Peter Finer, Arms and Armour dealer and specialist
Walk into Peter Finer’s showroom at 38-39 Duke Street, or onto one of their stands at an art fair and his son, Redmond Finer, will be your guide, transporting you to a world of courts and ceremony, presentations of royal gifts, and weapons representing honour and prestige. His knowledge is so vast and his explanations are so detailed that you will see the history of the arms and armour unfold before you. He is an exceptional combination of passionate dealer mixed with master storyteller and transmits his enthusiasm with ease and fervour.
Specialists in Arms and Armour
The gallery was founded by your father, Peter Finer, in 1967 and counts some of the greatest museums in the world amongst its clients, including The Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Army Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many others. Of course, this is a testament to the gallery’s extremely high standards of quality so what are the gallery’s criteria for including a piece in your inventory?
There are aspects that are extremely important to us, like condition, provenance, and rarity. These coupled with an item’s historical significance. Beyond that, the piece must possess a quality probably most simply described as ‘beauty,' both in terms of its form and decoration. Although a business, arms and armour is also a passion, and our inventory reflects both our taste and the market’s equally. Demand, what is the cultural zeitgeist or what you might call 'fashionable' evolves over time. Over the last fifteen years we have concentrated more than previous decades on Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese pieces due to a growing market for these works of art. This has both sharpened our expertise and resulted in some significant discoveries.
With so many pieces from different periods and from all over the world, I assume that a late 19th century Japanese tanto and a pair of late 18th century holster pistols will have different considerations. How should an interested buyer approach a purchase?
In the words of my father, 'buy what you love, and buy the best examples you can afford.' If there is a particular historical era, culture or locale that interests you, investigate how its arms and armour reflected its artistic and scientific achievements. Talk to us about your area of interest and we can both show you what is available or might at some point come on the market. Different periods and materials have varying considerations; indeed, it is our job to help you fully understand the object and all its context, both historical and in today’s art market. It is our pleasure to do so!
Designed by Woulfe is consistently working to introduce clients to new areas of art. How would you advise someone who is interested in arms and armour to begin educating themselves?
Visit the museum collections, which we can suggest to you, and educate your eye. Tell us your interests and we are happy to suggest books and collections to explore.
Once a client has bought an artwork, are issues of provenance relevant and is it appropriate to request condition reports? How should a client verify that the paperwork is accurate and are there any signals that a document may not be ingenuous?
As a dealer our reputation is everything. A dealer should always try and be forthcoming and patient with a client’s questions and requests, and yes, an item's provenance is important both in terms of artistic value and legalities these days. My advice would be to work with dealers on the international stage, who play the long-game and who want to build personal, trusted, long-term relationships with their clients. Dealers who exhibit at art fairs like Tefaf, Masterpiece or Frieze have essentially themselves been ‘vetted’ (as are the works they exhibit at these fairs); these dealers have strong reputations and long-established businesses.
How has the market for arms and armour changed since the gallery’s founding? What do you see for its future?
As with much of the art market, truly remarkable things have become scarcer, as more works of art have moved into museums and institutional collections they will never leave. This has pushed prices up in certain genres of collecting; however, one can still buy the very best Arms and Armour for a small fraction of the price of much Modern Art, or even Old Masters.
The Impact Of Covid-19 on Art and Antiques
How do you feel that the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic will affect the methods that you use to sell your artworks?
We sold over half the items from our most recent print catalogue in less than three weeks this December, so as enthusiastic as we are for stop-gap digital media and online fairs during these unprecedented times, here, as a business, we once again play the long-game. By focusing on personal communication, providing a wealth of visual and historical detail on each work of art, and making the experience of acquiring a piece the fun it should be, we hope to encourage collecting and, longer-term, collectors. The future of the art market? Time will tell. We remain steadily focused on those colleagues, friends and clients who share our passion for Arms and Armour.
As a luxury design studio, Designed By Woulfe integrates artwork into their designs for a “whole living” approach. How do you advise integrating the pieces from your inventory into designs?
We supply custom made stands for each piece to show the true beauty and form off. This makes placing the objects into a modern or more traditional setting easier, and we are always open to working with designers to achieve the desired look.
Are there any steadfast rules about maintaining the pieces? Recommendations such as not putting pieces in direct sunlight, near a radiator, how to keep them clean, etc.?
This is dependant on each individual piece and we always give advice.
Who is your ideal client?
I have many clients who have become great friends. This has come about through a relationship being built on mutual benefit. Collecting should be fun, and although for dealers it is a business, most have a great deal of knowledge to share, and we enjoy doing so! Because of this, our ideal clients are the ones who are keen to learn and do not mind paying us a profit to do so!
Designed By Woulfe has invited Tova Ossad of Ossad Art Management to interview a range of art world personalities. Her fifteen years' experience working in this sphere has exposed her to many artists, auction specialists, art advisors, conservators, and gallerists, thereby giving the Design Journal fresh insight into the fundamentals of art. This series will explore buying, selling, appreciating, and everything in between.