Seller Story: Setareh Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

David Setareh left his home in Germany at the age of 18 after the Iranian revolution, destined for Los Angeles. He carried with him a collection of antiques and art from across the globe: paintings, sculptures, decorative objects, Judaica, rare books, musical instruments, luxury objects such as jade, silver – enough to establish a gallery shop in Westwood, which has since attracted collectors, dealers and friends from all over the world, making him an iconic figure in the industry. Three decades later, Setareh is ready to enjoy a well-deserved retirement traveling the globe and dreams of being gone from Los Angeles for several months at a time.

His son Aaron recalls growing up in the shop, learning the ins and outs of antique dealing and art appreciation. “It certainly piqued my interest, so now I am a History major at UCLA,” he says. “In class when we learn about the French Revolution or The Renaissance, and I see photos of the artifacts or art, I’m already able to recognize their historical context.” Not to mention, all of it looks like it could have had a place in his father’s gallery. “Recently, I watched a documentary of Versailles, and so much of it reminded me of the things in my dad’s shop.”

Most of Setareh’s collection is very opulent, drawing in clients such as The President of Israel a few years prior. “He’s a really cool guy,” remembers Aaron. The connection happened organically, through Setareh’s network of art and antique dealers in Europe and Israel. So what did Mr. President go home with? A sculpture of the Ten Commandments that he bought to display in the Beit HaNassi, the presidential residence in Jerusalem. “I went to visit once,” says Aaron. “It was on a tour that I saw a sculpture of the former President who was friends with my dad.” But as for the Ten Commandments sculpture? “He probably held onto that.” –Aaron Setareh

Seller Story: Setareh Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Seller Story: Setareh Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
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Seller Story: Setareh Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

Where does the shop’s inventory come from?

“Three or four times a year, my dad travels to places like London, Dusseldorf, and Vienna, where he meets with dealers who save the best picks for him. 18th or 19th-century art is what we picked up in Vienna last year, in addition to artifacts with more of a historical significance. We found silverware from the Holocaust. Nothing that makes me happy to see, but the cultural weight of these items and their history are so rich.

Are there any antique finds that will absolutely never be for sale?

His favorite piece is a 1811 Swiss violin with lion form scroll motif on the top; it is marked as being presented to someone by the name of Emma T. Price by a William B. Crossley of Wilmington Delaware at Milford, 1892. It has been solicited by many auction houses but he will never sell it!

Were there any other high-profile clients that would walk into the shop?

He has a network of influential friends and customers from around the world, including Lord David Alliance of England, the renowned industrialist. I remember Saudi princes visiting and my dad would sit them in a chair, and show them different pieces. He would never upcharge them based on their social status or wealth, my dad was very fair in his pricing.

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