Detroit Collector Allen Abramson Shows His Worldly Treasures

He spent a lifetime amassing museum-quality furnishings


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While most boys his age were collecting baseball cards, Allen Abramson was collecting antiques.

At the tender age of 7, Abramson bought a Victorian bronze statue at an auction in his native Akron, Ohio.

“I had $3.10 from my allowance,” he recalls. “It cost 10 cents for the bus, $3 for the bronze, and I had no bus fare home. I couldn’t even carry the statue. Some people took pity on me and drove me home.”

That was the start of a lifelong enthusiasm that hasn’t dimmed for the 82-year-old. “I’ve always loved beautiful things,” he says.
Abramson picked up many objets d’art during his world travels, and he bought other pieces from dealers, friends, or at estate sales. Many treasures he bought decades ago, when the dollar was strong and bargains were plentiful in Europe and Asia.

“Oh, I made some mistakes through the years, paying too much for this item or that,” he says. “But you learn, and you learn to trust certain people.”

Entering his western Oakland County home is like visiting a museum, but the atmosphere is far from stuffy, owing largely to Abramson’s lapidary wit. He peppers his speech with Yiddish humor and colorful — sometimes off-color — reminiscences. And while some collectors would be deathly afraid of breakage, Abrams allows his gray cat, Tata, to pretty much rule the roost. At the moment, she’s curled up on a gold silk-covered sofa.

Through the years, Abramson has worked as an antiques-shop owner, a dealer, an estate-sale director, and as co-owner of an art gallery.

“Among my souvenirs,” he says with comic understatement as he gestures toward some of his treasures. There’s not a tchotchke to be found. His furnishings include an imposing bronze Buddha that once belonged to English writer Somerset Maugham; a huge painting on silk from China; a late 18th–century French gilt chandelier; two handsomely carved wooden Chinese angels from the 18th century; stunning collections of ivory, jade, and Peking glass, as well as carved turquoise, coral, lapis lazuli, amethyst, and malachite; and a small Renoir. “I picked that up at a flea market in France,” Abramson explains. “I got it authenticated.”

There’s also an oil by John Everett Millais he bought from a dealer in London; another in the kitchen of a soulful-eyed little girl by Gustave Doyen he purchased from a violinist in the Cleveland Orchestra; bronze troikas from Russia; brilliant Persian rugs; a Steuben lamp and aubergine Steuben bowl atop the Baldwin grand piano; and a clay horse from the Tang Dynasty.

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