Stoneware urns and statuary hounds found their share of buyers at The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea (April 4-9), but for several exhibitors it was the fine art sales that marked the spring edition of this thrice-yearly event.
One stand-out sale was a large 19th century French flower painting which Julian Simon Fine Art included in the foyer display of the Battersea Evolution venue where the fair takes place. The oil on canvas by Adolphe Louis Castex-Degrange measured 3ft 3in x 4ft 3in (99cm x 1.3m) and was offered for what ATG understands was a substantial five-figure sum.
The gallery’s Michael Brookstone was pleased by the success but told ATG that it is difficult to attribute buying trends at the decorative fair to any single market factor.
“In a funny sort of way, paintings are so much an individual choice,” he says. “Selecting a painting has to do with taste and décor so there’s no rhyme or reason as to why people choose a work. They’re simply buying to decorate.”
Art sold across the board during the event from the stands of specialist galleries and decorative dealers. Black Ink Masterprints sold several works by Salvador Dalí and Egon Schiele at ticket prices up to £5000 and Jenna Burlingham sold a 1950s Keith Vaughan gouache on paper as well as other works up to £10,000. Meanwhile, Odyssey Fine Art sold a total of 24 black-and-white 18th century botanical prints ticketed at £9000 to a US buyer.
How do dealers go about pitching fine art to a decorative market? For returning exhibitor Archie Parker of The Parker Gallery it is all down to price point and a bit of instinct.
He says: “I try to take pictures that are more decorative as opposed to academic. I wouldn’t take something over £40,000 – not because people couldn’t afford it but because that’s not what they’re looking for. They’re decorating their homes.”
The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea is, for many of its long-term dealers, a reliable option.
The atmosphere is relaxed, there’s a balance of collectable and decorative pieces throughout and, most importantly, it brings in a raft of decorators and private clients who browse and buy regularly.
Returning exhibitor Emma Duveen says: “Battersea is always a show which brings in such a good cross-section of customers, many of whom show up with the direct intention of coming to buy – not the case at every fair. Even so, it’s not always easy.”
Organisers encourage returning exhibitors to keep stock fresh and interesting – a “demanding” exercise, Duveen adds, but one that “keeps them on their toes” and is ultimately rewarding.
Such is the loyalty around it that many exhibitors are reluctant or downright unwilling to criticise the fair in any but the gentlest of terms.
Perhaps, some concede, the most recent edition was under-attended but that was probably down to school holidays and fine weather. Several even add that the total footfall was more than expected, given the circumstances.
And perhaps the space of time between the winter and spring fairs was uncomfortably short. But, they add, that’s no fault of the organisers, simply unlucky scheduling on the part of Battersea Evolution.
Brookstone says, as a second-time exhibitor, that “it’s almost a new concept in fairs. It has such a relaxed atmosphere. It’s very un-stuffy and it has a huge range – you can buy things starting at £60. And it’s dog-friendly. Visitors bring in their dogs and the exhibitors love to see that.”
The next Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair is from October 3-8.