The world of art and antiques was looking distinctly gloomy this time last year, so the wisdom of staging no fewer than four major new collecting fairs back-to-back in central London this June seemed questionable to say the least.
In the interim, however, the auction market appears to have gone into overdrive, with stellar prices achieved across the board for everything from modern art to wristwatches and from classic cars to jewellery.
Such buoyancy bodes well for the antiques fair season, and must come as a particular relief for the organisers of the re-vamped Olympia summer fair (now called the London International Fine Art Fair) and the even more ambitious Masterpiece event, which aims to inject some razzmatazz by offering not only traditional art and antiques but high-end collectables in all disciplines.
Here, we give you the low-down on each of the four fairs.
West London Art and Antiques Fair
Managed by the highly experienced fair organiser Caroline Penman of Penman Fairs, this aims to be a “small, relaxed and friendly” event featuring around 50 exhibitors from Britain and abroad. Keeping the fair short (four days) has made renting stand space relatively affordable – especially when compared with the cost of a pitch at any of the three rival shows – and has attracted dealers who formerly appeared at the Olympia summer fair.
Prices for the pieces on offer should also be reasonable, and Penman assures that everything is “carefully vetted for authenticity” with “correct, informative labelling”. Antiques dating back to Elizabethan times will be available as well as contemporary and modern art and sculpture.
June 3-6, Kensington Town Hall, Horton Street, London W8 Admission: £8 with catalogue (£12 for one catalogue and two people), www.penman-fairs.co.uk
London International Fine Art Fair
This large-scale fair is a co-production between the UK company Clarion Events and America’s International Fine Art Expositions (IFAE), run by Florida-based couple David and Lee Ann Lester. IFAE is best known for organising the Miami International Art Fair and Art Palm Beach and was brought onboard to inject new life into the summer Olympia event which can trace its roots back to the early 1970s.
Regular visitors to the fair will immediately notice that the old “free build” stand concept has been done away with in favour of a sleeker, more uniform look.
The 180-odd dealers taking part will need to make this fair work for them as most will have paid at least £500 per square metre of stand space, but the organisers’ pledge to market the event heavily and to bring in new buyers from Russia, India, China and the Middle East should make it a success.
In addition to a vast range of antiques, collectables and works of art (all checked by a vetting committee comprising 200 experts) the fair will feature a lecture series and a loan exhibition of 15 modern British pictures belonging to the singer Bryan Ferry, including works by Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Sir William Orpen.
June 4-12 (preview day, June 3), Olympia Exhibition Centre, Hammersmith Road, London W14, Admission: Advance booking from £10, entry from £14 on the door. Catalogue £25. Preview day ticket £80, www.lifaf.com
Art Antiques London
Incorporating the International Ceramics Fair which organisers Brian and Anna Haughton established in 1982, this all-new event will bring together around 60 leading international dealers under a purpose-built marquee opposite the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington Gardens.
Participants include New York’s Jane Kahan gallery which will show Picasso ceramics and, from London, clock and barometer specialists Raffety and Walwyn, the Maas Gallery and watercolours and drawings dealer Lowell Libson.
In addition to a truly excellent loan exhibition of 20th-century Soviet photographs, there will also be a full lecture and seminar programme ranging from a talk by Antiques Roadshow specialist Dr Paul Atterbury about the Great Exhibition of 1851 to a somewhat more prosaic one by food historian Ivan Day on the “extraordinary history of moulded desserts in Georgian England”.
June 9-16, Albert Memorial West Lawn, Kensington Gardens, Queen’s Gate, London SW7, Admission: £15, www.haughton.com
Seen as a larger, glitzier, more modern replacement for the now-defunct Grosvenor House Antiques Fair, Masterpiece London promises to be a “new type of fair” that combines fine and decorative art with premium collectables.
Organised by Mallett managing director Thomas Woodham Smith, Harry Apter of 18th-century furniture dealer Apter-Fredericks, Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips, Asprey chief executive Robert Procop and Harry van der Hoorn of stand-builders Stabilo, Masterpiece has attracted a full complement of 120 dealers from a wide range of collecting fields.
Among the more unusual crowd-pullers will be a 1932 Bugatti Type 51 (£3m, at Coys) and a 1960s Aston Martin DB4GT from Fiskens. Fine wines will be available at up to £50,000 per case, plus a £1m billiard table, vintage watches from the long-established London specialist Somlo and Geneva-based auctioneer Patrizzi and Co, gems from Argyle Pink Diamonds and movie posters from the Reel Poster Gallery. Bespoke furniture makers Linley and Edward Barnsley will be showing, along with the shotgun firm Holland and Holland.
And to emphasise the “destination” aspect of Masterpiece, Urban Caprice has been brought in to create satellite versions of well-known Caprice Holdings restaurants such as The Ivy, Bam-Bou, Scott’s and Harry’s Bar as well as an on-site Le Caprice eaterie.
June 24-29, The former Chelsea Barracks, Chelsea Bridge Road, London SW1, Admission: £20, www.masterpiecefair.com
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