A POWERFUL group of top-end American dealers have voiced opposition to the British Antique Dealers’ Association’s decision to stage a 50-stand fair at Sotheby’s New York early next year.
Their concerns primarily focus on the timing of the event, scheduled for January 17-21 and coinciding with perhaps the city’s most important fair, the Winter Antiques Show. BADA believe their show will complement the event.
Speaking to ATG, New York dealer in English furniture and works of art Clinton Howell said: “I feel this event would take business away from American dealers. Every new customer has to be hard won, which is why I pay the money to be at the Winter Antiques Show. My big question is: why that week? There are so many other times of year they could have staged it.”
Gaylord Dillingham of New York’s Dillingham & Company said: “Certainly there are strong feelings about this from those dealers who attend the Winter Antiques Show. What BADA are doing is extraordinary. They’re upsetting many important members of the trade here. I think there’s been a lack of thought about this.”
However, BADA Secretary General Elaine Dean responded by saying: “The last thing we would want to do is upset the American trade. We feel that holding the event at this time will add to the whole occasion of New York in January, like the staging of multiple events in London in June has added to the whole activity in the city over here.
“We don’t want to detract from the fairs already there in New York and we are encouraging British dealers that already attend American fairs to stay there. We will also be giving stands offering literature and dealer lists of other American associations.”
Robert Israel of Kentshire Antiques, President of the Art and Antiques Dealers League of America, said: “I do sympathise with the BADA leadership. They are trying to find a new way to help their members. I just think they’ve made the wrong choice here. Everyone I’ve talked to in the trade here thinks similarly. We’re not against them having a fair here, it’s just the timing of it.
“As Americans, we’re used to competition of course. The point is that it seems a bad decision for everyone to stage this on top of the Winter Antiques Show.
“I think BADA’s decision is questionable on two counts. Firstly, the top American dealers have spent years supporting and developing the Winter Antiques Show. They have also been supporting the British trade, with much important, friendly and profitable contact over many years. Coming over here and holding this fair at this particular time will only cause resentment and ill will, and it may see the end to a once-healthy relationship.
“Secondly, the fact that it is being staged at Sotheby’s is something we find difficult to swallow. They may pay for this in the long run.”
BADA, however, see working with the auction house in a positive light. “It’s a situation where dealers and auctioneers work together to benefit each other,” said Elaine Dean. “We are keen to promote such links, and were very supportive of the Dealer’s Eye sale held at Sotheby’s New York this year for instance.
“Our members have also given us a very positive response. Space has already been taken up for the New York fair with a mix of dealers from across the board.”
However, a well-known BADA member who deals extensively in America and returned last week from a buying trip told ATG: “The American trade in New York and its environs are spitting blood. They say they will boycott anyone who does this fair. They say they will never buy from an exhibitor again.”
This appears to be backed up by various hints given to ATG from American dealers who trade in English antiques. Clinton Howell said: “I do some business with the English trade, but exhibiting at the fair would certainly colour my feelings towards those who are coming over to try to take my customers.”
Robert Israel said: “We at Kentshire would reconsider our relationships with exhibitors at the BADA fair.”
In his letter to the editor on page 79 of this issue, Gaylord Dillingham says: “Don’t be surprised if most, if not all of the American dealers in English decorative arts exhibiting at the Winter Show take a long, hard look at the exhibitor list for the New York BADA Fair. My guess is I will not be alone in choosing to take my business, in future, elsewhere.”
By Alex Capon