Mark Ardern is a recently retired consultant psychiatrist for whom collecting has become an all-consuming passion. In fact he goes so far as to say, with a wry smile, that there is often something very addictive in the process:  “When you see something you want, the heart takes over the head; sense and logic go out of the window and you just have to have it” he explains. He now has more time to indulge his hobby and one senses he makes the most of it.  At first glance, Mark’s cabinet appears a rather eclectic mix, but  in fact each piece in his collection of 20th Century decorative items, has been carefully selected for its quality and design, and for being representative of its era.

Creative from a young age; Mark describes himself as an ‘arty type’ who was always fascinated by design and loved drawing.  An only child he grew up never knowing his grandparents and puts his interest in antiques partly down to wanting a link to a past that he never knew.  He always enjoyed poking around in junk shops, buying the odd piece,  but it wasn’t until the mid-90’s when he visited Vienna that the interest really began: “I was amazed by the amount of Austrian Art Nouveau pieces available to buy in the shops there” he recalls. He started collecting German Jugenstil and English Arts & Crafts and became fascinated with Bauhaus and Modernism, then Art Deco -  and with how one style led to another: “It all seemed to fall together like a jigsaw” he says.

Mark’s specialist interest is in Viennese Secessionism (c.1900-1918), a movement which  rejected academic tradition and conservatism and, advocated freedom of style and subject across the arts.  It was a period of prolific activity  and although pieces are now harder to find, Mark regularly visits Vienna and still finds the odd Secessionist gem; such as an embellished glass bowl by Johann Oetl Haida  or a silver trinket box by Josef Margold. He also has some interesting Art Nouveau pieces  including  a pair of iridescent green Art Nouveau vases by Joseph Rindskopf & Sons which are typical of the period.

For those interested in the mid-late 20C there are many treasures. Scandinavian design is ever-popular, and pieces such as a  Georg Jensen hand mirror or a set of 1950’s silver-gilt  Danish teaspoons make wonderful gifts.  And the occasional piece of delightful kitsch can also be found:  A vintage Larry the Lamb porcelain figurine sits demurely between a Gothic Revival brass lidded urn and a Viennese 1930’s brass pin tray from which a miniature female golfer swings a tiny club.

Mark interest  adds an extra dimension to travel;  “I don’t just go to places to find stuff but it’s the icing on the cake if I do” he says.   And of course  there is a buzz in finding something when the seller doesn’t know its worth; although, as he says, it works both ways;  “I might have bought something which I know is a particular style, but don’t know a lot about; which for someone else might be a real find. But that’s how it should be - it’s no fun if everything is at the market rate and there are no surprises”.

Mark admits he prefers buying pieces,  to selling them; “But that’s why I like having a collection here - someone else sells it for me” he laughs. He appreciates the network of specialists found within The Old Cinema, and says the place has a very special charm; “There’s no competition for this place;  it’s like a tardis - you never know what you are going to find”.


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