An interview with the Geoffrey Munn, Managing Director at Russian art antique dealers firm, Wartski.
By Elizabeth Kaplunov
How many years have you been exhibiting at the Masterpiece London? What makes this fair special?
Since the beginning and we enjoy it more and more every year.
What are the main challenges faced by a luxury arts dealer?
It is probably competing with the vast commercial machines of the salesrooms. They have resources that are beyond the reach of most art dealers. However they must sell their lots on the day and art dealers have the opportunity of keeping their stock until they have properly established its provenance. The salesrooms sell the broadest variety of objects and the job of the art dealer is to provide extra knowledge and connoisseurship.
What are the main themes/categories of your collections?
The writer Oscar Wilde said that he was easily satisfied by the best. So are we. At Wartski this encompasses all manner of goldsmiths work and jewellery from the 3rd C BC to the present day. There remains a strong emphasis on Russian works of art and Faberge.
What inspired Emanuel Snowman to start buying treasures from the Soviet Union in the 1920s? Are there any exciting and dangerous stories of his deals?
Unfortunately there are very few surviving accounts of his time there. I think it was hectic and exciting. We have sold 13 of Faberge’s Imperial Easter Eggs and some we acquired directly from the Soviets.
Which is your favourite Faberge piece?
The Winter Egg in the form of flowers frozen in an egg of rock crystal. It’s breath taking….truly breathtakingly beautiful and is tinged with tragedy.
How hard is it to obtain genuine Faberge at the moment? How do you ensure the pieces are genuine?
The supply is definitely diminishing and condition remains crucial. Faberge was the largest business of its sort ever and so there are some pieces to come. This generates continuing excitement for us and for collectors.
How many Faberge pieces (and of those how many Easter eggs), does your company have?
We had three when I joined the firm in 1972. The Coronation Coach Egg, the Lilies of the Valley Egg and the Serpent Egg Clock. They have all been sold!
What is the average price of a Faberge piece? What do the differences in price depend on?
It is possible to buy a piece of Faberge silver for about £2000 if you are lucky and after that the sky is the limit. Always try to buy the best your budget will allow as then you will have a little masterpiece that will continue to generate excitement forever.
What are your predictions for this year’s Masterpiece Art Fair? How well do you expect the turn out to be? How many pieces are you hoping to sell?
The public is vast and very varied. It includes royalty and celebrities but also the most capable of collectors who come from the four corners of the worlds to see what is on show there. We have no idea how many pieces we will sell, but some, for sure.
What is the main inspiration and spirit behind Wartski?
Wartski is driven by the personal interests and enthusiasms of the staff who in one sense are vicarious collectors. We aspire to offer the accumulated taste and experience of 150 years in business.
What is a typical day of a jeweller consist of?
Apart from the routine of setting out the shop we have very little idea of what happens next….that is the fascination of Wartski and what makes it a joy to come to work.
What is next for Wartski?
To some people the past is just as much a foreign place as the future. At Wartski we have a firm grip on the past. The future is anyone’s guess!