le journal

Antiquing in Avignon

Antiquing in Avignon

If you love antiques, you know Provence is a polestar for that world. Every quarter there are major shows for buyers in Avignon, Montpellier and others, not to mention the treasure trove that can always be found in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

This week, Avignon's show was a real hit. Buyers and sellers line up early in the morning to be ready to rush into the exposition space as soon as the gates open. It is like a race, the exhibitors have to charge through the crowd to unload their goods for buyers who are already anticipating the selection (the organizers wager that if they let the vendors set up first, they will buy off each other before the show opens, leaving less for the customers who have come). If you're not there early, all of the gems will already have gone.

I went with a friend who owns a business selecting antiques in France and reselling them in NYC in his shop. He works with a shipper at each of these shows to fill a container and then receives it a couple of months later. As he finds items for his shop, he sketches them in a small notebook, he tags them and the shipper comes around and collects the finds when the show ends.

These shows are good fun because of the variety of vendors. They come from all over Europe and since he's been coming to the shows for many years, he often knows the vendors personally and which to run to right out of the gate.

One can count on good pieces of large furniture - from Gustavian to mid-century, linens, lamps, paintings, planters, books, pickling jars, 19th century nightshirts and clothing, baskets, jewelry, silverware and dishes, mirrors and of course fascinations...marionnettes, strange sculptures, unexpected treasures.

The show is a bit like taking a voyage into multiple unexpected periods. The objects themselves contain a narrative of their time, whisper mysteries of past lives and yet leave one wondering about the gaps in the story - how did they come into this seller's hands...which things were lost or just given away, which were heirlooms of a family whose lineage petered out and which were sold in hardship. The vendors are often artists - curating a collection. It's always interesting to have a chat or try to bargain here.

In this clip, a vendor explains what this stone planter was once used for (animal feed) and that it is likely from the 18th century.