Though many remember the fair as it was during the 1980s and ’90s with nostalgia, the 46-year-old market mainstay retains a loyal, if reduced, base of exhibitors and visitors.
Now, organiser Clarion Events is aiming to increase visitor numbers by incorporating it into the new House & Garden Festival, combined with three other summer events – House, GROW London and Spirit of Summer – at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in west London.
The integration of the antiques event into the festival has been met with curiosity and some trepidation from the trade, particularly since the antiques fair’s winter counterpart ceased to exist in its previous format following last year’s edition (official confirmation of whether and how it will return is pending).
Will the changes mean that the fair is subsumed by the lifestyle festival and lose its focus? Probably not.
Given what is known so far, devotees to the art and antiques event, which this year runs from June 20-27, will probably find it little changed in essentials from recent years – though it is one day longer than last year.
It takes place in the same space, with a roughly equivalent number of exhibitors offering an estimated 55,000 items over the hall’s ground floor and balcony.
There will be a highly decorated tunnel entrance between the antiques and house and garden elements. However, the usual Hammersmith Road entrance will provide direct access to the antiques event too.
“Combining these prestigious fairs will offer everything that The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia had before but with even more,” fair director Mary Claire Boyd tells ATG. “It will attract a new audience for all the exhibitors. Visitors will now have an unrivalled choice of art, antiques and interiors shopping.”
In February, when initial details of the festival were announced, Clarion said that it anticipated 30,000 visitors.
The possibility of new buyers alone is enough to appeal to exhibitors, but Clarion’s apparent commitment to the fair’s future is also good news for those involved at the level of the market it serves.
Will the changes mean that the fair is subsumed by the lifestyle festival and lose its focus? Probably not
“I’m sad at the loss of the winter fair,” says returning exhibitor Harry Moore-Gwyn. “I have had some of my best fairs over time at Olympia and there is still a need for a fair in the summer that supports this part of the market.”
Jonathan Dodd, of Albemarle Street gallery Waterhouse and Dodd, says: “It gives us the opportunity to show interesting post-1950s artworks at prices of around £10,000 or below.”
Though this dealership has returned to the fair from time to time, it has not stood regularly there since around 2000. But the event is an ideal space, Dodd believes, to concentrate on a project that brings together a number of British, European and American post-war paintings. Among the newcomers are Peacock’s Finest, Ed Butcher, Michael Parkin Fine Art and Westland London Antiques. Sylvia Powell is returning after some time away.
Other exhibitors include Anthony James, Craig Carrington, Anthony Fell, Joanna Booth, Haynes Fine Art and JM Baptista.
Many will hail the addition of an extra day. For many, the decision to run across two weeks make it particularly attractive. Running Wednesday to Wednesday, means visitors have a chance to attend over two weeks when one might be taken up by travel or other commitments.
The fair continues with initiatives, such as its extensive talks programme featuring art and interior design experts and artists including the artist Elie Lambert in conversation with Anna Brady, and Caroline Holmes speaking on Impressionists in their Gardens.
Other events include an introduction to modern Moroccan food, a painting workshop and a garden designers panel session, as well as various highlight tours of the events.
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