For the London Art Antiques & Interiors Fair (January 12-14), it could pay to stand out.
This month boasts a bustling fair calendar for London dealers: ADFL’s Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair wrapped up last weekend and, following the London Art Fair (see facing page), the first Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair of the year takes place in tandem with the London Antique Rug & Textile Art Fair (January 23-28).
Still relatively fresh on the scene, the London Art Antiques & Interiors Fair could get lost in the shuffle. But in sticking to its non-traditional location and increasing the focus on 20th century design, organiser Clarion Events is hard at work carving out a niche for the event as it enters its second year.
Its venue is ExCeL London, the sprawling exhibition space in east London’s Royal Victoria Dock. The location drew its share of scepticism and grumbling – especially from west Londoners. But the fair returns this year aiming to access a new set of buyers.
In particular it is pitched to the young, trendy east London homeowners who are more likely to try their hands buying nearby rather than at the network of established events across town.
For returning exhibitor Thomas Smith of Dovecote Antiques, the model has worked. Last year, his best customer at the event was a complete novice who purchased her first ever piece of silver from his stand. She remains his client.
“I sell quite decorative pieces that won’t necessarily appeal to an intrinsic collector,” says Smith, who is based in east London himself. “It’s good chance for me to get my face out in the local area and there is a market waiting to be tapped out here.”
Sixty exhibitors had signed up for the event at the time of going to press. Among them is newcomer Kitty Walsh, who set up her Bermondsey business Modern Folk in 2016. She is looking forward to a chance to show at her first fair of this size – “on my doorstep”, no less. “There’s such a bias in the trade towards west London,” she adds. “It’s a real shame when you think about all the creative and dynamic things going on in the east and south-east.”
When this event was launched last year it was under the banner of Antiques for Everyone (it was titled AfE London: Art Antiques Interiors Fair), positioned as a sister fair to the Birmingham’s NEC event. Though the two are still related, the London fair has shed AfE from its title this year, further emphasising its determination to be its own event.
That’s all for the better, in dealer Stephen Kalms’ opinion, though he is also a regular at the Birmingham fair. He believes that there is potential for the London event to grow.
“There are few shows in December and this is a way for dealers to generate some business,” he says.
He will show his assortment of silverware at this year’s event, joining returning exhibitors such as decorative arts specialist Andrew Muir and Greg Turnbull Antiques, bringing antique and vintage costume jewellery among other items.
This year there will be an increased emphasis on 20th century design, and among the dealers joining for the first time is Danish Homestore of Nottingham, bringing a selection of pieces by Danish furniture and lighting designers. Also new to the fair are British mid-century furniture and lighting specialist Form & Function, Modern-ID bringing mid-century design and eclectic pieces and fine art dealer Atelier.
As well as the stock on offer, the fair includes a series of events such as daily talks by representatives of the British Institute of Interior Design and presentations from Mark Hill, Toma Clark Haines and Judith Miller. It also features a special loan exhibition of First World War posters from the collection of Maurice Collins.