SOLD! The Story of British Antiques

SOLD!, opening 26 January until 5 May 2019, is the first time the history of antique dealing has been the subject of an exhibition in a public museum, with an in depth look at antique dealers, their taste and eye for objects, and their shops and practices.


Housed in the Museum’s main exhibition space, the display takes the visitor on a journey through 200 years of antique dealing through an innovative ‘shopping for antiques’ theme.  Working in partnership with dealers in Barnard Castle, the Bowes Museum will recreate an ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ from the 1850s giving visitors a visual feast of the kind of objects that would have been on sale in the era of Dickens.


Guest curated by Mark Westgarth of the University of Leeds, SOLD! tells the back story of 25 stunning internationally renowned objects loaned by major museums including The V&A, The British Museum, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Temple Newsam, The Royal Collection, The Royal Armouries, The National Gallery and the Museum of London, as well as a number of regional museum collections; the exhibition is supplemented by loans from private collections never seen on display before.


Themes will include the history of the antique trade, looking at the roles and significance of prominent dealers; the role of ‘amateur dealers’ and ‘collector-dealers’; how dealers valued, catalogued and marketed their objects; as well as the mythologies surrounding the dealer, from Dickens to Lovejoy.


Jane Whittaker, Head of Collections at The Bowes Museum, said “This is a most exciting exhibition to be working on and we are proud and privileged to host it.  It’s the first time ever an exhibition has focused on the life an item had before becoming a ‘museum object’.


“I’m sure that our founders John and Joséphine Bowes would have been delighted by many of the high end and visually stunning objects that will be on show, including an exquisite 9cms high Fabergé miniature table on loan from the Royal Collection and a gilded warrior currently on display at the V&A Museum.”


SOLD! draws critical attention to the role that the antique trade has played in the development of public museums and private collections and in changing tastes and fashions in collecting, furnishing and interior design and is the first exhibition of its kind to explicitly highlight the relationships between the art market and museums.

More information and opening hours can be found on the website Sold! is sponsored by BADA members John Beazor Antiques, Tomasso Brothers Fine Art and Ronald Phillips Ltd

Click here to view the Sold! programme of events