What a difference a year makes. The sea change of opinion among the trade on the subject of June Olympia over the past year has been pretty dramatic.
Cast your mind back to this time last year when many were full of doom and gloom about the potential demise of the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair, now in its 40th year and a true trade establishment.
Misgivings were sparked largely by some contentious issues over recent years and particularly at the 2010 fair, which tried a little too hard to be a glitzy, top-end-only international event at the expense of some middle-market dealers who have for decades been the lifeblood of this fair.
But director Chris Gallon of Clarion Events and his team have since laboured hard to take the fair back to the broad trading base it once was, abandoning pomp and taking the philosophical approach of listening to dealers and offering a more affordable and flexible range of stand prices.
And it seems to have been the right approach, as this year they have 200 confirmed dealers at the time of writing compared to 154 last year, which at the time was considered pretty good going.
So things are looking healthy for the 40th Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair, which runs from June 7-17 at its familiar venue, the vast and airy Grand Hall at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in West London.
Stand rents may be cheaper, but the stand build and overall light, bright presentation is still the same - that thick cream carpet is the stuff of legend - and this year the wide range of dealer specialisms and price range is noticeable, from '£100 to £1m' as Clarion point out in their press release. To accommodate the extra stands, the floor space is larger, extending into a further new space at the back of the hall rather than onto the balcony of old.
Chat on the trade grapevine and some serious legwork from head of stand sales, Marie-Claire Boyd, have contributed to a snowball effect, whereby 40 new exhibitors have signed up this year with 30 dealers choosing to return to the fair after a break.
The latter includes some well-known dealers coming back after a few years away. Among the 30 returnees are Anthony Hepworth Fine Art (Bath, Modern British pictures); London Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau jewellers Van Den Bosch, and a gaggle of Pimlico Road dealers such as Anthony Outred, Kate Thurlow (both decorative antiques), Nicholas Gifford-Mead (antique chimneypieces) and 20th century design specialist Gordon Watson.
Overseas exhibitors returning after a break include Maastricht dealers in Old Master paintings and early European works of art, Jan Roelofs Antiquairs; 20th century design dealer Anne Autegarden from Brussels and father-and-daughter team Hawkins and Hawkins, based in Edinburgh and Australia with an eclectic mix of period furniture and daughter Emma's trademark taxidermy. There are just shy of 20 international names this time.
And who are the 40 Olympia virgins?
There are quite a few art dealers among them, such as Long & Ryle and James Kinmont Fine Art, both London-based dealers in modern and contemporary pieces, and cartoon and illustration specialists The Rae-Smith Gallery.
Olympia has been courting some of the decorative antiques dealers too, and joining this year are Fontaine from Margate, Drew Pritchard from Conwy, Alston & Ashton from the Blanchard Collective in Wiltshire and Nicholas Haslam Ltd from London.
Tribal art has strengthened this year, with three new London-based specialists - Clive Loveless Primal Art, Tribal Gathering and Stothert & Trice - joining regular exhibitors such as Robert Barley, Peter Petrou and Lisa Tao & Z. Liu Fine Art, who all meld tribal and primal art into their eclectic stock of art and design.
Other newcomers include M.& D. Moir (Art Nouveau and Deco glass), Marcus Campbell Art Books, Mullany (haute époque works of art) and Olde Time antique clocks from Norfolk.
But furniture is still at the fair's core, from early oak pieces through Georgian to 20th century and contemporary design, and this year there are 70 furniture exhibitors of various persuasions.
They include the regular exhibitors John Hansord (Lincolnshire), who last year had particularly good early sales of furniture, works of art and scientific instruments from a large stand by the entrance; Kensington Church Street period furniture dealers Butchoff; David Bedale (Cheshire) with 18th and 19th century furniture; Peter Petrou (London) with modern and contemporary design; Lucy Johnson (Oxon and London) with a blend of early furniture and modern British art; Christopher Jones Antiques (Northants) with decorative furniture and accessories from the 18th century to the 1970s and Craig Carrington (Gloucestershire) with neoclassical furniture and works of art.