ARTSY: A Brief History of the Frames Market
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Written by Abigail Cain
The walls of Diego Salazar’s Long Island City gallery offer a mesmerizing lesson in frame history: sumptuously carved and gilded 17th-century French frames hang alongside their more austere Dutch relatives, with a sizable collection of gleaming 19th-century American examples housed in an adjoining room. Of the hundreds of frames on display, only a handful contain artworks—and, in fact, Salazar often negotiates with gallerists to purchase a particularly stunning frame sans painting.
A longtime collector and dealer of period frames, Salazar gestures to one designed by notable Beaux-Arts architect Stanford White hanging in his American gallery. “This frame was meant to be seen in candlelight,” he says, pointing out the wire mesh and the delicately patterned shadow it casts. Salazar bought it 15 years ago at auction for almost $50,000. “If I ever sell it, I could get $300,000 for it,” he says. “But I’ll never sell it.”
Salazar has seen the number of antique frame sellers in the United States dwindling, down to around 9,000 from an original count of 20,000. “People just don’t want antiques anymore,” he noted. Although he follows industry developments, Salazar no longer supports himself through frame sales—instead, he uses real estate investments to fund what he describes as a “passion” rather than a business.