February 23, 2006

Global Seminars & Invited Speaker Series


Silverware in collecting and the art market

Dr. Cristina Esteras Martín.
Complutense University of Madrid


Jug (late XVI century). Varez Fisa Collection. Madrid

Jug (late XVI century). Varez Fisa Collection. Madrid

Spanish and Latin American silverware is an art that, in the last four decades, has gained much relevance and prestige as a result of the work of research and the thematic exhibitions that have been held on both sides of the Atlantic. This revaluation has caused a strong demand that has led to the purchase of a variety of pieces, to give shape to various types of collections, both public and private. In this type of collecting, what will prevail and will be sought above all are works of a profane (civil) nature, rather than religious ones, and especially those from a period prior to the eighteenth century. Collections will be subject, above all, to the rules of taste and passion of the collector. Thus, if collectors, whether they are "cupboard" collectors (i.e. those who hide their treasures) or "showcase" collectors (those who show them), are looking to buy pieces belonging to a certain period, style and function, the art market -both national and international- immediately becomes "alert" and immediately responds by collecting and offering what appears in it available, although sometimes if the demand exceeds the expectations of the market, it will even falsify works in order to satisfy its clients. The way to carry out these forgeries is sometimes to offer original pieces, but with falsified markings to give the piece a "pedigree" and, consequently, a higher market value/cost, while in others it will lead to directly forge the work, adding or not the corresponding markings established by law at any given time.

But in addition to possible forgeries, which is a very important topic in any private or public collection, there is the "value" of the work in the market, that is to say, what a piece is really worth and who establishes its prices. In this sense, Dr. Esteras pointed out that there is no rational criterion for this, but that it is the same demand that makes the rise or fall of prices fluctuate, but in this demand there can be an "interested manipulation" created by marketing operations aimed at obtaining the required inflation in the price of the "fashionable piece". And this is what has been happening in recent times, for example, with the so-called "pico" jars and "torrecilla" salt shakers, and also with other Peruvian items in great international demand, such as boxes for storing coca leaves or mate leaves and smoke-servers designed in the shape of animals (deer, turkeys, armadillos, etc.).

Creating a fashion and making it a sign of taste and social success (often sought by those who collect) is definitely a shared responsibility of the binomial/tandem formed by the collector and the antiques market. Both complement and need each other, but the actions and trends of one inevitably have an impact on those of the other without being able to be isolated, which will originate a close link and therefore dependence, a dependence both for the good (the market facilitates the possibility of forming a collection) and for the bad, since it forces the collector to have to submit to the rigidity and variability of purchase prices that most of the time are very arbitrary. In short, silverware, like any other work of art, is put "in value" because there is a market and a trade that fixes and determines it, from which it follows that the value of a piece is subjective since it is subject to the rules of a market that is "created" for the occasion.