As I sit on the edge of the bed carelessly pouring sand out of my shoe onto the carpet, I muse that not only am I making a mess but that the summer is drawing to a close. It is always this way - as August shuts down the clouds part and the sun bursts through in an almost mocking way. In my old Mallett days this week began with the tying of a tie and the donning of a sensible dark suit. I would wend my way up to the West End as if it was my first day of school. These days as I inhabit the chaotic world of the self-employed the transition is less physical. I don't get up any earlier and I don't wear work fancy dress as of yore, but there is a palpable sense of the seasonal change.
At the end of July one can sense a kind of exhaustion in the art world as if a long race has been run. The first half of the calendar year is frantic and culminates in a flurry of auctions and fairs leaving the organisers, participants and eager buyers bleary-eyed and blunt to all excitement. Then summer bursts out and for about six weeks people are away. In France it is very obvious as nearly every shop and restaurant actually closes, but here in London there is just the inevitable ‘out of office’ you receive when you send an email, the message service when you call - or even the foreign ring tone followed by a disgruntled voice as you realise you have woken the recipient at about four in the morning. Even the most pushy and energetic dealers have to rein themselves in and take a pause. For this period it is hard to buy and hard to sell but it gives us all time to recharge our batteries.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the summer is that it gives you time to sit back and plan. The idea is that careful reflection and analysis of one’s business and its practice should lead to sensible and thought-through development and enhancement. But for many during this period of repose and reflection myriad hair-brained schemes can percolate, ruminate and generally become more interesting than they actually are. In the absence of business a certain loss of confidence and desperation can kick in and consequently the prospect of starting a scrumpy bar in Somerset or pig farming in rural Burgundy can suddenly seem like fantastic ideas. Luckily, occasionally plotting and planning has to give way to the sensible exercise of one’s time-honed skills and sometimes a small purchase or sale will clear the screen of fantasy and allow reality to once more hold sway.
But my friend Andrew - stylish, tall, blonde, killer salesman - is sitting in his picturesque chateau in France pondering how he can entice private and trade buyers over to visit. Should he give a series of dinners or even a masked ball. He considers how he might create a sort of sensation that will put his location on the touring map of european buyers - in a good way. In London the other sales dynamo, the ever-charming Tarquin from Pimlico road reflects on how to drive sales whilst simultaneously spending less time at his shop. Tucked away in his fortress in the drug-dealing epicentre of South London Nick the internet king spends his days scouring the websites for the holy grail of a cheap shop in a good area with passing trade. What am I doing? I pass my idle summer days considering how it is that I became so addicted to buying and what can I do about it.
Luckily for me the end of summer brings with it the prospect of the next outing - the Decorative Antique fair in Battersea Park which kicks off on the 27th September. It is quite a way off but there are forms to fill in and floor plans to be strategised. The fair suffered a shock this summer as its owner and major force David Juran died suddenly whilst on holiday. He was young - early 50s. The fair will go on and his family will continue to manage it through the already appointed officers but it will nonetheless be strange without his larger-than-life presence, booming voice and signature wearing of the shorts he wore in all seasons. Dogs will still roam the hall and the occasional squirrel or pigeon will wreak the usual havoc - life goes on. I will always remember the visit to Mallett of a distinguished decorator from Los Angeles, who asked me about my boss David Nickerson. He had both retired and died since her last visit as I carefully told her. A tear ran down her face and she expressed great sadness and regret as he was beloved by all. She then pulled herself together saying ‘Lets have a look around.’ She asked me if I was now in charge, and whether she could still get her usual huge discount. I confirmed both and off we went. Life goes on.
We need to get back to work.