For those looking for Asian antiquities, dinosaur teeth, 18th-century European art or mid-century modern furniture, Sarasota Estate Auction, and its associated Sarasota Trading Co., is a one-stop bonanza for home furnishings that span eons and continents.
Andrew Ford, along with his wife and partner, Elizabeth Williams Ford, seem to be going in all directions at the same time—literally bouncing across continents—which is how he finds prized artifacts from all over the world. The sheer volume of treasures he amasses is enough to make the inexperienced shopper dizzy. However, his well-oiled machine offers up firstrate antiquities in an organized fashion, not just to Floridians, but to international clients as well.
“In our last auction, we sold to people in 43 countries,” says Andrew Ford. The auctions happen monthly and can be attended in-person at the auction house in Sarasota or online via real-time bidding platform Live Auctioneers. “It’s been a fantastic vehicle to reach international buyers—whether that’s a Swedish silver collector or a Lithuanian antiques lover.”
In between auctions, the Fords’ retail store, Sarasota Trading Co., located in the city’s historic downtown district, offers a giant inventory of furnishings, including seating, tables, accessories, paintings and lighting from the 17th century to the mid-20th century.
An added bonus, it also stays open until 8 p.m. on most evenings to cater to the after-work and dinnertime crowd.
The son of an antiques dealer, Ford launched his businesses four years ago as a natural offshoot of his much longerstanding company, Ford Art and Antiques, which travels his most illustrious pieces around the country to trade shows, from New York to Los Angeles.
Being well connected in the industry has landed Ford some windfalls, including one of the most lauded artifact collections in the world. “I got a call to fly out to California to look at the collection of a ‘California professor,’” Ford says, with a laugh. He arrived in Monterrey, California, to find the estate of Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews, a prominent archaeologist and former director of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, who’s speculated to have been the inspiration for the main character in Indiana Jones.
“It was like stumbling upon the holy grail of antiques collections,” says Ford. Six 26-foot-long trucks were required to haul the thousands of artifacts back to Sarasota, where Ford held an auction and sold many of the items to museums around the world as well as private collectors.
Dr. Andrews spent many of his years in Mongolia and the Gobi Desert regions of China, exporting thousands of cultural artifacts and fossils back to the United States before it became illegal. Interestingly, many of Ford’s clients are from Asia, buying back the remnants of their cultural heritage that left the continent generations ago. “The middle class in China has grown by leaps and bounds, and there’s actually a shortage of antiques in their own country as compared to the sheer size of the population,” Ford explains.
Folks in far-flung places are often Ford’s best clients, including those from international countries, rural areas and on islands, such as the Caribbean, where retail options aren’t as readily available; plus, he ships anywhere in the world. There are so many astounding pieces that cross Ford’s desk, he’s hard-pressed to pick his favorites, although one standout piece comes to mind—a study for “one of the most important pieces in the Prado Museum in Madrid” by Antonio de Pereda.
“It came to Florida with a relative of the Spanish royal family, who sold it directly to us,” Ford says. “It’s hard to put a price on it, but it could fetch upward of $100,000.”
For those with expensive taste but slightly less cash on hand, Ford offers an extensive collection of old masters from the 18th century and fine art from 19th-century Europe, as well as American impressionist works.
Ford’s inventory is full of head-turning pieces that are sure to dazzle in any home or office. For example, Rembrandt etchings are perfect for the fine art aficionado, and adventurers at heart will go gaga over dinosaur bones from Dr. Andrews’ collection. There’s truly something for every collector.
Alaena Hostetter is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about her favorite things: art, design, culture, music, entertainment and food.