SOLD! The Great British Antiques Story

SOLD!, was the first exhibition of its kind in a public museum and directed renewed attention to the history of museum objects through the fascinating story of the history of the antique dealing in Britain. The exhibition was staged at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, from 26th January until 5th May 2019 and was guest-curated by Dr Mark Westgarth, University of Leeds, drawing on almost 20 years of his research into the history of antique dealing.

The exhibition brought together some world-renowned and familiar museum objects, but presented these iconic objects in new and unfamiliar contexts.  SOLD! retold intriguing tales of expert discoveries and fortunate finds made by antique dealers and revealed the history, stories, and the myths, about antique dealing.

SOLD! highlighted the extraordinary role that antique dealers have played in the development of museums and the history of collecting and illuminated the history of our continued fascination with ‘Antiques’.

The exhibition told the story of antique dealing from its beginnings in the early 19th century, to the recent changes in the antique trade in the 1990s.  The objects in SOLD! were loaned by major national museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, The British Museum, Royal Collections, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Royal Armouries and Temple Newsam, Leeds, together with a range of objects from The Bowes Museum itself.

One of the objectives of SOLD! was to draw further attention to the relationships between the history of antique dealing and the structures and narratives in the history of art and to highlight the synergies between the history of the antique trade and the history of public museums.

The exhibition also sought to foreground some key tropes in the history of antique dealers, such as the association of dealers with fakes and forgeries, and revealed the history of problematic dealer practices such as ‘the ring’ and ‘the knockout’.  One of the main purposes of the SOLD! exhibition was to explore and reveal the social and cultural history of antique dealers.

The catalogue for the SOLD! exhibition is available as a free download PDF – HERE – SOLD Catalogue – WEB 72dpi revised

We are extremely grateful to the Sponsors, listed below, who supported the SOLD! exhibition:

The Worshipful Company of Arts Scholars

John Beazor Antiques

Anthony & Elizabeth Mellows Charitable Settlement

Jonathan Harris