OPENING with a grand private preview on June 8, and continuing until June 15, for the 70th year the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair will run at The Great Room of the Grosvenor House hotel on Mayfair’s Park Lane. And, no doubt, it will show, once again, why it is the country’s top fair and one of the world’s top antiques events.
Over the seven decades, Grosvenor House has certainly had its
detractors but it remains the daddy of them all, starting the whole
antiques fairs phenomenon back in 1934. Apart from 1974, when it
was cancelled due to reconstruction work at the hotel, and the
famous four-year hiatus from 1979 which was prompted by the
standfitters' refusal to cross a picket line during a chambermaids'
strike, Grosvenor House has consistently showcased the very top end
of the trade.
For years it was the British trade which turned out its finest for
this event, and the link with BADA remains, but - an example of one
of a number of changes - it has become more international over the
years. However, these changes are nothing if not subtle and of the
90 or so exhibitors at Grosvenor House the overseas quota does not
go above 10 per cent.
In recent years, the fair has been redesigned and given a number
of new looks. But anyone who has not paid a visit for a decade
would still recognise the fair.
The most drastic change in its history was the dropping of
datelines in 1994, which certainly liberated the whole event and
made the stock more exciting. Those who felt the fair was just a
boring if very upmarket platform for the English (largely brown)
furniture trade had a point.
But Grosvenor House remains a traditional event and, whatever
criticisms one has of the fair, it still oozes top-quality, class
Stands at Grosvenor House are much-valued by exhibitors and there
is not much of a turnover, but two exhibitors make their debut this
Standing for the first time is the distinguished Bond Street firm
Partridge, founded in 1911 and still among the very top dealers in
English and Continental furniture. Partridge is typical of the
quality of English dealer whose natural habitat is this fair.
The other Grosvenor debutant, if equally well known
internationally, is not quite in the same traditional mould. Paris
dealers Steinitz are regulars at the world's other top fairs in
Paris, New York, Maastricht and Palm Beach, so it is understandable
they should finally gravitate to Grosvenor House where their
eclectic, theatrical look will add a bit of decorative glitz to
Although second generation, Steinitz are one of that breed who now
cater very much for the interior design fraternity. Indeed, they
are well into interior decoration themselves.
This is not a facet of the trade which has hitherto greatly
influenced Grosvenor House, which, while it certainly has its own
style, is known more for its substance.
Wartski, the Mayfair specialists in jewellery and objects of art,
especially Fabergé, return to the fair after a lengthy
Period furniture is still very strong at Grosvenor House which
must be the best place anywhere to shop for English pieces.
This reputation, bolstered by the likes of London dealers Apter
Fredericks, Norman Adams, Richard Courtney, H.C. Baxter (who have
been with the fair since the 1930s), Ronald Phillips, Stair and
others, was strengthened a couple of years ago by the addition of
New York English furniture specialists Kentshire Galleries.
The fair is also strong on clocks, silver and pictures but over
the years has broadened its stock considerably.
For example, Kensington's Gregg Baker, who joined the fair last
year, is very much in tune with the current market with his display
of decorative Japanese screens.
Everything is very strictly vetted and, as you might expect, this
is one of the relatively few fairs where the procedure really is
taken very seriously.
There are highlights galore: among the pictures I spotted the
names George Stubbs, Angelica Kauffmann, Degas and Tissot; the
sculpture features Rembrandt Bugatti and Barbara Hepworth; Mallett
have a pair of armchairs attributed to Thomas Chippendale and
Anthony Woodburn brings a c.1705 spring table clock by
As the fair enters the 21st century, arguably as strong as ever,
it retains a characteristic which has been its hallmark since the
With plenty of six-figure - and some seven-figure price tags -
this is not a fair with something for everyone. On the whole it is
the place where the well-off do their shopping.
But it is a place to see much of what is currently the best on the
British market, although at £16 you even have to be reasonably
well-off to afford the admission fee.
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