I’m proud to have been a member of both trade associations for many years (LAPADA for 45 years and, until this month, BADA for 16 years) and continue to have great respect for both.
I’m 74 and have to accept my best days are behind me. I would dearly love to believe there is a cohort of enthusiastic young dealers in traditional antiques and art desperate to sign up for membership but know this to be a pipedream.
Meanwhile, a demographic timebomb is coming down the track. The generation of post-war dealers who made hay while the sun shone brightly is departing to a saleroom in the sky.
The tastes and socioeconomic circumstances that sustained BADA and gave rise to LAPADA are slowly but inexorably evaporating.
Just as both world wars accelerated change, so has Covid. Like it or not, internet auctions and search engines are rendering many dealers redundant. The days of smoke and mirrors are over. Transparency rules, with consequently diminished margins. Meanwhile, interior decorators thrive and Mid-century style flourishes.
The BADA is a comparatively wealthy association and could carry on for many years, shrinking to become a small private members’ club if necessary.
LAPADA has always relied on membership numbers and consequently been – in my view – nimbler, more cost aware and innovative. It has certainly welcomed a broader band of taste and disciplines.
Ultimately we are all doing the same thing: buying and selling cherished items and works of art.
We were once described in a national newspaper as ‘upmarket barrow boys with pretentions to gentility’.
It’s human nature to collect and treasure things so there will always be a market for knowledge and expertise; unfortunately just a much smaller, less remunerative one than we were bequeathed by the legacy of empire in the post-war years.
Surely it’s time for both associations to establish working parties to explore merger as a matter of urgency.
We need to be speaking louder with one voice about issues affecting small business. The Artist’s Resale Right needs to be reformed if not abolished. The Anti Money Laundering legislation is an absurd burden… potentially criminalising small dealers for selling three items within a year to the same buyer for £3000 each. You couldn’t make it up!
Fellow dealers have said, ‘Why rock the boat? You’ll be retired soon. A couple more years will see you out.’
I’m sorry, but that is not forward thinking and not the mindset our trade associations should be in.