Ara Hajian of LA’s hip antique shop, The Hub Gallery, is on a mission to bring the allure of antiques to the next generation. Ara is well known for his sharp eye: The Hub is a favorite of design and art enthusiasts who praise the shop as a can’t-miss source of fascinating art and antiques. But The Hub isn’t just a spot for those-in-the-know. Whether you’re brand new to the design scene or if you’re an antiques veteran, The Hub has a little something for everyone.
So, you’re a second-generation antiques dealer. Tell us how your love of antiques began.
I grew up in it. Ever since I was a child, my father has had his business. He’s always had a great eye, and my life from very early on was filled with items that represented thousands of years of human history. I would travel the world with him, go to museums, go to galleries. The stories I learned captivated me, and my dad was always happy to sit down and tell me about pieces in our home or in his shop or in our travels.
And where did his passion come from?
He grew up in Lebanon, which is an ancient country. When we were kids, he would tell us stories of his childhood—about how the rain would wash away dirt on the hills near his home, and he’d find old coins or other little objects that had been buried for centuries. That’s where his passion began. From early on, he’s always had a great passion for the workmanship, the quality, the heart that goes into making things you don’t see every day in our massed-produced world.
No wonder you were enthralled at an early age. What was the first item in your collection?
The first piece wasn’t something I purchased. My dad gave it to me when I was five or six. It’s an Egyptian mummy mask from the Late Period (712-332 B.C.). I’ve always been fascinated with antiquities, and it definitely spurred my collection of antiquities.
When did you decide to work in this field?
After college, I worked in pharmaceutical sales, but I didn’t love it. I wasn’t happy or intrigued. I kept thinking, “Where’s the soul here? Where’s the story?” And I’m not a great salesman unless I’m passionate about something, and I just felt the tug of antiques.
So I began helping my father do major antiques shows around the country, and I slowly built a collection of objects I found interesting. Private clients would contact me or I would call them if I found objects or pieces that seemed to be a good fit for their interests. After a while, I realized I needed a storefront. I was running out of room in my house. The Hub Gallery launched about four years ago.
I love the name. What inspired it?
My father has been in business for 40 years, and he only deals with interior designers and dealers—he’s not open to the public. People are always coming to knock on the doors, and he has to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m only open to trade professionals.” So now he can refer them to “The Hub”—the place where everyone can hang out and gather.
And what do they find at The Hub?
I’ve always tried to find the highest quality, the most unique things I can. I would say that everything here is a statement piece or a historically important piece. That’s it. My focus tends to be fine art and antiques from the 19th century and first half of the 20th century in Europe and America.
Where do you find these items?
I tend to buy from private estates. That’s one of the blessings of having my father in this business. He gets phone calls all the time: “My aunt passed away. Would you come see her estate?” I go along, and I purchase the pieces that I think will interest my customers.
Tell me a bit about the location of your shop. It’s definitely a spot geared to attract younger buyers.
I’m at the border of Echo Park and Silver Lake on Sunset Boulevard in LA. It’s a very young, hip neighborhood that’s quickly becoming gentrified. I chose it because I wanted to expose younger people to antiques and antiquities. Everyone knows mid-century modern—it’s the design era that’s spoon-fed to everyone—but I love to show people that there are thousands of years of history available to them.
Sometimes I laugh about the hip factor, though. You can’t own enough skinny jeans to keep up with this place. [laughs] Half of Brooklyn has moved here in the last two years. I like to think that The Hub and I contribute to the coolness of it!
I’m guessing that in the course of buying for The Hub, you’ve occasionally come across a piece that you couldn’t bear to give up.
One piece? Several pieces! I can think of a few right now that have killed me to give up. The last piece I couldn’t bear to part with is an original drawing by Pavel Tchelitchew. He was a Russian-born artist who lived in Paris for a while—he was friends with Gertrude Stein—and then immigrated to the U.S. He’s a surrealist. I have an early signed-and-dated portrait he did of a very wealthy Indian; it’s from 1941. Tchelitchew had done a massive painting of this man, Ejulji Dinshaw, the year before. I’ve always liked his work, so it was a thrilling surprise when I walked into an estate and had the opportunity to purchase this piece.
And how do you live with antiques in your own home?
I like the eclectic look—the “collected” look, as people like to say. Look, even if you’re a boring person, you make yourself look interesting to have good, high-quality antiques from all over the world mixed with your regular décor. Even just a few accent pieces that make people say, “Hey, tell me about this.” Antiques are a great conversation-starter. They make you look even more hip than you already are.
If you’ve fallen in love with The Hub’s eclectic mix of antiques, check out their shop for more unique finds.
Photography by: Nelsen Brazill.