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Who was one of the most versatile artists of the Art Nouveau Movement?

Victor Horta
Vincent Van Gogh
Emile Gallť
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Art Nouveau
by Uta Hasekamp

Art Nouveau was a phenomenon with many faces. Between 1890 and 1910, artists developed a variety of styles from the plant-like forms of the Belgian-French Art Nouveau to the ornamentation of the Viennese Secession. They were all striving to create a new, modern style and pursued a comprehensive renewal of art and, in some countries, a renewed national identity.

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Art Nouveauó
Goodbye Art-Academy

Although the Art Nouveau style wasnít around for a long time, its influence affected every form of art, from architecture to pottery to furniture design and even glass and pottery. This short video gives a brief overview of the Movement.

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Going, Going, Gone
by Bob Brooke


And we have a winner!

When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I used to go to country auctions. I did this more for entertainment then to buy antiques. In fact, I hadnít begun collecting them as yet, but I seemed to know beautiful pieces when I saw them.

One thing really bothered me about those auctions. It seemed that any item I had an interest in was magically swept up by someone in the front row. I never heard anyone voice a bid. Then before I knew it , the item was gone and the auctioneer brought the hammer down.

I later found out that the people sitting in the front row were antiques dealers who were regulars at this auction. They would bid by blinking an eye or discretely lifting a finger or nodding their head. In most cases, hardly anyone else in the room got to buy anything unless the regular dealers didnít want it.

That, folks, turned me off to auctions until much later when I received assignments to review them for antiques publications.

Changes in Antiques Auctions
But a lot has changed since then. Today, auctions are a bit more democratic, mostly because other people are outbidding the dealers. In fact, the tides have actually turned. At most live auctions today, everyone seems to have a chance. Bidders need to register before the auction and receive a numbered card on a stick which they can raise if they want to bid. Whatever items they win get added to their account, which they can settle up at the end of the auction.

In order to make a profit, antiques dealers have to buy items at a low enough price to enable them to mark them up for resale, usually 100 to 200 percent. With everyone more or less equal in their bidding, dealers often have to settle for items that no one else wants. While this is bad for the dealers, itís good for you, the antiques collector.

In addition to changes in the way auction houses conduct their auctions, the clientele attending them has also changed. Today, antiques auctions are sophisticated affairs. While some dealers still attend and big on items, many of the other patrons are people looking to furnish their new suburban homes with what they think are quality items.
Unfortunately, many of these new bidders donít know much about antiques and are easily fooled into bidding up items, especially pieces of furniture, that are no more than reproductions or Indonesian knockoffs. They bid items up in competition with other bidders instead of knowing when to stop, putting the final bids of some things way over what the items are ultimately worth.

Another thing that has changed about auctions is that, except for house and estate auctions and the odd country affair, most live auctions tap into the Internet, enabling people from anywhere to place bids. This increases the bidding and drives up the prices, making more for both the auction house and those that places items in the auction.

Buyers Who Behave Badly
In an era when it has become increasingly difficult for dealers to find stock for their inventory, auctions are a place where temptations for buyers to behave badly are perhaps accentuated by the palpable air of competition that surrounds such events. These are just plain and simple a violation of auction etiquette if not of ethics.

Some buyers, for example, mess with the box lots during preview. In this sleight of hand, a buyer arranges his or her own box lot by surreptitiously switching items between boxes previously arranged by the auction house. In this way, the buyer amasses a lot he or she would like to take home, enabling him to cherry pick at a box lot price. Naturally, the buyer would have to do this late enough in the preview period that someone can't come behind him and mess with the same lot. Dealers have even been known to talk down merchandise in which they're particularly interested so as to discourage other bidders and acquire a valuable resale item cheap. It's sort of like hunting corralled deer where you're the only hunter.

At the auction preview, it's a good idea to decide how much you'd be willing to bid on any given item, then to stay strictly at or below that level. Reining in your bidding horses in the heat of the adrenaline rush is, apparently, easier said than done. More than once, a buyer has confessed, when referring to a particularly high price he or she paid for an item, that he or she paid way too much for the item at auction.

Auctions always involve a certain element of risk. But if you know Arts & Crafts furniture by its reputation more than by your own expertise, you could find yourself the top bidder in brisk competition for a Gustav Stickley that turns out to be a Martha Stewart.

Even though you may resist the urge to spend beyond the limits you've set for yourself prior to the auction, you should be realistic about the maximum you'd be willing to pay. As a collector, you shouldnít pay more than the item is actually worth. Even keeping an item for a decade or so before selling it wonít bring you enough to cover your higher bid. Donít give in to your competitive urge to beat out the other bidders. Leave that sort of mentality for eBay.

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