CLARION Events announced last week that stand sales for the Summer Olympia fair this June are up over 100 per cent from this time last year.
With more than three months left to go before the Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair opens from June 7-17, 135 dealers are already committed, among them important returnees, as well as a good selection of new names.
In the run-up to the June event last year, Clarion made a conscious effort to reposition the event to appeal to a broader spectrum of the trade, an approach that appears to be paying off.
Twentieth century design specialist Gordon Watson, who returns after a year's absence, explains: "Last year I had a conflict of dates re the fair and my new TV career with Channel 4 new series Four Rooms... This year happily no such problem, so I am delighted to be back and raring to go..."
Furniture and works of art dealership Hansords declared themselves fans, with John Hansord saying: "There is a new buzz amongst the dealers since last year's June Olympia fair. Good business was done, including export sales, and it was an impressive looking event."
Meanwhile Nicholas Mullany of Mullany, a young London-based dealership specialising in Haute Epoque fine art, has chosen to exhibit at Olympia for the first time this year because, he says, "It is the most established of the London fairs, which in the last few years has seen a return to something more akin to the showcase of old."
His views echo a growing feeling that fair director Chris Gallon has recognised the value in rekindling the original character of the event as a busy marketplace rather than continuing with what had been Clarion's earlier vision of creating an exclusive, high-end wealth and culture fest.
Anthony Hepworth stopped exhibiting at Olympia a few years ago when he thought that the number of exhibitors offering his specialism of Modern British art had reached saturation point. But, visiting the fair last year, he said: "We were impressed. It was a very beautiful fair and hardly anyone was selling Modern British pictures. So we decided that we had to be there, it was missing our stock."
He also pointed out that "Clarion didn't sell it to us - we approached them and asked to do the fair".
Other exhibitors returning to the fair after a break include Kay Michie, Anthony Outred, Jillings, Lennox Cato, Jeroen Markies, Millington Adams and Van den Bosch.
Newcomers to the fair include Clive Loveless Primal Art and Tribal Gathering, Nicholas Haslam Ltd, Andew Muir with 20th century ceramics, Swedish furniture dealers Antiq. BR, and Drew Pritchard Ltd, with architectural pieces.
Kiel Shaw and Stuart Atkinson of decorative dealership Fontaine are also new this year.
They explained: "We liked the general direction, energy and attitude of the management team who seem very keen to acknowledge and want to include dealers from the growing decorative antiques market.
"The decorative market has remained strong despite the economy and so we are pleased to be included as it seems a natural progression for Fontaine."
Mr Gallon said: "2011 saw a good trading fair across the board and this has translated into strong rebooking with some very good new and returning dealers. We are also concentrating on offering a broad and appealing mix of quality exhibitors with the fair organised around the needs of the dealers."
He is taking a more flexible approach to stand sizes and other aspects of the fair, to make it a better commercial proposition for exhibitors.