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P&O Events, the organisers of the long-established and highly successful Fine Art and Antiques Fairs at Olympia, entered the modern arena in early December last year with their five-day 20th Century at Olympia fair.

Some 60 dealers enjoyed mixed fortunes in Olympia 2 but most thought the fair had a future and the second is scheduled for November 24 to 28 this year with an expected 80 exhibitors.

However, last week organiser Victoria Borwick told the Antiques Trade Gazette that in 2000 the 20th Century fair will move to the National Hall in June where it will run from the 14th to 17th concurrently with the large Fine Art and Antiques Fair.

This puts it in the same bracket as the other satellite fairs at Olympia in June, the Hali carpet and textile event and the Antiquarian Book Fair. Both have benefited from the links between all the halls at Olympia.

Explaining the move, Mrs Borwick said: “The late November date was not particularly practical for several overseas dealers and many international companies have already shown an interest in joining a 20th century fair in June.”

She continued: “There is obviously an increasing interest in later objects and design of the 20th century and we feel that this is a great opportunity to build this event. We shall have more space and the opportunity to be more creative with the design and layout.”

P&O have a point when they maintain June is the month for fairs in London, and they insist they have no fears of the 20th century event detracting from their flagship June fair since the former is just four days.

Mrs Borwick also mentioned that international dealers do not like November, although this does not seem to be true in the United States where two 20th century design fairs are to be launched this November and December in New York, which could draw potential Olympia exhibitors.

Well-known organiser Caroline Penman was the first to mount a quality fair in this area last year with her first 20th Century Show at Chelsea Town Hall in March, 1998. That fair caused much excitement but the second staging in March this year did not live up to the potential of the first.

Consequently Mrs Penman is withdrawing from 20th century design and has put her show on the market, offering it to a number of organisers, including P&O. They have been invited to make sealed bids with a decision in the autumn.

One of Mrs Penman’s reasons for pulling out highlights a problem all the organisers are going to face. It seems the Modernist trend is a completely different market to the Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau branch of 20th century design, and those used to dealing with antiques fairs and antique dealers are going to find it very difficult reconciling the two.

Mrs Penman will stick with antiques fairs but the problem she has posed is going to have to be taken on board by any organiser in this field.