A Dealer’s ‘Glamorous’ Life

It’s cold and damp in Milan. A colleague wants to introduce me to a new dealer.

I’m bundled up in hood and gloves, inside the new dealer’s basement storage, a warren of small spaces, and still freezing.  Piles of furniture and lighting are hidden under plastic sheeting and stacked to the ceiling. It’s impossible to see anything. We wait politely and shiver, as the dealer opens each room to these ghostly unidentifiable piles.  The dealer apologizes about how difficult it is to see his things. Yet he seems unwilling to unpack his inventory. It turns out to be is a total waste of  time.

This is not exactly what many might think life is like for a dealer, filled with elegance and openings. Most dealers sleep on long flights sitting up and spend hours in cold dirty auction rooms hoping to buy something special that will make them a decent profit.

On to an elegant showroom

After the first day’s fruitless visit, I’m taken to a very chic address that I never would have found on my own. In Italy, many businesses have no signs along the streets to indicate that there is a  business there. This particularly beautiful showroom belongs to a talented local architect, producing an elegant line of modern furniture.

Various high end galleries all over the world have been showing his furniture at the major international design shows. They are laying out big money in  hopes of building a market for him. I am not sure why I have been brought here, since I am an antiques dealer. As my gallery director put it, we only sell the works of dead artists. In the end I see that my dealer friend needed to see this architect for his own dealings.

Driving 7 hours in a day

I finally luck out the next day, but not after a few false starts. A couple of newly recommended dealers in small towns about an hour apart don’t have anything. With the clock ticking on my overseas trip. I take a gamble – and an extra two hours of driving time – to visit a colleague I’ve done business with before. Finally. He has a cocktail table and a hanging fixture for me.

Asleep by the side of the road.

Heading back to my friends’ place for the night, I start falling asleep at the the wheel. I pull into an Auto Grill, (think rest stop Italian style),  lock the doors, let the seat back and close my tired eyes. An hour later, with darkness setting in, I’m back on the road for another two hours, thankfully, with a home cooked dinner waiting.

That comfortable bed afterwards is heaven.


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by Gail Garlick