Nicholas Grindley

Get to know the people and personalities that make the BADA, as we delve into their businesses, passions, and insights on buying and collecting. Through a series of interviews, we uncover their stories and discover what drives them in the world of art and antiques. 


Nicholas Grindley

From Nicholas Grindley

Nicholas Grindley deals primarily in Chinese furniture, scholar's objects and also in Japanese and Korean furniture. For over 40 years now, he has been dealing and researching Chinese art with particular interest in furniture and works of art. During most of this time, he has conducted his business as a private dealer, although since 1998 he has published two catalogues a year, and exhibited in London, New York and Hong Kong; many works from these exhibitions and his other dealing activities are in museums and private collections throughout the world. In 1996 he contributed to the catalogue of the Mimi and Raymond Hung Collection of Chinese Furniture, and in 1999 he co-wrote with Robert Jacobsen the catalogue of Classical Chinese Furniture in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. In 2004 he wrote the catalogue for the collection of Dr. Ignazio Vok that was exhibited at the Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst in Cologne. In 2007 he contributed the entry on Chinese furniture for, ‘The Seventy Wonders of China’, published by Thames & Hudson. He is asked by museums in the US and Europe to advise on the acquisition, disposal, cataloging and re-attribution of Chinese furniture in their collections. He continues to deal privately in Chinese art. Below is an interview with Nicholas Grindley. 


Could you tell us about your favourite piece currently in your stock and what makes it special?

A pair of tielimu (ironwood) yokeback armchairs which are not only beautifully proportioned but also have that untouched condition that you rarely find in Chinese furniture from when they were purchased in China in the early twentieth century.

What would you say has been your biggest personal achievement in your career in fine art & antiques so far?

Helping to create the largest collection of Chinese furniture in a western museum (Minneapolis Institute of Arts) and then being invited to co-author the catalogue of the furniture for the museum.

How did you first discover your love for fine art and antiques?

Visiting the Victoria & Albert Museum in my teens.

Had you always wanted to work in the industry, or did you have a career change?

Always, I started as an auction room porter in my late teens.

How did you first get involved in the industry?

I had a Saturday job with a dealer in Croydon, where I grew up, doing house clearances and loading shipping containers with old furniture before becoming a porter and then working for a Chinese art dealer, Hugh Moss Ltd.

Is there a house that you would love to design the interiors for/ furnish, or perhaps a client you would like to work with?

I have been lucky enough to work with several great collectors and museums.

If you weren’t a dealer, what would you be?

I have no idea. When I was at school, I told my careers officer that I wanted to be an antique dealer or an undertaker!

Could you tell us your three top tips for buying and collecting antiques?

Take advice from a knowledgeable dealer, read and research the subject, constantly re-evaluate what you have collected.

Could you tell us your three top tips for what to look for when buying furniture?

When buying furniture, develop an eye for proportion, learn from restorers and conservators, compare what you are considering buying with what else was created at the time.

Could you tell us about a recent visit to a gallery, exhibition or fair you have visited and enjoyed?

Not so recent but I was asked some years ago to examine and help re-catalogue the Chinese furniture in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Kansas City which has one of the earliest collections of Chinese furniture in the west, for which the museum closed the galleries for me, and we examined each piece with art handlers and the curator and the director of the museum.

What is an experience or an object that has shocked or surprised you in your time collecting and dealing?

I have been lucky enough to handle some very important Chinese furniture, but I was surprised when I was asked to conserve and sell a folding lacquer table that dated from the late 14th or early 15th century.

What would you say is needed to be a successful dealer?

Knowledge, research, and patience.

What is a common misconception about the world of art and antiques?

That many dealers are crooks when many of them are trying to help build great collections.

Will you ever stop collecting or dealing?

Probably not.

What is one item you couldn’t do without?

A powerful torch.

Do you have a collection in your home?

Yes, but not in the area in which I deal.

Who do you admire in the world of art and antiques and why?

Giuseppe Eskenazi, because he has created some of the greatest collections for his clients and he has been very encouraging to me in my career.

What is an item that you wish you had never sold to a client and kept for yourself?

There are many things, but invariably they were too important and expensive to have kept for myself.

Could you tell us an unusual fact about the art of dealing in furniture?

That something interesting always turns up if you are patient.

What is your favourite appearance of an antique in a film, play, or book?

Probably the fake Song Bodhisattva head with a hidden camera inside in the film of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.

What events have you got coming up and where can we next view your stock?

I am a private dealer, and my stock is kept in a warehouse in New Jersey and London.