Magna Trada — Our Story

Everyone has been affected by the downturn in the arts industry. In fact, unless you’re a high-end purveyor of Asian, Impressionist, or one of the other markets that have experienced continuous growth, chances are your business looks nothing like it did a decade ago. Profits are shrinking, margins are tightening, and optimism in the market is evaporating at a speed similar to the average consumer’s interest in purchasing heritage pieces instead of modern fabrications.

As the industry contracts, it becomes harder for trained professionals to find work, and intimidating to the younger generations who aspire to join. I’ve watched as the brightest talents of my generation have struggled with feeling disenfranchised by those in charge, who in turn feel threatened by the change they perceive. The old become hardened, the youth become jaded; the established guard their contacts and knowledge like state secrets, while the novitiates begin to see their passion and education as lessons from finishing school rather than vocation. The industry is caught in suspension, and the hope of progress or change is stalled.

How sad, then, that the democratic promise of technology rings false for so many arts professionals. The reasons for failure are straightforward: the platforms and methods of selling neither represent the vast majority of arts professionals nor the interpersonal methods of how they sell. Instead, the platforms originally created for the industry have become listing services for the few that have the marketing dollars and the materials to justify the service. This is often because their cut is high, and needs to be, as they are beholden to shareholders, rather than to the constituents who pay to populate their pages with product.

The promise of the internet isn’t to divide those who can afford a high-end developer, or exorbitant monthly fees for access to buyers. Similarly, there should be room for all objects that have value, not just the ones that have marketing potential.

However, the core tenets of the industry have not changed: it is still passion and knowledge that drives the relationships that keep the promise of the art dealer alive. It’s important to remember that you are the talent, that you are more than an amalgam of the items you’ve appraised, or the count of expensive objects in your storefront window.

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If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve felt your share of these hardships. Perhaps you’ve had to give up your brick-and-mortar presence. Perhaps the buyers you used to sell to don’t want to buy as much, and new ones aren’t replacing them. Perhaps you’ve had to open an eBay shop to continue selling. Perhaps you are considering early retirement, or a career change.

If so, it’s for you that we’ve started Magna Trada.

Magna Trada is about rebuilding the community that’s at the core of our industry. It’s about realizing that when we come together, we can reclaim the space of the market through the collective power of the trade. It is important to remember, before the advent of modern internet commerce, the Trade long existed since ancient times.

We believe that profit and legitimacy should not be a zero-sum game: there should be more than enough room in the world for the experts that still choose to practice the craft. There is strength in commonality, and in the bonds that bring us together rather than separate us. That strength is expressed in shared values: integrity, hard work, expertise, and a redefinition of value.

We define the success of Magna Trada through our commitment to the ‘three Cs:’ Community, Connection, and Commerce. A community is stronger together, because it can foster meaningful connections, and create the type of value that our modern information age thrives on. All three are essential to the preservation and appreciation of the arts trading community.

Magna Trada aims to create the spaces necessary for all three Cs to flourish again. We provide the technological channels necessary for arts professionals to gather, connect, and trade among ourselves. By putting the trade first, we can support local commerce and encourage those talents, whether established or emerging, that working in the arts naturally attracts. By working together, we can create a network that adds the intelligence and information necessary for people to engage with the world of arts and antiques.

With your help, we can make the trade stronger than it ever has been.

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The Champagne Fairs of the 12th and 13th century set the global tone for a cooperative, community-based marketplace, one that deeply shaped the evolution of commerce. We have forgotten that a self-sustaining market requires diversity to succeed, and a host of people involved and empowered by their part in the network is the only way to provide it. As long as there is the drive and the integrity to belong, there should be no barrier to inclusion, and that is why we exist.

It’s time we learn from our past to help inform our future: only when the promise holds true for the many can the industry truly flourish.