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Celebrity Collector: Curtis Dowling on How He Became Hooked on Antiques

by Reyne Haines (09/25/12).

Dowling, an expert on art fakes, forgery & scams, has been the host of has been featured on several popular British collecting shows, including “Cash in the Celebrity Attic,” “Hidden Paintings” and “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.” A now show featuring Dowling is in development.

There has always been the question “If you work in the antiques business, can you actually be a collector too?” Some say no, some say yes. My personal belief is this; how can I get you excited about collecting something if I have no interest in it myself?

Apparently, my colleague and TV personality Curtis Dowling believes that you can be an antiques expert and have your cake too!

Dowling, an expert on art fakes, forgery & scams, has been the host of such popular British collecting shows as “Cash in the Celebrity Attic,” “Hidden Paintings” and “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.”

We recently caught up with him to learn more about his upcoming American collecting show, and his passion for antiques:

Rein Haines: Glad to see another collecting expert is also a collecting enthusiast! When did you become interested in collecting?

DOWLING: In 1990 I was given, yes given, my first piece of René Lalique on the set of the BBC TV series, “Lovejoy.” We had been filming an episode called “The Black Virgin of Vladimir” and the show portrayed American actress Linda Gray’s character as a collector. We found a few nice items in Camden, London, and bought them. After the shoot, several of us were given some of the props. It is still my favorite thing! It is a “Coquille” pattern bowl. Currently, I have 20 pieces of René Lalique and they give me more pleasure than a library of DVD’s ever could!

RH: I heard you also collect Georgian Silver. Lalique and Georgian silver are two very different time periods and styles. What an interesting combination! Tell me more about your eclectic taste.

Curtis Dowling began his collection with a piece of René Lalique glass he acquired on the set of the television program “Lovejoy.

DOWLING: My love of antiques comes from the beauty they radiate and nothing radiates love and warmth more than my Paul De Lamerie silver candlesticks from the 1730s. Not only—in my—mind the best silver maker ever, but also the thought of how many lives those fabulous candlesticks have touched in their nearly 300-year history. As I light the beeswax candles, it throws light over a room and takes me back in time!

RH: Did you know Elton John is a big collector of Lalique Glass? Have you seen his collection?

DOWLING: I knew he was but I have never met him or seen his collection. I think it’s a name that attracts even non-antiques lovers. In fact, the only antique the real Lovejoy film star, Ian McShane, likes is Lalique.

RH: Maybe Elton John will read this and invite you over! Do you remember the first piece in your collection you acquired and the circumstances around how you got it?

DOWLING: I do like it was yesterday. It was 1985 and I was at a boot fair (yard sale) and picked up a silver specimen vase. The woman selling it said “It’s not silver dear, there is no hallmark.” But I felt it was something special. It cost me £1. It was Indian, 400 years old, silver, and I sold it for £600.

RH: Great story! Apparently you were hooked! How do you feel about restored pieces? Often, American collectors turn up their nose to restoration. Would you add them to your collection?

Another part of Dowling’s collection includes Paul De Lamerie silver candlesticks from the 1730s.

DOWLING: Restoration is fine. In my 25 years I have only seen a small number of items that haven’t been restored over the years. If we think things are all original, we are kidding ourselves. Antiques live a life and age is part of their rich tapestry.

RH: Well said! Last question: Any chance of you branching out into other collectibles?

DOWLING: As someone who works all day with antiques, I try not to get too attached but cannot help myself. I am never sure what’s around the corner!

Thanks Curtis! We look forward to hearing more about your upcoming show.

For more information about Curtis Dowling, visit his website.

Reyne Haines is an appraiser with an expertise in 20th Century Decorative Arts. She hosts “The Art of Collecting” on KPRC in Houston, a weekly program spotlighting trends and news items in the world of antiques & collectibles, is a repeat guest on CBS’ “The Early Show” and can be heard on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio Network. She is also the author of the richly-illustrated book “Vintage Watches” published by Krause.

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One Response to “Celebrity Collector: Curtis Dowling on How He Became Hooked on Antiques”

  1. Alex Bear says:

    I have seen this man live. He IS the real LOVEJOY. I did not believe antiques and art divvys existed… they do… its him. I was blown away. thank god the US is at last putting him on our TV screens

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