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Antiques in the Brave New World?

Brian Goodison-Blanks reflects on whether antiques have a place in the brave new world and observes how some traditional staples of the saleroom have declined and been surplanted by mid-20th century space age design.

A 'High Society' 1960s Swivel Armchair After the Design by Peter Cutts (FS24/861).

A 'High Society' 1960s Swivel Armchair After the Design by Peter Cutts (FS24/861).

In the 21st century with the accelerating increase of the digital revolution and technological design, it would seem prudent to ask 'Do antiques have any place in this brave new world?' As auctioneers, you may think with have a bias in our response, but quite simply the answer to the above question is 'Yes'.

Markets and fashion change as we have seen in the past decade since the Millennium, and so too has the auction world. live internet bidding and auctions posted on our website have provided a global market of buyers and collectors for our clients selling with us from our South West of England Saleroom Complex in Exeter.

Our weekly Antiques and Collectables Auctions include Furniture, Ceramics and Glass, Pictures as well as Collectables, which still continue to attract buyers, while our Fine Art Auctions and Specialist Sales (such as our Maritime Auctions, Antiquarian Book Sales and Sporting and Collectors Auctions) cater for the demands of the specialist collector. It is true that some of the traditional staple market pieces have begun to fall by the wayside, but as the demand for Victorian tea services and chamber pots has declined the market has shifted its concentration to other areas.

In a certain sense of irony, one of the areas that has risen to the surface in the 21st century is the demand for the space age designs of furniture of the mid-20th century.

At a time when the space race had become a reality and the feeling that we would be living on Mars or at least the moon by 2001, designers embraced the change of direction culturally and the results have become icons fiercely contested over in the current auction market.

A White Fibreglass 1960s Ball Chair After the Design by Eero Aarnio (FS24/867).

A White Fibreglass 1960s Ball Chair After the Design by Eero Aarnio (FS24/867).

One such piece is the Ball chair designed by Erro Arrino in 1963 (FS24/867), which is instantly recognisable. To one generation, it will remind them of Patrick McGoohan running away from a weather balloon on a beach in The Prisoner, to another it will be of Austin Powers (even the latter reference becoming alarmingly outdated). Simplistic to the point of perfection, the Ball chair is surprisingly comfortable and, as with all successful designs, has been copied but never beaten. Original examples fetch around £1,000-£1,500 at auction.

The futuristic appearance of this design and many of the pieces by designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Joe Colombo, Harry Bertoia and Arne Jacobsen are oddly now antiques, despite the modern thinking behind their conception. In this sense antiques are still relevant today as new buyers and collectors become nostalgic about the future.


  • Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood
  • 20th Century Furniture

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About the Author

Brian Goodison-BlanksBrian Goodison-Blanks
Collectables and Toys

Brian Goodison-Blanks is the Head of the Maritime and Sporting Department at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

Originally from London, Brian Goodison-Blanks was educated in the South East and Hampshire obtaining an Honours degree in Archaeology, American Studies and Japanese culture from King Alfred’s College, Winchester.

Following a short spell working for Canterbury and Colchester Archaeological Trusts as well as The Ambel Project in Aragon, Northern Spain, he joined a well-respected local auction house in 1995 as a trainee general valuer, rising to Auction Room Manager.

In 2004 Brian joined Hampton & Littlewood with special responsibility for re-introducing the specialist Maritime Sale to the South West after a 15 Year absence. Brian’s interest in country sports has also led him to introduce the annual Sporting sale.