Since ‘The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair’ was forced to close after 75 years in 2009, the ‘Olympia International Art & Antiques Fair’ has taken up the mantle of the grande dame of London’s summer fairs.
Now in its 41st year, 'Summer Olympia', as it is affectionately known, once again heralds the start of London's hectic June fairs season, running from June 6-16 in the huge glass-ceilinged Grand Hall of West London's Olympia Exhibition Centre.
It may be a long-established and well-known fixture for all levels of the trade but despite (or perhaps because of) this, it has not been without controversy over the past few years.
There have been some contentious issues at recent Olympia fairs and it is old news that some longstanding participants were alienated by both the style of organising and attempts made to change the character of the event.
But since then, show director Marie Claire Boyd, of organisers Clarion Events, and her team have worked hard to revitalise the fair and rekindle some of the goodwill lost, largely through sticking to a policy of listening to what the average dealer needs and wants from a fair in the current climate.
This has proved a successful tactic, particularly the amendment last year to accommodate dealers' stretched wallets through reducing stand costs and offering a more flexible range of stand sizes, while maintaining the same presentation standards and stand build.
Stands on the balcony were done away with a few years ago and now the fair extends, as last year, into a further half-moon shape space at the back of the hall, where the new, most affordable, size of stands are accommodated.
But, trade at fairs has been tricky for several years now and so selling stands is perhaps tougher than ever for all UK fair organisers, not least those compiling the more expensive London events. Exhibitor numbers at all three major London fairs are slightly down on last year, as some dealers are choosing to save on costs by lying low at home until the economy looks a little brighter.
Olympia is expecting around 175 exhibitors this year, settling somewhere in the middle of the past two years which saw 154 dealers in 2011 and around 200 last year.
Of those, a considerable number are new this year, 23 to be exact with a further six returning after a break.
British-based newcomers include Lucy Campbell (Contemporary art, London); Carmen Pattinson (19th and 20th century ceramics, UK); Giovanni Tomasso (European sculpture, West Yorkshire); Sandy Stanley Jewellery (London); The Jerram Gallery (Contemporary art, Sherborne); Morgan Strickland Decorative Arts (Art Nouveau and Deco, London); James Strang (20th century decorative arts, Glasgow); R N Myers & Son (period furniture) and Mayflower Antiques (16th and 17th century antiques, Worcestershire).
This year, there will be a distinctly Italianate flavour to the fair, as six Italy-based exhibitors join. From Rome come Alessio Ponti Galleria d'Arte (19th century paintings and works of art), Rita Tuci (antique fireplaces and stoves), and Roberto Cocozza Antichita (18th and 19th century European paintings, furniture and works of art); from Tuscany Raffaello Pernici (19th and 20th century ceramics); from Milan, Salamon CC (20th century and contemporary art) and from Genoa, Vivioli Arte Antica (continental furniture, works of art, Old Masters and Asian art).
Walpole Fine Arts (19th and early 20th century paintings and sculpture) and Frederic Got (contemporary art) also join from France.
A full list of all exhibitors can be found at www.olympia-art-antiques.com.
• Finally, coinciding with the event again this year is the UK's oldest book fair, the ABA'sInternational Antiquarian Book Fairfrom June 13-15, just around the corner in Olympia's National Hall.