Across politics and business there has been a backlash against the socalled ‘cult of the expert’ and a revolt against elites. “Experts, soothsayers, astrologers…they are all in the same category,” Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said recently. So here we’re asking, does the business of art and antiques need experts? Two members of the trade give their view.
Q Does your business need experts?
Roger Keverne, specialist dealer in Asian art
“I don’t believe in dumbing down. We need standards and often the generalist will need to come to an expert. The word ‘expert’ does sound pretentious, perhaps ‘specialist’ is better. But there is nothing wrong with elitism, because if a V&A museum curator, for instance, is a specialist, then they are the elite in that field.
“The expert should always be willing to help and should not be pretentious, stuck up or lord it over people. But the expert is very much needed.”
Robert Stones, managing partner at auctioneer Peter Wilson
“I am a jack of all trades and a master of none. You need to have a general knowledge in this job, and without it I would be dead.
“To do our job in the provinces it is essential to be a generalist. I have to go into a house and look at jewellery, wine and furniture.
“The elite are very good at knowing a particular subject, but they couldn’t do this job.”