Fine art is customarily regarded as the last enterprise of domestic acquisition. It is usually heralded by fine china flatware, sterling silver or plate cutlery, crystal goblets and vases, exotic wooden furnishings, Oriental rugs and brass lamps. Paintings, sculpture and jewellery constitute the ultimate refinement of personal possessions. Photography, woodwork and engraving qualify as well. The specifics include musical instruments and clocks (always mechanical only). Notably absent from the collection of fine art is anything so vulgar as electronic devices which are nonetheless critical to the modern household but which suffer the distinction of precipitous and inevitable decline and replacement, things like sound systems, televisions, computers and smart phones (and their accessories). Also excluded though of importance is one’s library of books, music and film (either hardcover, CD, DVD or electronic). I have but one antique book, an early legal text given me by former clients. I am also proud to say I have two books I have written, one an autobiography, the other a history of our local Masonic Lodge (a copy of which is housed in our local library).
Historically I have confined fine art to interior display; that is, garden ornaments were never part of my vernacular even though I have admired some items from afar. The paintings I acquired were of necessity primarily those of local artists since I could afford the cost. I did however succeed to more exotic items through auction and inheritance. Generally speaking I prefer new things because they are less susceptible to deterioration or decline. Fine art is a broad exception to that rule though I have chosen to abandon one antique oil painting because it was cracking. The cost of reconditioning was supportable (and in fact I undertook the process) but I chose to auction it to avoid repetition of the declension.
Some of the early pieces of sculpture I acquired were rather more exotic than my developing taste preferred. There is naturally no reason that one’s collection of fine art should be any more permanent than anything else. Amendment is however normally not the rule. Paintings for example tend to become as enduring as wallpaper; namely, part of one’s customary background and therefore inalterable. Pieces I inherited from my parents have a sentimental attachment as well. I have from my parental grandparents one piece, an antique chair which I’ve had professionally refurbished. My grandfather bequeathed to me and my father several watches but they were either sold or handed down to my younger family members because they were prone to disrepair or I no longer used them. One for example was an enormous sterling silver pocket watch which was wound by a key. I sold it for the same amount I initially paid to recondition it.
I count among my fine art collection the jewellery I have either collected or commissioned. This is the most volatile area of my collection. For whatever reason I routinely tire of the stuff I have. I cannot but imagine that because it is a matter of personal adornment it is therefore related to my overall physical state which of course changes with age. It is nothing to view certain pieces as typical of a particular age group. With the passage of time I have also confined my gold items to 18K for no other reason than uniformity. Years ago I had a 24K piece from China which I adored but which latterly I found to be too exquisite. For the most part – that is, aside from signet and pinky rings – I now hide whatever I wear to avoid looking like a Jewish widow. But indisputably I still get a bang out of the precious metals. Jewellery is for me as much a tactile experience as anything else.
When we sold the house and office building and moved into our much smaller rental apartment we naturally “downsized”. There were several pieces made for me by a clever local craftsman – a small single-drawer table, a bookstand and a sculpture-stand – which I let go somewhat reluctantly but choices had to be made.