure there are some good items available at fair prices, but you’ll have to be a determined shopper. For me, looking for important, mostly French items, it’s become a futile effort. Sometime during your visit, take a break for coffee or dessert with dulce de leche, in Plaza Dorrego, in the center of San Telmo.
This week starts a busy antiques season with shows in Miami and Miami Beach. The first, the Miami National Antiques Show, will be held from January 15-17 at the Doubletree Expo Centre, Miami Merchandise Mart, near the airport. It’s a beautiful show with important dealers. It’s also your opportunity to get first crack at the great items they’ll be bringing, before they go on the following week to exhibit at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
I’m taking a lot of time to add new items to my website. I’ve already listed new items under Gallé glass (including a blownout vase), Daum Nancy glass and Tiffany Studios glass. Soon I’ll be adding many Tiffany Studios desk pieces. Please take a look, as every day I’m adding more. Click on this link chasenantiques.com.
Please send me your suggestions or questions about art glass, lamps, Louis Icart, shows, auctions, etc. If it’s interesting, I’ll answer your question in a future blog entry.
Call or write and let me know what you would like to buy, sell, or trade. firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-922-2090. And please visit my website. chasenantiques.com