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The BADA fair takes place annually in a purpose-built marquee in Duke of York Square, Chelsea.

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Dealer Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry Van der Hoorn, owner of Dutch stand builder Stabilo, have bought an 80% share in the fair for an undisclosed sum.

The pair, who were co-founders of Masterpiece London 10 years ago, will rebrand the event as The Open Art Fair and invite non-BADA members as exhibitors. Woodham-Smith told ATG it may include a greater number of overseas exhibitors and more affordable stand prices.

The March event will continue to be run in a purpose-built marquee in Duke of York Square, Chelsea, with BADA’s fair team remaining involved in directing and vetting the next fair on March 18-24, 2020. This will be reflected in the event’s branding.

Picture dealer Kaye Michie, who will stay on as BADA fair chairman, said the new partnership “heralds an exciting future for BADA members and will help take the event to the next level”.

The decision to sell the stake in the 27-year-old fair was approved by BADA’s council and the association’s members were informed of the decision to sell on Friday, September 6.

"We will take a fresh approach, reduce costs and make the fair unmissable"

The reaction of the membership to this move had yet to emerge as ATG went to press but BADA chief executive Marco Forgione said he believed the move represented “a tremendous opportunity to protect, innovate and extend the fair to a broader range of exhibitors and a more international audience, while protecting the interests of BADA members and exhibitors”.

He added that the funds raised from the sale will be invested in developing the association’s member portal, bada.org.

Woodham-Smith and Van der Hoorn said they have set up a new company toinvest in the fair and encourage a stronger international element to exhibit and visit. “We bought this stake in the BADA fair because we like it and the fair’s traditional, solid legacy,” said Woodham-Smith. “But we will bring a fresh approach, reduce the costs to exhibitors and make the fair an unmissable event in London. We have big plans and every aspect of the fair will be examined and weighed for its contribution.”

Van der Hoorn described the investment as “an opportunity to design and help build a fair that is really relevant to our time. Our motto is excellence without excess.”

Thomas Woodham-Smith: what to expect from The Open Art Fair

Q: Why not launch a new fair?

We thought of starting one from scratch but this opportunity was irresistible.

Q: The Open Art Fair name doesn’t feature the word ‘antiques’.

We may get flak for that but TEFAF, the world’s top fair, doesn’t have the ‘A’ word. It’s a great word but it doesn’t cover enough bases.

Q: How will your approach differ to what you did with Masterpiece?

It’s important the fair is relevant to our time. When Harry and I started Masterpiece 10 years ago it was ‘no expense spared’. The fair relevant to ‘now’ will be smart and glamorous but keeping costs down.

Q: How much will the fair cost?

The top fairs – Biennale, TEFAF, Masterpiece – have high costs for exhibitors. The cost per square metre at The Open Art Fair will be £725 + VAT (same as currently) but BADA members will get a 7% discount. So, taking part could cost £10,000-15,000.

Q: What are the criteria for exhibiting?

To create a fair-buying audience, you have to offer something more like a festival than a confluence of dealers. We want to make it multi-disciplinary, with 21st century design in there, for instance. Eventually we’d like to have 25-35% dealers from overseas.

Q: How will you appeal to newer dealers?

We’ll have a ‘Pioneer’ section with smallish stands for a low price – in the £3000-4000 range.

Q: Where will you be based?

In BADA’s Bloomsbury offices with an arrangement to share the current fair staff, who are fantastic. It’s business as usual.