by Ken Melchert(view our selection of antique treasures)
It is always fun to enjoy the latest new and trendy
things, no matter how temporary or ephemeral. But the real richness
of life lies in the authentic, the enduring, the fads and fashions
that evolve into “classics.”
A “classic” is hard to define, but we know it when we see it. Instinctively, we think of a “classic” as something of lasting, proven value that doesn't go out of style, something timeless and not to be discarded tomorrow.
We recognize classic architecture, whether Georgian or Art Deco, as pleasing. Great art refers to the works of artists who have stood the test of time. “Literature is news that stays news,” said Ezra Pound. We still listen to Beethoven and the Beatles. A classic Mercedes or Corvette in beautiful condition never fails to elicit admiring smiles. “Casablanca,” “Gone with the Wind,” and “The Godfather” still draw an audience. Traditional styles of furniture from many periods are frequently copied by contemporary makers for placement in brand new settings.
What do we mean when we say someone has “good taste?” We really are talking about having a good “eye” or a sense for classic style.
Most modern things - movies, books, cars, art, or bedroom sets - are introduced with as much hype and publicity as can be mustered. After the initial excitement, most of these novelties slip quietly from our consciousness. The height of fashion will mostly be rejected in a few months. Most modern things fail to engage the public or arouse lasting interest. As Oscar Wilde noted, “Nothing is so dangerous as being too modern. One is apt to grow old-fashioned quite suddenly.”
Contemporary fashions almost never slip directly into “classic” status, they first endure a dark period of neglect, suffering from dated styling or obsolescence. After hibernating out of the spotlight, the best of neglected slumbering styles will be rediscovered, reborn as a classic. Nostalgia doesn't happen overnight - it takes time for a rejected style, a rare one out of many that fell from favor, to mature into a classic. The great physicist, Neils Bohr, said “It is always hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”
Author Ken Melchert has taught Art History for many years. Since 1985, Ken and his wife Rebecca have operated the Harp Gallery Antiques in Appleton, WI.