Despite these uncontrollable setbacks (which cleared up over the course of the event’s first day), the first AfE London Art Antiques Interiors Fair seems to have experienced no more than the usual teething trouble for a first-time fair.
The event, which is the fresh sister fair for the NEC Birmingham’s long-established Antiques for Everyone, ran from January 13-15 in ExCeL London. Situated to attract east Londoners and pushing its selection of Mid-century and Contemporary pieces for younger buyers, fair organiser Clarion hoped to attract a total of 8000-10,000 visitors during the three-day run.
In the end, the numbers fell a little short with visitor footfall estimated at over 5000. And, of the 150 exhibitors originally hoped for, a total of 85 appeared.
But, crucially, dealers were happy and pieces sold. Even on the opening day, Robbie Timms of S&S Timms Antiques had positive words on the event: “If I continue to meet new people the way that I have so far throughout the fair, then I would come back, even if I was not to take any significant money this time.”
Timms cited the new location as a draw for the sort of clients who would not appear at fairs in central or west London.
Mary Claire Boyd, the fair director, also attributed some of the event’s impact to the location: “ExCeL is a venue that offers so much potential and, with 50% of our exhibitors already booked for next year, the future looks exciting.”
A major draw for dealers was the affordability of stands compared with those of other London fairs.
The pricing helped attract dealers who were first-time exhibitors in London – such as Cynthia McKinley of Wigs on the Green – and others who had never exhibited at any fair before.
Simon Naylor of Maia Jay Japanese Antiques & Fine Art fell into the latter category. He usually trades from Portobello Road, but the proximity of the fair and the cost made it an attractive option. “The exhibition was new to me,” Naylor says, “but I did manage a few sales and made a few new contacts.”
With new and old clients in attendance as well as a number of international buyers and sales reported across the board, AfE London could be onto a new and successful formula in the London fair circuit.
And with room to grow, it’s likely to keep improving.