Published: August 15, 2000
Olympic ‘Antiquing’ Marathon Noted at Arts Olympia
LONDON, ENGLAND – Summer Olympia, taking place at the end of June, saw some scheduling changes this year, with several art and antique events running alongside it, turning the last two weeks of June into an antiquing marathon of sorts for those who managed to attend all the fairs and related seminars.
Olympia Exhibition Center alone, in Hammersmith, West London, housed three separate fairs on overlapping dates under the umbrella title of Arts Olympia, with admission to each allowing reciprocal entry to the others. The traditional, and perhaps best known to American buyers, art and antiques fair with 400 dealers took place in the aptly named Grand Hall while the smaller hall held the Twentieth Century Art and Design Fair and the HALI Antique Carpet and Textile Fair, with all offering lectures and seminars.
Although held in the same facility, these shows varied in content and quality, equivalent to a highly refined English variation of the Triple Pier shows organized by Stella Management in New York. A wide selection can be found – from antiquities to modernism and from easily affordable to extravagant.
The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, running during Olympia’s second week, is the most prestigious antique event in Britain, comparable perhaps to The Winter Show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. Prices begin as just slightly less than extravagant and reach splendidly, wonderfully, outlandishly expensive. And worth it. With a range from $800 to over $8,000,000, Grosvenor House boasts a superlative international reputation due to the quality and diversity of the exhibitors and the exceptional objects offered dating from 2000 BC to the present.
Hovering and glittering at the far end of the price curve was “The Wreath” shown by American jeweler, Harry Winston, exhibiting at Grosvenor House for the first time. Composed of 128 diamonds with different cuts, this magnificent necklace exemplifies Winston’s signature style with the stones cut and set in a three dimensional design for incomparable brilliance.
Altogether, it’s estimated that over $500,000 million worth of art and antiques was available at this year’s Grosvenor House Fair, from important French and English furniture, porcelain and paintings to an outstanding selection of Asian art by top international dealers. Grace Wu Bruce, known for her classic Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Ming furniture, and book and manuscript dealer Sam Fogg agreed that sales reflected the enthusiasm for investing in top quality, expertly vetted rdf_Descriptions by both established and new collectors.
With almost 50,000 millionaires in Britain, what was once a rarified event reported a record attendance. Apart from the intrigue of watching almost $100 million change hands in just over a week, visitors to this show consider it a focal point of the London social season on a par with Ascot and The Chelsea Flower Show.
London dealer, Alastair Sampson, specializing in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century English oak and country furniture and needlework is one of the very few who exhibit at Grosvenor House and Olympia. He reported successful sales at both venues, particularly from overseas buyers.
American dealers were clearly a strong buying force at Olympia with several dealers reporting one of their strongest shows there as a result of sales from abroad. Underscoring this, the tally of rdf_Descriptions to be picked up for overseas delivery from the in house shippers at Olympia was reported to be one of the highest in some time.
This success should be no surprise as an exciting selection of merchandise was available from long time Olympia dealers who save fresh rdf_Descriptions for this show catering to the experienced and stylish buying crowd it attracts. Some unusual highlights included a collection of 100 egg cups circa 1800-1930 offered by Amherst Antiques, Alasdair Brown’s collection of rare Nineteenth Century articulated models of plants designed and made by Dr Louis Auzoux, and a selection of Queen Anne paste jewelry.
English ceramics are always well represented at Olympia. Howard’s of Aberystwyth had a varied range of Nineteenth Century Staffordshire, including a rare figure of a bull (in place of the more typical cow) with herdsmaid. Jonathan Horne, known internationally for his superlative early English slipware, stoneware, delft and creamware, offered an extremely rare salt-glazed stoneware gallon bottle by John Dwight of Fulham bearing the arms and garter of Charles II, dating it between 1675-1685.
Furniture is in abundance at Olympia, categorized and sub-categorized more specifically than we are used to at American shows. Furniture specialties alone comprise: Twentieth Century; Anglo-Indian and China trade; British furniture prior to 1830 and a (smaller) separate category for post 1830; Continental; French Provincial; oak and country; with additional specialties of painted upholstered furniture.
Robert Young’s high country furniture and folk art has strong appeal for American buyers, and this show was true to form for him with strong sales, including an enclosed English North Country dresser, circa 1770 and a Seventeenth Century “joyned” oak circular tavern table. Beedhams, who specialize in medieval furniture offered an Elizabethan carved and inlaid, bed, circa 1580-1600, and along with other furniture dealers reported strong sales and interest overall – a view shared by most exhibitors.
In addition to Olympia, Twentieth Century Art Fair and Grosvenor House, London in early summer hosted a book fair and the British Ceramics Fair. And in its second year and with a change of dates, was the relative newcomer ArtLondon. This small show of about 40 contemporary art dealers taking place in a marquee in Chelsea has much to offer in the modern art field while it establishes itself with a fixed date and location.
Alongside this surfeit of choices, there were, as always, exceptional objects available privately from London specialty dealers in their galleries and shops including an Egyptian bronze and gilded wood ibis with inlaid obsidian eyes, circa 600 BC from Bond Street antiquities specialist Rupert Wace, and from Artemis of Kensington, a gilded bronze by Agathon Leonard inspired by the Statue of Liberty.
These objects, wonderful in their own right, also give new meaning to the expression “Gilding the Lily” considering the range of shows, fairs and events available to the art and antiques world in London early this summer.
The next London Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair, in its more typical format of standing alone – unaccompanied by its summer neighbors of Twentieth Century design and textile shows, will take place from November 13-19.
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