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CLARION Arts, owners and organisers of the three annual Olympia fairs, have announced a complete relaunch of their troubled Spring event and from 2007 it will cease to be an antiques fair.

The Spring Olympia is the newest of the three and ever since it was founded 12 years ago it has struggled to match the success of the famous Summer Olympia, Clarion’s flagship, and the smart and increasingly well-regarded Winter Olympia.

In an attempt to give the fair its own distinct identity, some years ago the organisers brought in more and more modern and contemporary work and marketed it as an antiques fair with a contemporary edge.

To further emphasise the contemporary, in 2005 it was rebranded Fine Art, Design & Antiques, but after two stagings under that name it was clear the event still was not catching the imagination of the public or trade.

So from next year it will be relaunched as a 20th and 21st century art and design fair under a new name yet to be decided, but it will definitely not include the word ‘antiques’.

The Spring event will be reduced from five to three days and run from March 2 to 4, with a preview evening on March 1.

It will be marketed specifically to young and new collectors and although some dealers with pre-1900 pieces in stock will be allowed, they must be in the spirit of the event with an interior design approach and a flair for presentation.

“This will not be an antiques fair,” said Clarion fair director Freya Simms. “This event has been positioned between two collecting fields and consequently has not offered enough identity in one market to visitors or exhibitors. The new fair will constitute a much more defined offering, focused on 20th and 21st century art and design.”

The new fair promises one-off, unique pieces but, unlike the other two Olympias, it is not for antique dealers or antique buyers. The vetting procedure, so associated with antiques fairs, will have to be looked at carefully, but the organisers maintain that the pieces on sale will have guaranteed quality.

As a shorter fair, stand costs will be lowered to bring in a new type of younger dealer to appeal to the new clientele Clarion are targeting.

For a couple of years many mainstream antique dealers who have long been Olympia exhibitors have privately expressed fears that Clarion do not really want them at their fairs. Now the message is clear – antiques are fine in the summer and winter, but they have no place at the Spring fair which has effectively cut its ties with the traditional antique trade.

By David Moss