Published: April 13, 2004
The Spring Fine Art and Antiques Fair, conducted at West London’s Olympia, is the first of three major antiques events taking place there annually. Followed by the original and much larger summer Olympia in June and then the traditional winter fair in November, the spring event is the only one of the trio without any dateline restrictions.
Unlike these subsequent two fairs with traditional antiques cutoff dates, spring Olympia guidelines range from antiquities to rdf_Descriptions made yesterday; like the other two fairs, all rdf_Descriptions are strictly vetted for quality and accurate descriptions, resulting in a fresh, energetic and stylish event to start London’s Olympia calendar.
With a total of 180 booths, divided almost equally between traditional and modern dealers and a strong exhibitor list in all fields, the balanced mix of conservative and contemporary proves how well different styles and periods can work together; literally and figuratively, side by side.
This eclectic approach to collecting is more established in America than in Europe, where period is often considered more important than pizzazz. Spring Olympia’s growing success reflects a change in that attitude. Theatrical trumps tradition at this event.
As well as being the most varied and untraditional of the three Olympias, the spring fair is also the most recent. Now in its 11th year (having survived several shaky predictions for its future), the fair has continued to finely tune the format, establishing its own identity and success. This year, several British and European contemporary dealers made their Olympia debut, joined by longtime antiques dealers from the summer and winter events but exhibiting at the spring venue for the first time.
Due to these recent improvements, a significant increase in attendance over previous years was reported by the organizer, Clarion Events. A hugely successful opening night on Tuesday, March 2, saw almost 3,500 visitors (up a remarkable 40 percent from 2003), according to show organizers. Underscoring that success, next year’s spring Olympia will repeat this format and further define itself as different from the summer and winter Olympia events with a name change to “The Art, Design and Antiques Fair.”
The loan exhibition, an element only at the spring fair, featured British artist Prunella Clough. “The Art of Seeing Sideways” was the first retrospective of the painter’s work since her death in 1999. It attracted a constant stream of admirers and colleagues, including David Hockney and Howard Hodgkin among other leaders in the art world, as well as those discovering both her work and spring Olympia for the first time.
Julia Bennett Antiques, specializing in English furniture and paintings ranging from Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, sold 30 pieces over the duration of the fair. Items falling into the category where folk meets fine, especially early pieces, sold very well across the board. A naïve Eighteenth Century country scene, oil on oak panel, was bought on opening night by a Scottish collector from Peter Bunting. Very pleased by the show’s results, the Derbyshire dealer’s sales also included an oak gate leg table, circa 1700, along with six later Windsor chairs dating from around 1800. Furniture dealers Lewis and Lloyd sold an unusual small rustic mahogany bookcase dated 1750, and London’s Butchoff Antiques sold one of their key pieces, a rare yew marquetry library table in the style of John Crace, circa 1840.
Twentieth Century works, comprising half the spring fair, were selling equally well. Gordon Watson of London’s Fulham Road reported his best spring fair ever, selling a wide range of furniture, lighting rdf_Descriptions, jewelry and silver from 1920s to 1950s, including a pair of Gio Ponti wall lights. Alexander von Moltke and Gary de Parma of Core One both reported strong sales of Twentieth Century furniture; and Portobello Road dealer David Hickmet of Hickmet Fine Art echoed the consensus with his sale of a grouping f original wall sconces and mirrors commissioned for the Las Vegas Flamingo Hilton in 1946 by Bugsy Siegel, the hotel’s original owner. Unseen for decades, the rdf_Descriptions had been in storage at the Hilton since 1970.
Modern ceramics also attracted interest and buyers: Succession from Richmond, Surrey, specializing in Twentieth Century design, sold a collection of Lurcat pottery for $24,000.
Paintings proved popular. Art sold well across the board and across boundaries; from Nineteenth Century to contemporary, important signatures to little-known artists, photography, sculpture and works of art from Europe, Russia and Africa, all sold at spring Olympia.
London gallerist Bernard Chauchet’s sales included a pointillist work by French postimpressionist Eugene Begarat for $44,000; Anthony Hepworth from Bath, England, sold “Ochre Bather,” 1951, by Keith Vaughn. Featured in the spring 2002 Olympia loan exhibit, it was priced here at $120,000. Paris dealer Martin du Louvre was among other French dealers reporting strong sales. His signature booth of graphically displayed paintings and sculpture from the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries included a large terra-cotta group by French sculptor Carpeaux; one of only seven casts, it was purchased by an American museum.
Also selling well, but from a different position on the geographical and price map, Haynes Fine Art of Broadway, Worcestershire, almost had a “saucy” experience. Four collectors made a beeline for the same four works by Tony Karpinski, one of Britain’s leading contemporary animal painters. To the relief of the gallery, after some discussion the buyers independently came to an agreement, dividing the works among themselves. Each of these, and five others, too, sold in the $25,000 range.
The next London Olympia Fair, summer, runs June 3-13. The next spring fair with the new name of The Art and Design Fair, Olympia, will take place March 1-6, 2005. For information, www.Olympia-antiques.com.
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