The reason I became an Antique Dealer is largely due to one man, Warner Dailey, a passionate collector who opened up an extraordinary world to me. I was nine and had a fascination with English Country Houses when I met him, he was stepfather to my best friend Sam.
The day the World opened up to me through a Passionate Collector.
15 May 2015
Down to his soul, he is a groundbreaking collector and pioneer – a man driven by integrity and an overwhelming enthusiasm. Every weekend Sam, Warner and I would go off hunting for treasure. We scavenged through skips and bought old muskets imported from India, always selling our wares in guineas and shillings at Greenwich Antique Market.
Attire was all and we regularly attended Eton College jumble sales, purchasing others bespoke shoes and outfits, to fulfill our delusions of grandeur.
I was always so inspired by the vast range of his collecting, from Tribal artefacts to Arms and Armour, vintage cars to taxidermy. He has always been profoundly ahead of the curve, driven by what is uniquely personal to him.
I remember when I was around sixteen years old being horrified when he suddenly abandoned the Country house aesthetic to collect and deal in 1960’s machine- produced plastic furniture and objects. To put this more in context, the rest of the world were disposing of it in land fill sites. He amassed the greatest collection of modernist furniture of its day and created the largest prop house of its type to have existed in the UK. This was subsequently followed by a hugely successful exhibition Called ‘Classic Plastic’. Having taken this new found passion to its enth degree he had multiple auctions selling everything he had amassed throughout this extraordinary period of his life .
I went to see him the other day to reminisce and discuss a new sale he is putting together. As soon as the door opened I was ensconced in the most fascinating stories and being shown the most exciting pieces. His knowledge and range is vast. In one curiosity box alone we looked at Talisman objects: shark teeth, 19th century Tiger bones, Tzar Nicholas II’s cup and saucer and a gold broach made during the Gold Rush.
One genre that Warner has always collected is Trench Art and he selling his Collection. There is an enormous intimacy, layer upon layer of emotion held through the annals of time in these pieces, almost too powerful to hold. He showed me so many objects of Art made in the Prisoner of War camps including etched silver cigarette cases, jewellery from aluminium and aircraft perspex, Wolchow Sticks and Officers hats made out of First and Second World War brass shell cases.
He showed me a letter attached to one cigarette case explaining the history of who it belonged to: a polish P.O.W who escaped during the war and lived for years in the wild and was presumed dead only to find his way home after the war.
Warner not only collects the stories of so many that have lived but meticulously records his own life. Drawers upon drawers of findings, each labelled: what it is, where and when it was found. He said it is all for him to reflect on when he becomes old, to take him back to the memories.
Thank you Warner. I am forever grateful to you for being a continuous inspiration for the past forty years and wait with baited breath to see the next collection that unfolds.