What a difference a year makes. The sea change of opinion among the trade on the subject of June Olympia over the past year has been pretty dramatic.
Cast your mind back to this time last year when many were full
of doom and gloom about the potential demise of the Olympia
International Fine Art & Antiques Fair, now in its 40th
year and a true trade establishment.
Misgivings were sparked largely by some contentious issues over
recent years and particularly at the 2010 fair, which tried a
little too hard to be a glitzy, top-end-only international event at
the expense of some middle-market dealers who have for decades been
the lifeblood of this fair.
But director Chris Gallon of Clarion
Events and his team have since laboured hard to take the fair
back to the broad trading base it once was, abandoning pomp and
taking the philosophical approach of listening to dealers and
offering a more affordable and flexible range of stand
And it seems to have been the right approach, as this year they
have 200 confirmed dealers at the time of writing compared to 154
last year, which at the time was considered pretty good going.
So things are looking healthy for the 40th Olympia
International Fine Art & Antiques Fair, which runs from
June 7-17 at its familiar venue, the vast and airy Grand Hall at
the Olympia Exhibition Centre in West London.
Stand rents may be cheaper, but the stand build and overall
light, bright presentation is still the same - that thick cream
carpet is the stuff of legend - and this year the wide range of
dealer specialisms and price range is noticeable, from '£100 to
£1m' as Clarion point out in their press release. To accommodate
the extra stands, the floor space is larger, extending into a
further new space at the back of the hall rather than onto the
balcony of old.
Chat on the trade grapevine and some serious legwork from head
of stand sales, Marie-Claire Boyd, have
contributed to a snowball effect, whereby 40 new exhibitors have
signed up this year with 30 dealers choosing to return to the fair
after a break.
The latter includes some well-known dealers coming back after a
few years away. Among the 30 returnees are Anthony Hepworth
Fine Art (Bath, Modern British pictures); London Arts
& Crafts and Art Nouveau jewellers Van Den
Bosch, and a gaggle of Pimlico Road dealers such as
Anthony Outred, Kate Thurlow
(both decorative antiques), Nicholas Gifford-Mead
(antique chimneypieces) and 20th century design specialist
Overseas exhibitors returning after a break include Maastricht
dealers in Old Master paintings and early European works of art,
Jan Roelofs Antiquairs; 20th century design dealer
Anne Autegarden from Brussels and
father-and-daughter team Hawkins and Hawkins,
based in Edinburgh and Australia with an eclectic mix of period
furniture and daughter Emma's trademark taxidermy. There are just
shy of 20 international names this time.
And who are the 40 Olympia virgins?
There are quite a few art dealers among them, such as
Long & Ryle and James Kinmont Fine
Art, both London-based dealers in modern and contemporary
pieces, and cartoon and illustration specialists The
Above: One new exhibitor at Olympia this year is the
cabinet-maker and designer Huw Edwards Jones and among the
inventive creations he will offer for sale at the fair is this
Spitfire Memorial table to R.J. Mitchell, the aeronautical engineer
who designed the iconic fighter. The sizeable 11ft 6in (3.5m)
diameter table is constructed around original Spitfire parts and
has an asking price of 'several hundred thousand pounds'.
Olympia has been courting some of the decorative antiques
dealers too, and joining this year are Fontaine
from Margate, Drew Pritchard from Conwy,
Alston & Ashton from the Blanchard Collective
in Wiltshire and Nicholas Haslam Ltd from
Tribal art has strengthened this year, with three new
London-based specialists - Clive Loveless Primal
Art, Tribal Gathering and
Stothert & Trice - joining regular exhibitors
such as Robert Barley, Peter
Petrou and Lisa Tao & Z. Liu Fine
Art, who all meld tribal and primal art into their
eclectic stock of art and design.
Other newcomers include M.& D. Moir (Art
Nouveau and Deco glass), Marcus Campbell Art
Books, Mullany (haute époque works of
art) and Olde Time antique clocks from
But furniture is still at the fair's core, from early oak pieces
through Georgian to 20th century and contemporary design, and this
year there are 70 furniture exhibitors of various persuasions.
They include the regular exhibitors John
Hansord (Lincolnshire), who last year had particularly
good early sales of furniture, works of art and scientific
instruments from a large stand by the entrance; Kensington Church
Street period furniture dealers Butchoff;
David Bedale (Cheshire) with 18th and 19th century
furniture; Peter Petrou (London) with modern and
contemporary design; Lucy Johnson (Oxon and
London) with a blend of early furniture and modern British art;
Christopher Jones Antiques (Northants) with
decorative furniture and accessories from the 18th century to the
1970s and Craig Carrington (Gloucestershire) with
neoclassical furniture and works of art.