He announced last July his intention to take up a hybrid role, moving between auctions and private sales following CSK’s closure the same month. Now, as well as dealing, he is retained as a consultant for Christie’s and acts as a consultant for Roseberys, along with running an advisory service for clients looking to sell their works.
Though he speaks seriously of missing CSK, he looks forward to “putting down my mark” and using the decorative fair as an unofficial launch for his dealing business.
“I’ve visited the fair for the past five or six years and the people who exhibit there say it’s really successful. It will be a wonderful opportunity for me to meet new clients.”
It might be a change for McElhatton, but he is not exactly entering unknown territory. In fact, he suggests, Battersea has become one replacement for the much-loved saleroom, an alternative opportunity particularly for those dealers specialising in interiors.
“Many consignments at CSK were from dealers who relied on it,” says McElhatton. “In a way, Battersea is another opportunity to sell instead of consigning at South Ken. It fills a void.”
And after 33 years at his old firm, he has a number of former co-workers and contacts whom he now joins at the Battersea event. A clutch of CSK alumni-turned-dealers regularly pitch up at the decorative fair, including Justin Evershed-Martin, Tim Langston, Thomas Woodham-Smith and (though he is not standing at the upcoming edition) Richard Cave.
A previous stint as a dealer from 1989-92 also means McElhatton has experience of and connections to the dealer trade – for example, he credits decorative fair regular Ted Few acting as a sort of mentor for him at the time. He recalls that it pays to offer diverse stock, and heads to the fair armed with a variety of antiques and works of art such as a bentwood rocking chair by Thonet, a Paul Nash lithograph, a George III japanned teapot and a pair of Messengers patent chimney cowels.
In a way, Battersea is another opportunity to sell instead of consigning at South Ken
Still, McElhatton could be forgiven for feeling nervy and he jokes that, as the fair approaches, it feels a bit like “going into the jungle”.
The winter decorative fair is the first of its three annual editions taking place at Battersea Evolution, offering decorative antiques and 20th century design alongside traditional antiques and collectors’ items.
Its foyer theme this time is Celebrating the Silk Route, featuring imported period goods and European works inspired by eastern designs.
Apart from McElhatton, fresh faces at this edition include RAW Editions specialising in post-war and contemporary prints, antiques and decorative dealer Charles Barbe from Paris and Timewise Vintage Watches.
Returning dealers are Kore Purchase Decorative Antiques, mid-century Scandinavian and British painting specialist Saunders Fine Art and Youlls Antiques with French and English furniture.
Meanwhile, the Battersea fair regulars include Nicholas Gifford-Mead and Christopher Butterworth.