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“The perfect example of a life well lived”

ATG remembers the late David Moss (1945-2017), an art and antiques journalist who launched our Dealer’s Diary column and bon vivant par excellence

WITH his impeccable suits, silk handkerchiefs and, in his later years, silver hair, David Moss cut a dapper figure at the many art fairs and dealer events he regularly attended over more than four decades.

An articulate man with a gift for story-telling, one of his colleagues of over 30 years described him as “a floor-holding raconteur of eloquence”.

A huge lover of life, art, wine and song (if it was rock music), his outwardly flamboyant personality concealed a thorough professionalism as a journalist and a reflective thoughtfulness when among friends.

He spent more than 25 years writing for Antiques Trade Gazette, founding the Dealers’ Dossier column (later renamed Dealers’ Diary) and becoming the first point of contact for dealers and fair organisers with any news, gossip or scandals who knew his interest in a good story was guaranteed and that they could always rely on his judgment.

Across the years, he became a welcome and distinctive face at both UK and international art and antiques fairs and he remained an informed figure on the circuit right up to his final few weeks.

On his travels to the US and the Continent – and indeed in London – David was frequently confused with his lookalike, the actor John Hurt.

When asked for his signature after being mistaken for the star, he would pretend to be flattered before wryly signing the name ‘David Moss’, leaving would-be autograph hunters bemused. The coincidence of he and Hurt dying within two days of each other at the end of January was just the sort of thing David would have seized on to weave a tall tale, told deadpan until his laughter gave the game away.

Welsh childhood

Maldwyn David Moss – Mossy to his friends – was born in Wales in 1945 and grew up in Merthyr Tydfil. He once said it was difficult to overestimate the effect of hearing Elvis Presley for the first time as a young boy schooled in the valleys.

He moved to Gloucestershire with his parents in his young teens and later studied history at Exeter University. Following his degree, he began working for an antiques dealer in the West Country – an introduction to the trade which started a lifelong passion.

A few years later, he came up to London and in 1969 started work on the magazine Art and Antiques Weekly. At the same time he regularly freelanced on the Daily Mail where he worked on Nigel Dempster’s legendary gossip column.

The antiques trade and its characters remained his principal interest and later, in the early 1980s, he launched his own publication, the Antiques Monitor, with the backing of the British Rail Pension Fund.

Like the AAW, however, the Monitor folded in what was a tough market. David preferred to say the Monitor had ‘suspended’ publication indefinitely, saying there were dozens of readers still awaiting the next issue 20 years on.

He then joined ATG in 1983 where he was reunited with former colleagues from AAW, including his friend Ivor Turnbull, ATG’s founder and owner.

Close friendships

He developed many close relationships with his contacts and colleagues, with the latter’s respect for his work in no way contradicting their happiest memories of him holding court in a Soho pub, entertaining his audience with a glass of red wine in hand.

When asked on one occasion why he never learnt to drive, he replied: “I don’t approve of drinking and driving.” He also believed the best way of identifying a person’s ‘poshness’ was through the way they pronounced the word ‘groom’ and would tell the tragic tale of a young PR who was “strangled on her own vowel sounds”.

Throughout his career, David always sought out the fun within the antiques trade with the enthusiasm of a metal detectorist hunting treasure – but with a considerably higher strike rate. One such lead took him to an exhibition in Paris where he met Bill Wyman – a hero from perhaps his favourite band, the Rolling Stones – with whom he got on famously.

Wyman, a keen metal detectorist himself, perhaps recognised a fellow character who was curious and engaging and did not subscribe too closely to any type of convention.

Fittingly, it was on the fairs circuit that he met his wife Isabel in 2001 at the Haughtons’ Asian art fair in New York. After David retired from ATG in 2010, he and Isabel travelled between their respective homes in London and Lisbon, and also to Looe in Cornwall where David kept his parents’ last home, a bungalow overlooking the harbour.

David continued to write articles for the website Master Art and was attending fairs and trade events right up to his untimely death from a short illness last month.

He is survived by his wife Isabel, to whom we send our sincerest condolences.

Since David’s death, ATG has received numerous messages from people who knew him and we would like to send our thanks to everyone for contacting us.

A selection appears below. Details of a memorial service will follow in due course.