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UK: AFTER bumper outings in 1997 and again in 1998 there were high expectations at this year’s seventh BADA Antiques and Fine Art Fair, which was held in its customary smart marquee in the grounds of the Duke of York’s Headquarters, near Sloane Square in London’s Chelsea from March 17 to 23.

The first day did not disappoint. The tent was full of what is termed the right kind of people, the whole fair looked splendidly elegant and justified optimism from the 94 exhibiting members was rapidly translated into brisk business for the vast majority throughout the day.

On the evening of the opening day it looked like BADA’s showcase would cap its success of recent years.

However, business tailed off for the rest of the fair and although some dealers made a handsome profit many found the event a struggle (even if most got there in the end) while a handful did no business at all.

There seems no reason for this year’s business not being on a par with last year’s, although the gate was down from 17,000 to 14,500, which was roughly its 1997 level. Most certainly the fair was as usual impeccably organised by Gillian Craig.

What is worrying is that some of those who had an extremely busy first day sold virtually nothing over the following six days, but while others caught up on the last day the consensus was that this year’s fair did not have the momentum of last year’s.

Furniture may be the mainstay of this fair, but perhaps there is too much of it while other areas, Oriental objects and earlier Continental works of art come immediately to mind, are not adequately represented. I heard one or two whispers that the dropping of datelines did not fit in with visitors’ perception of BADA, although overall the fair had a freshness it previously lacked.

Much of the furniture did sell, although it was quite thinly spread throughout the dealers. Richard Courtney from the Fulham Road sold well with English period furniture while Robert Hirschhorn had his best ever BADA fair.

Hardworking Bideford dealer John Biggs of J. Collins once again had an excellent fair while Denzil Grant from Suffolk reported strong sales of country furniture.

Specialists like Janice Paull from Kenilworth with Mason’s Ironstone, Howards of Aberystwyth with English pottery and especially Anthony Woodburn from Kent with clocks, fared well.

Demand for 19th century pictures was keen and a number of silver dealers found an eager market, particularly Curzon Street specialist Marks Antiques who sold a pair of Georgian wine coolers for £55,000.

Indeed, there were a good number of notable individual sales, among them a piece of pottery bought from Mount Street dealer Alistair Sampson for £20,000.

This fair certainly has a future but while it has garnered its fair share of elegance and sophistication, it could do with a little more glamour and glitz. Not that it should replicate Grosvenor House, although perhaps that is the direction in which it should be looking.