Published: July 24, 2007
This year, the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race was conducted June 22′3 and preparation dislodged northern France’s largest antiques trade event from its usual third Wednesday into the following week. That, in itself, is nothing to get excited about. But it does demonstrate that major trade events in France, most conducted in exhibition centers, do not have first pick at the calendar.
Curiously though, in June, the Le Mans antiques fair benefited from competing priorities elsewhere. Two other trade fairs had clashed on the day before and, although they split the field on that Tuesday, both acted as conduits for Wednesday’s Le Mans.
It is Ouest-Art’s largest event and part of its portfolio comprising several flea markets, stand-fitted fairs and craft shows. Its Le Mans trade fair is the only one that attracts regular overseas buyers.
There are, typically, 1,000 exhibitors at Le Mans. They are overwhelmingly French, with some Belgians and Dutch. Most have shops, including some with units or space at the immense Paris flea market at Saint-Ouen (aka Clignancourt).
Trading at Le Mans is fast, furious and focused. Visitors can sometimes snoop around the two exhibition halls, three outdoor exhibit areas and long row of cattle stalls before 8 am. They might even connect with their shipper or favorite sellers. But no trading whatsoever is permitted before the stroke of eight.
Admission is free. To French trade buyers, it is strictly on production of proof that they are licensed †in France, they have to be. A Canadian, UK or US passport also works.
The event is not organized by themed areas. Nor could it be, due to the eclectic nature of the goods on most fields. Finer and more fragile goods are more likely to be found in the two large and adjacent exhibition halls, and in the cattle pens opposite. Architectural items, bulk sales and furniture are more likely to be outside †there are outdoor areas north and south of the two halls, connected by another that runs lengthways between the halls and the sheds.
There is not much time to browse †the event starts losing momentum at around 11 am and is all but over by lunchtime.
The next trade mornings at Le Mans are August 14, September 26, October 24, November 21 and December 19. A comparable though smaller event is invariably conducted by organizers Haute-Vallée-du-Loir the day before at Chartres Exhibition Center, 80 miles towards Paris. For information, www.ouest-arts.com or (in French) contact Ouest-Arts at 243 86 66 25 or Haute-Vallée-du-Loir at 237 24 51 60.
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