The Year of the Dealer

‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer: Antique Dealers, Art Markets and Museums’ is an Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded (£100,000) ‘Follow-on, Impact and Engagement’ project, developed from the underpinning AHRC-funded (£231,592) research project ‘Antique Dealers: The British Antique Trade in the 20th Century, a Cultural Geography’ (2013-2016).

‘SOLD! The Year of the Dealer’ planned to run from 1st June 2019 until 31st May 2020; due to Covid-19 we gained an extension to the project to 31st December 2021.

The Principal Investigator for the project is Dr Mark Westgarth, University of Leeds, with a Co-Investigator, Dr Eleanor Quince, of the University of Southampton. The project administrator is Vanessa Jones, Assistant Curator of Textiles at Leeds Museums & Galleries.

The YoD project seeks to disseminate the rich seam of research on the history of the antique trade through a series of public engagement events, activities and public museum heritage trails. The collaborating partners are The Victoria & Albert Museum, London, The National Museum, Scotland, Edinburgh, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Temple Newsam, Leeds, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and Preston Park Museum, Stockton. We also have as cultural partners, The Witham Community Arts Centre, Barnard Castle, and The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds; together with one of the world’s leading antique dealers, H. Blairman & Sons, London.

The project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives among stakeholders.  It aims to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

The Year of the Dealer will reveal new and previously marginalised stories of world-renowned and familiar museum objects through the co-production of a series of 7 museum ‘hidden history’ trails; each trail will have a curated selection of up to 20 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object.

The project also involves the co-production of 4 art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 3 public engagement ‘In Conversation’ events hosted by the partner museums. The workshops will consider the relationships between the art market and public museums, drawing in historical and contemporary perspectives and will also consider the challenges and future opportunities for the relationships between museums and the art market.  The ‘In Conversation’ events invite key art market professionals, museum professionals, academics and commentators to discuss and debate the subject of the art market and public museums.

Other activities as part of the Year of the Dealer project include museum front of house staff and volunteer training workshops at each of the 7 partner museums to ensure that the project research and objectives are disseminated and cascaded to the front-line interface with the public.

We will also be re-staging the play ‘Quinneys’ (1915) and are organising an associated workshop, ‘Dealing with Authenticity’. ‘Quinneys’ is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The play and the workshop aim to critically engage the general public with the central role that ‘authenticity’ has played in the art market, and to explore and critique the trope of the antique dealer as a problematic character, often associated with fakes and forgeries and the ‘love of money’. The workshop will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on theatre and performance studies and material culture studies as well as the history of antique dealers.

Please see events pages and museum trails pages for more information on the proposed events and activities associated with the ‘Year of the Dealer’ project.

Project Partners –