IRONICALLY, in its 75th and sadly final staging last month, the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair reaffirmed its status as unquestionably the UK's flagship antiques event.
And in a strange way its demise last week confirmed the respect and genuine affection in which it was held.
Talking to Grosvenor House exhibitors past and present it becomes apparent it is not just a hard but an impossible act to follow.
No existing fair can take on its mantle (the dealers to a man ruled out a move to Olympia). So the exhibitors are convinced they must do it for themselves, and one way or another reconstruct Grosvenor House to the same criteria of excellence but without the physical limitations of the Great Room in Park Lane or the financial constraints of working under a multi-national hotel group.
A new fair must be upmarket, strictly vetted and prestigious. But now there is the chance to combine all that with space and good design, the very reasons some top dealers left Grosvenor House for Olympia.
But the big, big question is where could such a new fair be held?
To emulate Grosvenor House it needs to be located in a central and upmarket area.
Another hotel is unlikely – the Great Room was the biggest space available and there was much comment every year on just how restricting it had become – while there is no exhibition hall sufficiently close to the West End to entice the coterie of clients who would only shop at Grosvenor House.
I recall when the Grosvenor House hotel was abandoned for a few years from 1980 due to the infamous chambermaids’ strike, it relocated to the Royal Academy’s Burlington House. However, these days the RA Summer Exhibition takes centre stage in June.
So we are back to a solution which has become ever more popular – the luxury tent. It might be imaginative to move Gillian Craig’s BADA fair in a tent in Chelsea to June and rebrand it under her continued leadership. I think that is an option.
But one event the antiques trade might learn from is Frieze, the cutting edge art fair that has made its home in Regent’s Park every October. Could the same be done in the same park for a more conservative fair in June? Yes it could.
By David Moss