ALTHOUGH it is now in its 11th year, the Spring Fine Art and Antiques Fair, which will be held at Olympia in West London from March 2 to 7, is the most recent of the three annual Olympias. To many eyes it is the most stylish and best looking of the three – to others it is the most problematical. It is certainly different.
This is the Olympia without any dateline restrictions, allowing visitors to shop from antiquity through to something created in early 2004 – and at this fair you are likely to see both types of item on the same stand.
There are 180 exhibitors and this spring’s mix of dealers in the traditional and in 20th and 21st century items is split almost exactly down the middle – the highest quota of dealers in modern items to date.
The fair enchants some and infuriates others. For some years there was a degree of antipathy from some of the more conservative dealers to the contemporary presence.
But now, I think, all exhibitors have realised this is a fair of the present market and that periods and styles not only mix but mix well.
It is the more quirky, design-led, modern items which attract most publicity, but there are plenty of very good dealers in the antique on parade. Indeed, the exhibitor list is strong in most departments.
Not as important as the June Olympia, that most seminal event on the antiques calendar, this is, however, the most important British fair of the year to date, and from the stock I have seen and conversations with exhibitors there should be a dazzling display.
A modern fair with a modern feel, it would be tempting to say anything goes at Spring Olympia. But remember, as at the other two Fine Art and Antiques Fairs, everything is strictly vetted.
Some 14 exhibitors make their Olympia debuts, including Beach House, Redfern Gallery, Piccadilly Gallery and Caroline de Kerangal.
Six dealers are new to Spring Olympia and these include Robert Young, Butchoff Antiques, Gordon Reece and Gordon Gridley. Among notable dealers returning to the Spring fair are Nina Zborowska, Messum’s, Craig Carrington and Marilyn Garrow.
The fair looks exceptionally strong this year on modern pictures, and it is also strong on the look of the moment, Art Deco and later 20th century design.
Look out for a black lacquered Dutch drinks cabinet, made by Pander & Zonen and offered by Alexander von Moltke, and some superb Deco from Berg Brothers, including a sinuous beech coffee table by the 1930s Italian designer Guglielmo Ulrick.
Having highlighted the modern look I must again emphasise that there are plenty of good quality antiques on sale, plus a full complement of other disciplines, from jewellery to tribal.
Over the years, the loan exhibition at Spring Olympia has become a major attraction in its own right and is surely the most acclaimed art exhibition at any British fair. This year, the private paintings, prints and drawings of Prunella Clough (1919-1999) comprise the loan show and it will be interesting to see if the market for Clough is affected.
Exhibitions on Augustus John and Edward Burra certainly boosted interest in and demand for the work of those artists. If you are inspired by the Clough exhibition you can buy her work on the stand of London’s Austin Desmond Fine Art.
In the past, this fair has never lacked admirers, but it has often just missed the mark on a commercial plane.
Maybe this is the staging that finally will bring out the buyers – visitors will certainly be spoilt for choice after forking out their £10 entry fee.
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