The Year of the Dealer

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The Year of the Dealer project is a collaboration between the University of Leeds, the University of Southampton, 7 major national and regional museums (The Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Museum, Scotland, The Ashmolean Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, The Bowes Museum, Temple Newsam, Preston Park Museum and the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery), together with a regional community theatre (The Witham, Barnard Castle) and one of the UK’s leading antique dealing businesses (H. Blairman & Sons). The project runs from 1st June 2019 until 31st May 2020 and involves a series of public engagement and dissemination events and activities arising from the AHRC funded research project ‘Antique Dealers: the British Antique Trade in the 20th century’ AH/K0029371/1 (2013-2016).

Why is the Year of the Dealer an important project?

The project aims to draw attention to the relationships between the art market and public museums and to share expertise, experience and perspectives amongst stakeholders.

It aims to increase public engagement with the significance of the history of the antique trade in British cultural life.

The provenance of world-renowned museums objects

The Year of the Dealer will reveal new and previously marginalised stories of world-renowned and familiar museum objects through the co-production of a series of 7 museum ‘hidden history’ trails; each trail will have a curated selection of up to 20 museum objects foregrounding the history of antique dealers in the biography of the museum object.

Workshops and Podium Discussions

The project also involves the co-production of 4 art market themed knowledge exchange workshops and 3 public engagement ‘In Conversation’ events hosted by the partner museums. The workshops will consider the relationships between the art market and public museums, drawing in historical and contemporary perspectives and will also consider the challenges and future opportunities for the relationships between museums and the art market. The ‘In Conversation’ events invite key art market professionals, museum professionals, academics and commentators to discuss and debate the subject of the art market and public museums.

Other activities as part of The Year of the Dealer project include museum front of house staff and volunteer training workshops at each of the 7 partner museums to ensure that the project research and objectives are disseminated and cascaded to the front-line interface with the public.


There will also be a re-staging of the play ‘Quinney’s’ (1914) at the Witham Theatre, Barnard Castle, and an associated workshop, ‘Dealing with Authenticity’ at The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle. ‘Quinney’s’ is the story of the fictional antique dealer Joseph Quinney. The play and the workshop aim to critically engage the general public with the central role that ‘authenticity’ has played in the art market, and to explore and critique the trope of the antique dealer as a problematic character, often associated with fakes and forgeries and the ‘love of money’. The workshop will be interdisciplinary in scope, drawing on theatre and performance studies and material culture studies as well as the history of antique dealers.


More information on the project is available on the website of the University of Leeds.

If you want to read on, we recommend the antiquedealersblog. It’s special interest is in the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century.