After 18 months out of the spotlight dealer Ken Bolan has returned with a new Wiltshire shop and big plans for the future.
Dubbed simply Ken Bolan Studio, the venture is the latest in a series of projects he has worked on over the years.
His first major role as a dealer was selling English antiques in Switzerland in the 1970s. He returned to the UK in the early 1980s, setting up the much-loved shop Talisman in an old Somerset brewery, eventually moving it into a Modernist garage on the New King’s Road in London.
Last summer Bolan finally wrapped up Talisman, but he stressed at the time that the break was only temporary (see ATG No 2399). He had already bought the barn where late last month he launched the first part of his new business.
He has been “head-down and working” since shutting up shop in Fulham. “It’s been a lot easier not having the responsibility of London and a large staff. My time has become much more my own.”
The early part of the year was devoted to travelling, culminating in a trip to Mexico, after which he and his partner returned to a locked-down Britain.
Bolan spent the following months re-doing the interior of the barn and building up stock to add to his residual selection of Talisman treasures.
He has opened the studio, offering a mix of antiques, decorative items, sculptures, paintings and continental pieces, pitched at achievable prices.
“When we had a more substantial premises, I had to buy in a more commercial manner,” Bolan says.
“It’s a much more bohemian feeling now. I’m fortunate that I don’t just have to make money – she’s a cruel mistress. I’m coming in with a slow start. I don’t anticipate doing masses in the coming months.”
Offerings may include anything from a set of Victorian candlesticks (cheerfully affordable in the lower three figures), to a mosaic by Modern British legend Elisabeth Frink, whose house he decorated in the 1980s. The mosaic, which had been in her swimming pool, shows a monkey riding on a dolphin’s back and is undergoing restoration in preparation to be unveiled next year.
“It’s not just about finding the rare and unusual, it’s also about finding the energy in the objects and finding things that buyers want to get involved with. I don’t want to price people out,” Bolan says.
The studio-barn is the first part of a project which will also include a five-car garage used to house and sell vintage vehicles and a space for an artist’s studio or residence.
Access to the studio is available by appointment and online, and for now, particularly with Covid-19 continuing, there are upsides to virtual selling.
Not only is online buying becoming more natural to people, both in the UK and in the US, Bolan says, but “they are looking into their homes rather than spending money on experiences. I think buying for interiors is going to have a revival at least in the short term.”