Trav­el­ling in search of mon­u­men­tal pieces

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - AUCTIONS -

BUY­ING on auc­tion can be tricky in any­one’s lan­guage but buy­ing in a for­eign lan­guage can be twice as tricky – or half, as David Bell found out when buy­ing a pair of bed­side ta­bles on auc­tion in Ar­gentina.

David though he was buy­ing a pair and bid ac­cord­ingly – his was the winning bid and he is now the proud owner of one bed­side ta­ble, not two as he had thought he was bid­ding on.

Bell is the owner of the On­site Gallery in The Palms Cen­tre, Wood­stock, where he stocks a va­ri­ety of dec­o­ra­tive stuff which wouldn’t fit into your lit­tle bach­e­lor flat, as th­ese are mostly large pieces with a “mon­u­men­tal fac­tor”.

Bell trav­els the world in search of th­ese mon­u­men­tal pieces, buy­ing mostly on auc­tion but also from in­ter­est­ing shops, in­di­vid­u­als and any­one who sells them and, if they sell them, Bell will find them, as long as they have that “wow” fac­tor. A look around his On­site shop in Wood­stock cer­tainly pro­duces a few wows. This isn’t stuff you see ev­ery day, none of it new, all of it dated and full of char­ac­ter, and sto­ries that you can only guess at.

T h e 7 0 0 k g ma r b l e b a t h , which took eight strong men to carry up the stairs; chan­de­liers from Bel­gium; larger-than-life re­li­gious pieces from France; doors from Ar­gentina; stainedg l a s s w i n d o w s ; a Ru s s i a n horse; chairs from Wood­stock a n d s o me o l d c l a s s i c t o y s . which any kid would love, are just a few of the many fas­ci­nat­ing items that fill his store

Bell also owns Coco Ka­roo in Chelsea Vil­lage, Wyn­berg, and a ware­house at the Wyn­berg mil­i­tary base where an­other eclec­tic col­lec­tion of pieces awaits the cu­ri­ous eye.

David has been in the re­tail trade for about six years but it was tex­tiles he stud­ied and lec­tured on at first – al­though he al­ways “had an in­ter­est in this kind of stuff ”. His in­ter­est in auc­tions also started at a young age, hav­ing at­tended his first at the age of 12. He now gets to marry his pas­sion for “larg­erthan-life pieces that you wouldn’t eas­ily find any­where else” and his in­ter­est in auc­tions. He trav­els over­seas about three times a year and brings back a con­tainer loaded with in­ter­est­ing items. He has bought 30 con­tain­ers so far and each one is its own co­her­ent hodge­podge of pieces looking for the right owner.

While his pieces may seem ran­dom, and they are to a cer­tain ex­tent, they are all cho­sen within a co­her­ent sense of style. While you might think th­ese pieces would take a long time to sell, that’s not the case and David turns over stock fairly reg­u­larly – by the time the shop is emp­ty­ing he knows what he needs and is off to find it wher­ever that might take him. Af­ter his bed­side ta­ble story he has de­cided that it’s time to take Span­ish lessons, Ar­gen­tinian Span­ish in par­tic­u­lar, as that’s where he at­tends most of his over­seas auc­tions.

He is also a reg­u­lar on the lo­cal auc­tion cir­cuit but finds it a bit more dif­fi­cult as he of­ten lands up at the same auc­tions as his clients. Al­though he finds the odd item here most of the in­ter­est­ing pieces he buys over­seas.

Bell some­times sells on auc­tion but says when you chore­o­graph some­thing and put it into a re­tail con­text its value im­proves as op­posed to ly­ing ran­domly on an auc­tion floor.

He al­ways “buys from a deco r a t i ve p o i n t o f v i e w” a n d while many of his buy­ers are af­flu­ent, there is also a grow­ing num­ber of 25-to 35-year-olds who are buy­ing the retro look.

Since the econ­omy has slowed, he has no­ticed that peo­ple have stopped buy­ing doors as they did in the past – and, since doors take up a lot of space in a con­tainer, Bell has more space for other stuff.

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