The 1950s and 1960s were two decades of remarkable economic expansion, not only in the United States, but also, and particularly, in continental Europe, where the incredibly robust post-war reconstruction bore even more bountiful rewards. Nowhere was this rebirth more explosive than in Italy, and no sector of that nation’s economy was more exuberant than the art market during those years. Although the priority luxury item for a successful Italian entrepreneur might have been a red Ferrari, and then, second in line, perhaps a fancy mistress, there is little doubt that immediately thereafter on the shopping list would have been all manner of antique art. The year 1959 saw the birth in Florence of the world’s first international art and antiques fair, the Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato. It was mounted in the monumental Palazzo Strozzi and lasted for a full month, with firms coming to exhibit from as far afield...


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