What makes a great antiques dealer?
What makes the greatest antiques dealer?
Alan Hartman was the greatest antiques dealer of our generation.
He came from a family of antique dealers of humble background. While he was enormously successful both in status and financially, he never thought of himself as a rich man, but simply someone fortunate enough to be doing what he loved on a daily basis.
Alan was recognised as a world authority in Chinese jade, bronzes and Asian works of art.
His two-part auction of Chinese Jades at Christie’s Hong Kong was one of the first ever named dealer’s auctions and consisted of jades from Simone and Alan Hartman’s personal collection in their home and not from their regular stock.
Another of his passions that made him so prominent in the antiques world was his collecting and dealing in English silver at the highest level.
Part of Simone and Alan’s private silver collection, also from their home, was documented in a book called The Huguenot Legacy: English Silver 1680-1760 and is now on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
While his dealing was recognised the world over, his quiet philanthropy to different museums includes a Chinese imperial porcelain stem-cup from the Chenghua period among other pieces donated by Simone and Alan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
One of the keys to Alan’s success was his lack of prejudice in dealing with people from all backgrounds; a deal for a few hundred dollars was as interesting to him as a deal for a few hundred-thousand dollars.
His unswerving support for small dealers turned many into big dealers. He made his gigantic stock available to anyone who came into his galleries, and often gave credit and consignments at all levels to the trade.
Both Sotheby’s and Christie’s continually sent their experts to Rare Art Inc in order to supply a multitude of works of art and antiques. These large consignments ran across many different disciplines.
While this could have forced smaller auction houses not to visit, this was quite to the contrary as they received the same warm welcome, courtesy and support.
Alan Hartman was born on January 9, 1930, in Manhattan and while he continually travelled the globe, New York was always closest to his heart. He had prominent multi-floor galleries on Madison Avenue, as well as stores in Dallas and on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.
Alan was first married to Joan, herself an expert in jade, and they had a daughter Hedy who later married Andrew Chait of Ralph M Chait Galleries, and they have a son Jeremy.
Almost 50 years ago, Alan met and married the love of his life Simone. They became a great partnership and her support and devotion to him was fundamental to his well-being and success. They were inseparable and travelled together, sometimes for months, forging relationships and lasting friendships around the world.
Both of our memories of Alan are that of a great friend, teacher and human being. Alan died peacefully at home in New York on February 5.
Lewis Smith & Stuart Marchant