ROBERT MCPHERSON ANTIQUES.
CAMDEN PASSAGE AND GRAY’S ANTIQUES 1980 – 1991
Robert McPherson’s interest in antiques started when he was a young boy. He began collecting military cap badges and coins when he was ten years old. At the age of fourteen Robert visited the war graves of France, this prompted him to sell his military collection and his interest turned to Victorian antiques, especially ceramics. However he soon acquired his first piece of Chinese porcelain : an 18th century Qianlong Famille Rose tea bowl for the sum of ten pounds. As a school boy it was above his means to collect antiques, so he would buy and sell what he could to fund his collection, including propagating plants and selling them to his teachers.After a short period working on Saturdays for a jewellery dealer, he decided to have his own weekly stand at the Camden Passage Antiques Market in Islington, London. On the 25th of May 1980 at the age of 16 his career as an antique dealer began.
The first day was a great success with sales totalling £74.50p, more than he could ever have dreamt of. The first item sold was a pair of Victorian scissors for £2, other pieces include a Foley cup with a Boer war design (£4), a photograph of a lady in a frame c.1920 (75p) and ‘3 ironestone ducks’ won at a school Fete for £2.
During this period he started studying the conservation of prints and drawings at the Camberwell Art School in London, after all his mother had said he should get a ‘proper’ job. Being a conservator at a museum certainly would have been a proper job but Robert’s real interest was always with the objects themselves.
His stand at Camden Passage enabled him to collect antiques and his teenage bedroom soon looked like a museum, filled with hundreds of pieces of pottery and porcelain, paintings, prints drawings and furniture.
He would go to early morning markets before college to buy things for his Saturday stall and on his holidays he would go on buying trips out of London, often staying with his Aunt and Uncle in Taunton.
His Father took him to Camden Passage and collected him every Saturday and his outdoor stall flourished, two adjoining tables were then taken in the market. Robert had a regular following and one or two of these customers still come to buy from him at the shop after all these years.
When he was nineteen, Robert moved indoors to Grays Antique Market, near Bond Street in central London. It was at this period he became a specialist in Chinese ceramics. His business soon expanded and his stand at Grays doubled in size.
SHARING A SHOP IN KENSINGTON CHURCH STREET 1991 – 2002.
In 1991, Robert moved to Stockspring Antiques, dealers in English Ceramics, who were located in Kensington Church Street. The early 1990s were a difficult period in which to trade but the business soon began to thrive and expand. Later taking half of the shop due to his increasing stock. While at Stockspring Antiques he organised an exhibition of Shipwreck Ceramics, this was the first exhibition at a shop.
During this period Robert started vetting antique fairs in London and in the country. He was elected to be a member of The British Antique Dealers Association (B.A.D.A.) in 1999. The shop run by Stockspring Antiques was at various times shared by Errol Manners, Gary Atkins and also Rod Jellicoe.
OLYMPIA FINE ART and ANTIQUES FAIR c.1993 – 2005.
During the 1990’s Robert McPherson and then R & G McPherson Antiques exhibited at the Summer Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair while sharing a shop and when they had their own premises. They then held exhibitions in their own shop.
Robert McPherson at the Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair in London, June 1994.
OUR FIRST EXHIBITION 2001
The sale of 15th century Vietnamese pottery by auction in America from a shipwreck, referred to as the Hoi An Hoard, was very exciting. There were so many new forms, so many designs that were not previously known.We bought hundreds of pieces, from ewers decorated with elephants to dishes with aggressive looking fish eating other fish, tiny boxes, and vases painted with birds. We were it seems the only English dealers to be excited by this new discovery, most dealers were not interested as it was not Chinese porcelain but to us this made it more interesting. Knowledge of Vietnamese ceramics was transformed by the discovery of this important wreck. The British Museum purchased several pieces from the auction.
We decided to have an exhibition based on this newly discovered wreck but we included ceramics from other wrecks as well. It was extremely successful and led us to have two more exhibitions of ceramics from shipwrecks.
The Hoi An Hoard, as has been the case with several other wrecks, was not found by archaeologists nor even by historians, but by fishermen, though happily not excavated by them. It became in fact the only commercial underwater site to have been excavated in a correct archaeological manner. It is one of the earliest cargoes (dated c. 1450-1500) to have come on to the market and to my mind is the most interesting and important of them all. Moreover, it is the only large Vietnamese cargo to have been discovered. A partnership was formed, to take charge of this landmark excavation, between the Vietnamese Government and M.A.R.E., the Maritime Archaeological Research Unit of the University of Oxford, under the Directorship of Mensun Bound, Triton Senior Research Fellow, Saint Peter’s College, Oxford.
Vietnamese ceramics were not treated with the importance they deserved until very recently. Several excellent new books have now been published on the subject and an exhibition of Vietnamese Blue and White has been held at the British Museum, where objects from the Hoi An Hoard featured among the exhibits. Together with the recent excavation of the kiln sites, this cargo underlines the importance and individuality of Vietnamese ceramics. I believe that the cargo in fact contains more Vietnamese ceramics of the period than exist worldwide, taking into account not only all the museums but also all the private collections. The Hoard will be a source of research for years to come.
For more information on this wreck see ‘History’.
OUR SHOP IN KENSINGTON CHURCH STREET 2002 – 2012.
Three years later, Robert married his French wife Georgina. She soon became involved in his steadily increasing business. Georgina had always been interested in antiques and as her background with Arthur Andersen in Paris was based on business organisation, her skills complemented Robert’s perfectly.
In 2001, she became a Joint Partner and R & G McPherson Antiques was formed.
In January 2003 Robert and Georgina realised their dream, opening their shop at number forty, Kensington Church Street, in London.
During the early years of our shop in Kensington Church Street we exhibited at the Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair. However it became apparent that we knew almost all the collectors of Oriental Ceramics that visited the fair, so it seemed logical for us to hold exhibitions in our shop instead. Due to the death of our friend and customer John Drew we were given part of his collection to sell in 2007. We knew he would like it if we put on an exhibition of pieces from his collection, I think he would have been very proud of it. He had built a very interesting collection over many years, the exhibition went extremely well and so we had a further exhibition of pieces from his collection in 2008. We had many other exhibitions during our time in the shop, they were held in June and November, the latter was for a few years part of ‘Asian Art in London’.
John Drew :
John Drew was born in 1933 in Tideswell, Derbyshire, where his father was curate. The family moved to Norfolk whilst he was still a baby and his father became the rector of the parish of Intwood and Keswick. He was educated at Sedbergh School and after National Service in the R.A.F. being taught Russian, he went to Queens College, Oxford to read Greats (Classics). He spent nearly all his working life in various African countries as an archivist, moving to a post at Cape Town University in 1978. He remained in Cape Town after his retirement until his death in 2006. He had a great love of the English countryside (but not the climate) and this is shown in many of the pieces he collected.
His taste was varied and ranged from Neolithic right through to the 18th Century.
When we sent photograph to his home in Cape Town of pieces we thought he might be interested in, he would write long funny well observed letters back, wanting to add many of the items to his growing collection. Over the years we got to know him better and better, and during the last few years it was very rare for him to not want all the pieces we offered him. We knew his taste, even though his taste was so varied. This was in no small part because he had a very good eye and it was a pleasure finding things that interested him, because they were also very interesting to us. He never got to put his collection on display, something he hoped to do while on retirement in England, so it is with a mixture of pleasure and sadness that we offer these pieces from his collection. Most pieces have a John Drew collection label, so when the collection is split up there will be some lasting record of the love and hard work he put into his two decades of collecting.
‘ASIAN ART IN LONDON’
We frequently held exhibitions at our Kensington shop as part of ‘Asian Art in London’. As with all our exhibitions there would be a queue from early in the morning.
This is a view of the entrance and split ground floor of our old shop in Kensington Church Street.
It was always busy with regulars coming in to see the ceramics that had just arrived and to meet us as well as each other. There was a very friendly atmosphere, often resembling a cafe rather than a shop. We like to think of it as a traditional antique shop rather than a gallery.
The lease on Robert and Georgina’s shop at 40 Kensington Church Street expired in September 2012. Rather than sign up for a further 10 years they decided to deal on-line. Their website had been successful for over ten years, and so dealing on-line was the obvious choice.
We have really enjoyed being in Kensington Church Street all these years.
Our shop has always had allot of loyal customers, we have meet people from around the world and made many new friends. The shop has been a very social place, at times it seemed more like a café than a shop. We have also had many enjoyable parties in the evenings as well as hosting Ceramic Societies, Students from S.O.A.S., Christie’s and Sotheby’s and groups of collectors. We couldn’t give all this up, so the plan is to hire a shop twice a year in Kensington Church Street to have an exhibition, this would give us the excuse to have a party and meet all our customers (see ‘EVENTS’ for details).
Without the work involved running a shop we will have more time, so we are planning to expand our website and add many more pieces online. We also hope to improve the quality of the photographs as well as have more of them, especially details of foot-rims, any damage or things of interest. If you see something you are interested in on our website we can bring it into town and meet you at a convenient location so you can examine the piece more carefully.
Our business will remain just as active but we will be working in a different way. It is the biggest change to the business since Robert started it when he was 15, so not surprisingly we are full of trepidation and excitement !
Robert McPherson is on the vetting committee of several major antique fairs in London and the provinces, a job he has been doing for over fifteen years. As a vetter he is responsible for authenticating antiques prior to them being offered for sale to the general public.
He has twice been a committee member of the Oriental Ceramic Society and has been on the board of ‘Asian Art in London’. He is also an adviser to a government department, where he has been called upon to authenticate and value Chinese ceramics, as well as give an opinion as to whether they are suitable for display in a public collection. He is also called on as an expert witness to help asses the importance of Chinese and Japanese ceramics as part of a committee which decides if the objects are of national importance and should be kept in the country.
Robert has valued the Chinese porcelain holdings of a major museum in Canada for the purpose of insurance, and has been asked for his advise by museums in Britain as well. He has also valued many private collections within the U.K.
He has given lectures in England and Scotland as well as giving talks at the shop to students from the School of Oriental and African Studies (S.O.A.S.) and students from Sotheby’s Institute of Art who are doing a master’s history of art degree course.
Robert McPherson looking at Chinese ceramics during a valuation day in London. Robert was asked to assist in authenticating and valuing Chinese pottery and porcelain prior to the launch of a Chinese auction in London in the autumn of 2014.
MOVE TO THE NETHERLANDS
From 28th of April 2017.
I am very pleased to announce that I will be moving to Joure in the Netherlands at the end of April. After dealing in London for 37 years it is very exciting to be starting a new life in a country I know very well and have always enjoyed visiting. Joure is a beautiful small rural town but its not far from the wonderful ceramics museum in Leeuwarden and about one hour forty minutes from Amsterdam.
As you can imagine there will be a delay in being able to post things and there will be a temporary period without website updates. I am aiming to have things up running by June 1st.
Of course I will be in London several times a year to visit friends, attend auctions and go to lectures.
The email address and telephone number will remain the same however the address will of course be different, see below highlighted in blue.
00 44 (0)7515 – 806230