A little under sixty exhibitors spent the weekend at Prague's Manes exhibition hall to offer their antiques at the 13th Antique Trade Fair, which opened to the public on Thursday and closed on Monday, organised by the Czech Association of Antique Dealers. A committee evaluated the goods at the start of the fair and concluded that this year's quality was very high. With around 1,000 visitors a day, there was also very large public interest. The goods on show range from paintings, to furniture, to jewellery, glass and porcelain, mostly of Czech or Central European origin. Dita Asiedu spoke to Petra Young, Vice-President of the Association of Antique Dealers, and started off by asking her whether the Czech market for antiques was still relatively new:
"Before 1989, there were official antique shops that were owned and run by the state and any other trading was illegal. Of course, there were some exchanges going on among collectors. But after 1989 there were big changes and the market has been developing very rapidly. For example, the Czech Association of Antique Dealers was established in 1991 and our achievements were actually recognised in 1996 when it was accepted to CINOA, which is a world confederation of art and antique dealers, and at that time, we were the only association from the former Eastern bloc that was accepted."
And what sort of people buy and collect antiques here in the Czech Republic?
"It's a total mixture. There are old collectors, who have been collecting all of their lives. Lately, and we are very pleased of that, we have been seeing more young people taking interest in collecting. It's also an investment issue and you can see as society is getting richer that the people who are now well off, the upper middle class, have bought their house and their car and everything they need for a living and are now realising that there is more to it and start taking an interest in art and antiques as well. We would like to see more of a middle class, though because at the moment, as we always say amongst ourselves, amongst the dealers, there is no 'middle money'. We sell very well the lower value items such as prints, cheaper oils and so on and then the high profile, expensive items where the history is well documented. But at the moment it's very difficult to sell to the lower middle class or the middle class because the economic situation simply doesn't allow it."
We've talked about the Communist era. Would you say that some of the country's most precious antiques have disappeared from that time...as well as from the time of the Nazi occupation?
"It's obviously all had its effects. We struggle a lot with many of the items simply because the history has been lost or in many cases, people just don't like publicising that they have owned an important item for many different reasons. So that's a big problem, and of course a lot of the art has disappeared and we're hoping that with more money being available in this country, some of the art will start coming back, as it already happened - some of our collectors are starting to buy at world auctions. However, at the moment the legal background in this country is not very favourable. So, as an association, we are trying to change the laws in a way that would actually make it easier for people to bring items. There has already been some result. With us entering the EU it's much easier now to import art and antiques from other EU countries but there is still a big question around exporting items."
So, what can the Czech Republic offer collector abroad? What are some of the valuable collectors' items that you find here?
"What has been little known abroad until now is the so-called Czech Moderna, which are paintings from the pre-Second World War period. Obviously, cubism was very strong in Czechoslovakia. There were many artists mainly in architecture and then furniture and there are quite a few pieces of cubist furniture that are quite rare on the world market because cubism was very short-lived. Obviously, everybody knows Czech glass, which is a big attraction and is proving to be more and more so. I would say those are the main items. It depends on the collector but everybody can find pieces of interest from any era."
Measures taken as over 60 percent of Czech Republic hit by extreme drought
Barbora Strýcová, 33, in “best form” ahead of Wimbledon semi-final against Serena Williams
Beer, schnitzel and mushroom picking – unique set of emojis captures Czech soul
Gene Deitch, Part 1: The Oscar-winning US animator who made Tom and Jerry cartoons in communist Prague
Holocaust child survivor’s dream of building memorial to child victims of the Holocaust comes true