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The 27-year-old BADA Fair, held in a purpose-built marquee in Duke of York Square, Chelsea, was sold this month to Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry Van der Hoorn.

Credit: Rob Irving.

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The call to convene an EGM for October 1 came in an email sent to the BADA membership on September 10 by a small group of dealers.

Five put their name to the message: Bill Bruce of WF Bruce Antiques in Lewes, Lennox Cato of Edenbridge, Simon Myers of RN Myers & Son in Skipton, Tony Roberts of Cider House Galleries in Bletchingley and Patrick Sandberg Antiques of London’s Kensington Church Street.

The letter called into question the manner in which the sale – to dealer Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry Van der Hoorn of stand-building firm Stabilo – was conducted and asked that the BADA leadership explain its actions and provide evidence of due diligence. The decision to sell the fair was passed earlier this month by the BADA Council in an 11 to 4 majority vote.

“Thorough review”

The letter discussed the possibility of cancelling the sale and further proposed that “a thorough review be instigated into how BADA should be run in the future”.

It asked dealers to vote for or against an EGM and, by Thursday last week, more than 75 had responded in the affirmative. It was enough according to Lennox Cato, to hold the meeting.

He told ATG: ‘We believed that our views represent the opinions of the majority of the wider membership. The response we received from members following our letter suggests we were right.”

Last week’s announcement that the association’s long-standing fair had been sold and would be rebranded The Open Art Fair, met with a sometimes fiery response among dealers canvassed by ATG.

A common complaint was the failure to consult the wider membership who had considered the event a key piece of the trade body’s identity.

Not all dealers who spoke to ATG were irate, though all expressed curiosity about the mechanics of the sale and plans for the event’s future.

Twentieth century British art dealer Freya Mitton added: “It was a real surprise and perhaps it should have been discussed. But a fresh outlook is always a positive.”

In this issue, BADA chief executive Marco Forgione provides a response to ATG’s questions on the sale of the fair.