Published: December 12, 2006
Each of London Olympia’s trio of fairs, taking place in spring, summer and winter, has its own distinct identity, yet all three share the brand image of being among the longstanding and important annual events in the international antiques calendar.
Now in its 14th year, the winter fair has always been considered the most traditional and predictable of the three. Indeed, so sound and steady that some considered it a stuffy third place in the desirability ranking. The spring event, new and lively, had a glamorous and exciting image while the summer fair, by far the largest and most comprehensive, seemed assuredly to head the list.
In a surprise reverse of that long accepted pecking order, predictability has become an asset for the winter fair; it has continued to build a solid reputation with top quality traditional dealers, while the spring and summer events are in flux by changing their focus from traditional antiques to design. Bringing to mind Aesop’s fable, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the slow and steady winter event seems to be catching up.
Most recently running from November 6 to 12, winter Olympia opened to enthusiastic buyers and the numbers show that attendance for the 240 dealers in various specialties — paintings, glassware, ceramics, clocks, prints, jewelry, maps and more — was more than 20,000, an increase of five percent from last year.
Furniture sales seemed buoyant. Within minutes of opening, Edward Hurst of Salisbury, Wiltshire, sold a Regency Grecian-style settee, circa 1825, for $33,000 to an American decorator that flew in for the event. London dealer James Graham Stewart sold 15 pieces of furniture including a pair of George II mirrors to an English collector and Lennox Cato from Kent seemed to be having an exceptional fair.
Specialist art dealers reported strong interest and sales. Mary Deeming, a private dealer known for her focus on Japanese woodblock prints from Eighteenth through Twentieth Centuries, almost sold out on opening night with sales to a New York designer, and Susan Ollemans Oriental Art with a gallery in London’s Dover Street also reported a very successful opening. Neptune Fine Art of Derbyshire, first-time exhibitor to the fair, specializes in L.S. Lowry paintings and was pleased to have sold two important examples: Lowry’s “House on a Hill,” circa 1941, was bought for $150,000 and “The Mill Pond” for $110,000.
Russian visitors were seen to be strong buyers with Richard Price and Associates selling five clocks to a new private Russian collector. Twentieth Century design also proved popular. Peter Petrou’s two Claude Lalanne bronze chairs went for $155,000 to an English private collector and Gordon Watson of London’s Fulham Road sold a pair of architect-designed Italian chairs circa 1960 for $27,000.
Glass of all periods garnered interest as well as sales, not surprisingly, as The Paperweight Collectors Circle hosted a loan exhibit, “Art in Glass,” displaying more than 300 rare and unusual paperweights highlighting varying elements of their manufacture from Venice to Bohemia.
Timed to mark the 25th anniversary of the Paperweight Society, the display was very well received, as were the accompanying lectures explaining that the heyday of paperweight production was 1840–60 when famous houses such as Baccarat and Clichy were producing superbly crafted works — a popularity that coincided with the boom in European desk furniture production.
Several dealers at Olympia exhibit at US shows and are known equally well to the American and British trade as well as to collectors on both sides of the Atlantic.
Charles Plante, recognized for his range of fine neoclassical watercolor drawings and sketches on paper, reported a successful fair with several important sales including an early Eighteenth Century French marble sculpture of a seated dog to a museum curator.
London Kings Road dealer Joanna Booth, offering an academic approach at both New York and London fairs with her display of sculpture, textiles, early woodcarvings and Old Master drawings, had a good fair as did John Jaffa of The Antique Enamel Company in Regent Street in London with his extensive selection of Continental enamels, gold boxes and rare perfume bottles.
London-based jewelry dealer Sue Brown of Mayfair, a familiar face at New York shows, reported a successful fair, as did Odyssey, the Chelsea-based dealer specializing in Eighteenth–Twentieth Century framed prints. Art dealer David Brooker, who has a gallery in Woodbury, Conn., while living in Reigate, England, is a frequent exhibitor in American shows with Manhattan, Bedford, Caramoor and Greenwich in his roster. Married to a flight attendant, David’s cross-Atlantic travel schedule has a built in convenience factor — although that might change soon as his wife, Michelle, is expecting their second child in May.
The spring Olympia Fair looks as if it will no longer include antiques at all within its totally new and different form. Its new name is FORM and will showcase modern and contemporary art, photography, ceramics, design and sculpture. It is scheduled to run March 1–4. For more information, www.form-london.com.
For more information on the winter show, www.olympia-antiques.com or 20 7370 8234/8212
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