Published: July 17, 2001
By Genevieve S. Ward
LONDON – The Summer Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair, organized by Clarion Events, Limited, opened on June 7, Election Day. The pound, at a 15-year low that same day, coupled with economic skepticism and a decrease in the American presence, greatly affected this summer’s event.
Still, within ten days at the Olympia Exhibition Center, the show brought 32,645 shoppers from all over the world.
Attendance was down about nine percent, from 36,145 in 2000. Show organizers acknowledged that same trend throughout the entire June antiques season in London.
Talisman of Dorset reported that their clientele was predominantly European or American, with very few English buyers. According to Luke Irwin of Talisman, “The Americans that braved foot-and-mouth basically had a clear field when it came to buying. There were definitely fewer Americans but those that were at Olympia were serious buyers.”
While media reports indicated that American (and perhaps Japanese) collectors, dealers and decorators were wary of making the annual June pilgrimage to London, show organizers report that a significant number of Olympia dealers enjoyed outstanding shows. In short, the show still attracted very serious collectors.
Olympia is a serious show; it takes hours to walk through the two levels of the exhibition hall, which is filled with over 400 outstanding dealers in furniture, textiles, fine art, silver, ceramics, books, antiquities, clocks, garden statuary, glass, lighting, jewelry, Asian art, and scientific instruments.
The show is expertly vetted in all of these categories, and holds a strict 1914 dateline for eight categories including English and continental furniture, textiles, clocks, tole and lighting (with the exception of Art Deco and Art Nouveau).
Olympia is unmatched, even in the American trade, where talk of “too many shows” has recently been heard. It is enormous in size, and outstanding in quality. Very few American dealers exhibit at the fair, and those who do are generally experts in English subjects. The fair also enjoys patronage from American museums such as the Metropolitan.
With the highest exchange rate at $1.41480= £1 and the lowest at $1.36770= £1, the average rate for the 11-day fair was: $1.38871= £1.
Some of the highest ticket rdf_Descriptions sold included a Sixteenth Century Indo-Portuguese ebony and ivory cabinet that sold for £250,000 by Arenski and Petrou, and a pair of Indian silver gilt and embroidery thrones sold by first-time dealers Butchoff Antiques. David J. Hansord & Son sold a rare 1865 English canon for over £100,000.
Paul D. Vandekar from Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, New York City, exhibited at both the International Ceramics Fair and Olympia. He noted that, despite the decrease in gate, “we did extremely well selling right across our merchandise range: miniatures, wool pictures, English pottery and porcelain and Chinese Export.” Two of his significant sales included a fine Worcester porcelain dessert service and an important Chinese Export tureen, cover and stand.
According to Stefanie Bergot of Waterhouse and Dodd, London, sales included one bronze sculpture and 11 paintings, “including a fantastic work by Gustave Loiseau priced at £80,000.” Archeus Fine Arts’ sales were highlighted by a circa 1950 Lowry drawing that sold to a private English buyer for £36,000.Ulla Stafford of Berkshire sold a 160-piece Vienna dinner service, dated 1792, to an American buyer for more than £40,000.
Edward Reily Collins of Hallidays, Oxfordshire, recalled “We sold a very fine early Eighteenth Century walnut veneered bureau by William Old & John Ody, dated 1723, for £30,000 and an Italian, late Eighteenth Century walnut and purple heart commode with original top for £20,000 amongst a number of smaller rdf_Descriptions.”
Furniture sales were quite strong; Lewis and Lloyd sold an Eighteenth Century dining table for £75,000 to an English buyer, while David Dickinson sold a circa 1840 Sri Lanken marquetry table for £38,000. Americans also shipped loads of furniture home; Alderson Antiques of Bath enjoyed three times as many sales to Americans this year as last.
Medieval art dealer Marc du Ry opined, “Olympia is the most relaxed and comprehensive (or inclusive) of the big fairs, in terms of variety and quality. It is also one of the biggest and therefore more hit and miss as far as encounters with new clients is concerned.” Marc sold most of his sculpture, as well as several paintings. Highlights included an early Thirteenth Century French oak sculpture of an apostle, and a wood and linen with gesso and polychromy Crucifixion sculpture, from Tuscany, the second half of the Fifteenth Century.
London art dealer William Thuillier specializes in Old Master and British paintings (1600-1850), and enjoyed several large sales to overseas buyers. He reported, “I noticed that the smaller rdf_Descriptions, drawings, watercolors, which used to walk off the walls are now harder to sell. Clients seem less confident of spending, and seem to be saving their bucks for the big investment-potential purchases.”
British Impressionism experts Messum’s of London also brought a collection of fine Newlyn School paintings to Olympia this year, and sold three Walter Lanley watercolors ranging from £8,500 to £24,000; a Lamorna Birch landscape oil on panel for £8,000; a work by Charles Simpson for £9,000; and a work by Norman Garstin for £24,000.
Odyssey Fine Arts of London sold a collection of six 1825 watercolors commissioned by Sir Thomas Stanfrod Raffles, for approximately £25,000. Burns & Graham of Winchester, Hampshire, sold a painting by Emile Van Marcke de Lummen titled “Cattle Resting,” 1876 for £22,000.
Crowther of Syon Lodge, London, reported a major sale to an American client from the West Coast, who is a loyal to the Olympia Show. Interest was generated by a late Nineteenth Century carved white marble seat, the back carved in high relief with Bacchus and Ariadne in chariots preceded by Silenus and his entourage, flanked to each side by a satyr, the one playing the Pan pipes and the other the Pan flute. This circa 1880 seat was pictured in the show catalogue. According to the dealers, “The composition of the back relief is based on the famous Annibale Carracci’ s “Triumph of Bacchus” from the ceiling fresco of the Galeria Farnese, Rome (1597-1601).
“The satyr figures that frame the composition of the painting have been cleverly adapted to form the arms of the bench. Carracci was the leading figure of the Bolognese school of painting that dominated Rome in the first part of the Seventeenth Century, and his work was admired and collected by those that undertook the Grand Tour.”
London dealer Anthony Outred planned the content of his booth after receiving enquiries from international collectors and dealers who visited London specifically for Olympia. “We decided to design a stand around a small number of exceptional pieces of furniture,” the dealer said, and “the response we received was phenomenal in terms of interest from new clients and sales both at the Fair and back at our showroom.”
Sean Clarke Christopher Clarke Antiques, Gloucestershire, reported that “approximately 70 percent of our sales were to US dealers, decorators and privates.” Those sales included Georgian furniture, animal antiques, leather trunks and Campaign furniture, a trend which Clarke attributed to the recently published British Campaign Furniture – Elegance Under Canvas 1740-1914 by Nicholas A. Brawer (Abrams, 2001). More unusual pieces were represented by an Art Nouveau Sign commissioned for “The Peacock Inn” and made up of 20 hand-drawn tiles by Boote of Burslem, circa 1900.
Hazel Featherstone, representing Victoria de Rin, Rogers de Rin, London, said that “we didn’t envisage a bumper return this year but we were very pleased that we sold well enough.” Their sales included papier-mâché snuffboxes, rdf_Descriptions from the Wemyss Ware collection, Chippendale and Hepplewhite dining chairs and Jennings & Betteridge papier-mâché trays.
In addition, the smaller objets de vertu “went very well such as our Vienna bronzes and painted papier-mâché card cases – all the Staffordshire Hens on Nests were sold as they remain as always such a popular feature together with our collection of Dresden and Meissen pugs.”
A sale sometimes means forfeiting a well-thought out display: “our very large Victorian brass bird cage circa 1870, complete with movable feeding troughs, was snapped up leaving no longer such a suitable place on the stand to display our marvelous array of Nineteenth Century German porcelain parrots and birds,” according to the dealers.
Paul Lavender of Lida Lavender, London, noted that “sales were mainly overseas. We had a success with a beautiful Ziegler carpet, which went to the States. We also sold a couple of collectable Caucasian pieces and some decorative rugs.”
Stephen and Iona Joseph of Iona Antiques, London, stated “the June Olympia still offers the largest selection of quality antiques to be found anywhere in England if not in Europe or even the whole world.” Sales for the London dealers, who specialize in Nineteenth Century paintings of animals, sold two horse paintings, one sheep painting, one dog painting, one fighting cock painting, and one street scene painting.
Wilsons Antiques of West Sussex sold a circa 1860 burl walnut cylinder fall Victorian desk with maple interior to a prominent New York businessman, while an English private customer purchased a circa 1825 Regency mahogany sofa table with rosewood crossbanding, and lyre supports for £6,000. “Also sold to an American private customer living in London was an Italian majolica plant trough decorated with birds, circa 1930, for £1,000,” noted Frank Wilson.
Olympia is very strong in specialists. David Simons of Percy’s Silver, London, is convinced that “As an event, Olympia is a must to any discerning client.” The dealer was happy to “meet two very brave New Yorkers who purchased several rdf_Descriptions from us and will certainly remain clients in the future. Candelabra, centerpieces and claret jugs were as popular as ever. Demand was as strong as ever for silver priced between $2/35,000.” One outstanding sale was a pair of Edwardian George III-style five-light candelabra by Elkington, 1909 that sold at £17,000.
Tony Stone, dealer in antique tea caddies, exhibited Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century antique tea caddies and other boxes and had over $2,000,000 worth of retail stock on display on opening day of the Fair.
Jean-Yves Lhomond, the leading dealer in Aubusson cartons de tapisserie, noted “I personally had the best show I ever had [in ten years at Olympia], anywhere [New York, Paris, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, West Palm Beach]. I also did very well with French furniture. Olympia remains for me the best show in the world.”
Ironically, Elle Shushan, Augustus Decorative Arts, New York City, said, “Much of what I sold is coming back to America.” Sales included both portrait miniatures and portrait waxes. Said Elle of the opportunities to buy and sell at London’s shows, “The best place for an antiques addict to be in June is London.”
Clock dealer Richard Price sold 17 clocks, one being a rare moon face and tidal dial indicator that brought over £20,000. A circa 1760 Vulliamy Act of Parliament of tavern clock brought approximately the same price from Raffety and Walwyn of London.
London table glass dealer Mark J. West also exhibits at Grosvenor House, but noted that at Olympia “business was up by over 50 percent on the last two years, [and this showing was] in fact the best Olympia for six years.” Further, “The glass market for English Eighteenth, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century English glass is very strong.”
Claudia Hill sold miniatures and silhouettes ranging in price from £300 to £34,000, and art dealer Graham Savile noted lots of interest in Gillray cartoons, due to the current exhibition at the Tate.
As far as thoughts on the future Olympia shows, dealers remain enthusiastic. Anthony Outred expressed his pleasure with the show, “There is no doubt that Olympia has come of age and now attracts the best clients who not only enjoy the informal atmosphere but are discovering an ever increasing number of rare and outstanding rdf_Descriptions.”
Obviously, things will only get better. Management plans a new layout for next year’s fair, adding a new entrance on the ground floor, increasing the storage capacity, providing more seating, and widening the aisles. According to dealer Edric von Vredenburgh “I think it is a case of watch this space.”
The next showing of Olympia will be November 12 to 18. Dates for Spring Olympia 2002 will be February 26 to March 3, and the Summer Fair will return June 6 to 16. Visit www.olympia-antiques.com for information.
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