Every Object Tells a Story Catalogue Cover

Introduction

Many years ago, when I was quite young, I was sitting with a much older and very experienced antiquities dealer in Tehran, who always had the most extraordinary things. I asked him how he could price such things. ‘When I present an object like this to a client,’ he said, ‘I watch his eyes, and if I see that it makes him dream, I ask a high price.’ Being from a different background I have never been able to practise such craft, but I have always remembered what he said, and admired its logic. The function of a work of art is to make us dream, but of course the nature of that dream depends to a great extent on what we know about the object.  Connoisseurship has traditionally been the means for making the dream meaningful and real, and while we are told that such skills are in decline, I am not so sure. Connoisseurs are not necessarily the biggest buyers in the contemporary art market, but they are far from extinct.

The stories of works of art, while often a large part of their fascination, are not necessarily easy to uncover. One purpose of this catalogue is to tell stories that show that objects of little value can have as interesting a tale to tell as something of great value. These stories are of various kinds; some involve my own interaction with a particular piece or person; others are purely historical; and yet others depend on information, sometimes unexpectedly acquired, sometimes the result of determined digging, or even of fanciful imagining.

Any artist will tell you that at a certain point, what he is creating comes from something that passes through him, revealing what they never knew they possessed. I think the same spirit comes through craftsmen, who never claim their craftsmanship as art, and yet whose works are often suffused with a beguiling quality that is communicated through the dedication of their expertise.

There are categories in what is presented – Antiquity, music, sex, magic, the natural world, curiosity and history – but the boundaries are loose. The function of objects is to make us dream.