FROM April 3 to 6 the Spring staging of the Antiques For Everyone fair fills Hall 5 of Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre with what the organisers always claim to be more than 600 dealers, staked out in the now familiar format of Section One and Section Two.
The much larger, bustling Section Two has a dateline of 1950 while Section One is intended to be somewhat smarter, with what are termed “specialised expert dealers”, but in my experience you get some equally good dealers opting for the usually busier Section Two.
Section Two is slightly larger this April than in 2002 while Section One is a little smaller. There are obvious difficulties vetting a fair this size, especially Section Two, but organiser Fran Foster of Centrex (note the new name, the NEC’s organising arm were formerly Centre Exhibitions) bravely sets about this task with a 200-strong vetting committee. And there is a change on this front this Spring which should enhance the event considerably.
Dateline restrictions have been dropped for paintings and sculpture in Section One, encouraging a number of galleries to return to the fair, among them John Noott from Broadway, and enticing newcomers like Contemporary Art of Eton who in addition to pictures carry a stock of Zimbabwean sculpture.
Also, a Specialist Dealer category has been created whereby certain dealers in Section One (not Section Two) can show work of any age provided it is of a quality and originality acceptable to the organisers and vetting committees.
Among those making their debut this Spring are Ashton Gower Antiques from Stow-on-the-Wold with post-war furniture, Britannia Antiques from Worcester with ceramics, Zolin Antiques from Hertfordshire with Arts Deco and Nouveau and Exclusive Design from Wolverhampton with French antiques.
Well-known dealers returning to the fair include Northamptonshire country furniture specialist Paul Hopwell, Roderick Jellicoe from Kensington with early English porcelain and Edinburgh glass man William MacAdam.
The Antiques For Everyone fairs must be the largest marketplace for vetted ceramics in the country, so particularly welcome is another dealer making his debut, Ray Heath from Staffordshire whose forte is Moorcroft.
He has recently acquired a large collection of Moorcroft from a private source (which trade whispers suggest may well be the Moorcroft family) and some 100 pieces will be on sale in Birmingham priced from £200 to around £25,000 for a rouge Flambé model of an owl on a rock, decorated by William Moorcroft c.1925.
“Such is the quality and rarity of these pieces I am expecting Moorcroft collectors from across the world at the NEC,” says Mr Heath.
Staying with ceramics, a novel attraction for china buffs is Zhai Xiaoxiang, one of only eight living Chinese Senior Porcelain Masters, who will demonstrate his skills at the fair. He continues to paint in the traditional famille rose Imperial style.
These daily demonstrations tie in with the loan exhibition of Chinese ceramics and Shanghai scroll paintings put together by Anglesey specialist dealer in Chinese works Peter Wain. Mr Wain was also instrumental in bringing over Mr Xiaoxiang. Admission to the fair is £8.