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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 + £64,000 in kind support) ‘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 were granted a number of extensions by our funder the AHRC - we would especially like to thank the AHRC for their continued support to the project. The formal project end date is now 28th February 2023, but the project will have a long after-life through various outputs we have developed, including our Year of the Dealer digital trails - which will be officially launched in Summer 2024, to make 2024 The Year of the Dealer!

The Principal Investigator for the project is Professor 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. We also have Postgraduate research assistants working with us: Gemma Plumpton, Simon Spier, Lucy West, Mia Hoskins, Sasha Napoli, Rae Hughes and Grace Rogers.

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 5 museum 'hidden history' digital trails; each trail will have a curated selection of 10 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object. The Digital Trails will be available via the project website and at 5 of our collaborating museum partner websites.

As part of the interpretation and public engagement strategy for the 5 Digital Trails at our partner museums, the project lead, Dr Mark Westgarth, has created a digital artwork film, 'Echo' (2022).

'Echo' is a short film (6 mins 42 secs) which foregrounds the notion of gesture, repetition and performance in the art market.  'Echo' will be premiered at some of our partner museums as part of the launch of the Digital Trails.

The project also involves the co-production of art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 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 have also made a film of the play 'Quinneys' (1915). ‘Quinneys’ (2021) is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The film aims 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’.

There will be a series of interdisciplinary workshops, 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 -