Published: July 16, 2002
London’s Summer Olympia:
By Marion Harris
LONDON – London’s traditional Summer Olympia Fair introduced some changes this June, not in order to reinvent itself (there is after all a well developed tried and trusted format), but to add a gleam to the existing polish — figuratively and literally.
Running from June 6 to 16, this was the largest and sleekest Olympia to date with more than 400 dealers and the addition of an extra hall to the already considerable display space, a widening of both the aisles and the deadlines, as well as the introduction of two-story, double-tier booths for some dealers.
This year marked Olympia’s 30th anniversary, and an appropriate time the organizers thought to institute the changes that had been under consideration for some time. Arguably Britain’s most important fair of the year, and considered by many to be the barometer of the UK trade, with an undeniable ripple effect influencing the United States and overseas antiques world, Olympia was ready for this updated look, which translated into a hugely successful fair for dealers and buyers alike.
Acknowledging the increasing influence of interior designers, particularly those from America, an eclectic range of modern and contemporary works were available for the first time, along with the traditional, and sales were strong in all categories. Most rdf_Descriptions at the summer Olympia, however, are still firmly under the antiques heading, and of these by far the largest category is furniture, carried by almost 40 percent of the dealers, followed closely by art of all descriptions, oil, watercolors, drawings, prints and miniatures.
Yet for all its tradition and formality, it is combining those qualities with the unexpected and unusual where Olympia comes into its own and transcends the expected boundaries. Could any other fair showcase Bond Street gilded tiaras and Black Forest carved bears so successfully side by side? Not often seen for sale, and considered almost too opulent to be worn as jewelry, tiaras seemed to be making a surprising, if brief, comeback, likely due to the Queen’s Jubilee and the accompanying exhibit on them at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.
The aptly named Gilded Lily of London offered a French Nineteenth Century 18-carat gold tiara with more than 20 carats of diamonds for $30,000, and also had a wide selection of fine South Sea pearl necklaces from $12,000 and David Webb jewelry, circa 1960, for less formal occasions. Meanwhile, Petrou and Arenski displayed a large grouping of Black Forest carvings, all from one collection that they had been trying to acquire for some time. Offered individually in the $5,000 to $15,000 range, they reported selling well across the board.
Indeed, as if to provide a further balance to the past formality, animals were a charming subtext to this summer’s Olympia fair. Robert Hirschorn offered a rare pair of Eighteenth Century Chinese carved and painted wooden dogs and Automatomania, first-time London exhibitors dealing in French automatons, had a Vichy monkey harpist at $15,000; specialist taxidermy dealer Emma Hawkins from Edinburgh, Scotland, had a stuffed striped marlin caught in the Indian Ocean in 1920 at $5,300. As is evident at just about every British antiques fair on any level, a menagerie of Staffordshire animals can be found at Olympia, ranging from the ordinary to the sublime and prices to match.
In fact, with a much greater emphasis on the sublime than the ordinary, that description applies to this Summer’s Olympia. London in June is a focal point for antique dealers and collectors internationally with Olympia running concurrently, in part, with the Antiquarian Book Fair and Hall Antique Carpet and Textile Fair, as well as being followed by Grosvenor House Art and the International Ceramics Fair and Seminar.
The next time these fairs run concurrently will be in 2003 in London and more information can be found at www.londoninjune.com. It is not such a wait, however, until the next Olympia Fair, which will be the Winter event, running November 22-17, and additional details on that and other Olympia fairs are available from www.clarionevents.co.uk.
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