Published: March 27, 2001
LONDON – Originally an annual event, the Art and Antique Fair at Olympia now takes place three times a year in spring, summer and fall. The most recent, which ran from February 27 to March 4, is the only one to mix the old and the new, juxtaposing antiques with antiquities and classic with contemporary. A 40/60 mix of new to old, Spring Olympia has vetting but, unlike the other two fairs, no cut-off dates, leading to compliments from those searching for dramatic design to criticism by the purists looking for traditional period antiques.
As we know, controversy can be good for business. This year’s spring fair presented the largest number of dealers since its introduction eight years ago, almost 200 in total, including 19 new dealers who have never exhibited at any Olympia Fairs before. Among them was David Linley, otherwise known as Lord Linley, son of Princess Margaret, an acclaimed modern furniture designer in his own right, whose inlaid sycamore chair was commissioned by Clarion, the show’s management company, for their corporate collection. It was on display with made-to-order editions available for $1,550 along with other “lifestyles accessories,” which is how The Linley Company describe their bespoke furniture and home furnishings.
Other first-time Olympia dealers included Agnews of Bond Street and London pewter specialist Titus Omega. II Segno del Tempo, Milan, familiar faces at some American fairs, here looked dramatically different. Like the stage set of magic grotto filled with walking sticks, orreries, miniature and large globes, paintings and carved figures, the booth was stunning in its theatricality, a highly amplified version of the eclectic range they are known for at New York’s Triple Pier and Atlantique City shows. Piero Luigi Carboni explained that he and his partner Pierangelo Marengo have two separate looks: a sophisticated display for European shows where they have three or more set-up days and, by necessity, a less structured approach here in America dictated by a shorter set-up time and shipping limitations.
Their effort was fitting and well received. Olympia demands and deserves impressive displays, and delivers high quality merchandise presented with imagination and originality. Also, especially at the Spring event, an unpredictable approach was taken by some of the less traditional dealers such as London dealer Julian Hartnoll, who champions the undiscovered with works he describes as being by “unjustly forgotten artists of the Twentieth Century.”
Along with a selection of works by British and French artists, known and unknown, Hartnoll offered three antique store mannequins, which he had recently bought at Clignacourt, the Paris flea market, encasing them in a custom cabinet to create a surreal sculpture in and of itself. Greater than the sum of the parts, it was a striking piece with a not unreasonable asking price of $9,000. Surprised that it didn’t sell, as it had generated so much top-level interest throughout the show, Julian found that his experience was typical for many of the other art dealers who concluded that actual sales didn’t equate with the interest shown.
Echoing that analysis of the fair, Katie Jones, a London dealer in Japanese antiques and objects, while no unhappy with her final sales, described her interaction with her clients as “more conversation than check-book.” American collectors might be familiar with her on both counts, as she exhibits in New York at The Arts of Pacific Asia Fair run by Caskey-Lees and the Haughton’s Art of the 20th Century show.
Robert Bowman is perhaps more mindful of follow-up sales than some other dealers. His London gallery specializes in Nineteenth and Twentieth sculpture in terra-cotta, marble and bronze, often on a huge scale, for which sales depend on a continuing dialogue between dealer and client, precluding any quick decisions or impulse purchases. Exemplifying this was the centerpiece of his booth, a life-size bronze casting of bodybuilder Eugene Sandow. Cast in 1998 from the 1901 original, previously owned by The British Museum, the sculpture was offered with Sandow’s original barbells for $150,000.
Art and sculpture were very well represented, ranging from traditional Nineteenth Century animal and figurative bronze statuary, offered by Apollo Galleries based in Kent, to modern masters such a Lynn Chadwick from Connaught-Brown. The contemporary works from the London gallery Davies and Tooth were balanced by the graphic display of sculptural objects of all periods from the Dorset gallery descriptively called Plinth.
Galerie Besson’s superlative selection of studio pottery ceramics muddies existing show categories, making it impossible to draw the line between art and sculpture with works by Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. Watercolors and paintings of every period could be found: Richard Philp offered early portraits and Old Master drawings; Piano Nobile showed current portraits by Adam Britwhistle; London’s Park Gallery had British and European prints; and Charles Plante from Washington, D.C. one of three American exhibitors at the Fair, displayed a floor-to-ceiling selection of fine watercolors and drawings form 1760-1840, along with oil paintings from the same Neo-classical period. He reported a successful fair, and joins the other two American dealers, Elle Shushan, portrait miniature specialist and furniture dealer Guy Bush in having an enthusiastic following of overseas clients who can see them conveniently at London’s Olympia.
The next Olympia Fair will run from June 7 – 17 and is part of London in June, a joint marketing venture incorporating other fairs and major auctions taking place in London at that time. To purchase advance tickets and receive detailed information on concurrent events, which include The Antiquarian Book Fair and HALI Textile Fair, both at the Olympia location, as well as The Grosvener House Fair and The International Ceramic Fair, visit www.londoninjune.com or call the ticket line 011-44 (0)8707363105.
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