Buyers generally proved willing if sometimes hesitant.
Vetting helps ensure that collectors at fairs can buy with confidence, as objects on offer are verified by a committee of experts.
Facing the vetters can be nerve-wracking even for experienced exhibitors.
However, Joe Chaffer of Vagabond Antiques found some unexpected value in their visit to his stand at the first Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair of the year, held in Battersea Park from January 21-26. He was exhibiting a life-sized stone figure of Apollo, which he had cautiously dated as mid-19th century. On inspecting it, the vetters suggested it was likely to be a century earlier – even better.
“We talked about the age and type of stone,” Chaffer said. “A lot of people get put off by the vetters. It is daunting but, in this case, it worked in my favour.” He sold the piece, ticketed at £32,000, on the first day.
Chaffer, who has been standing at the fair for more than a year and trading from his shop for several more, is by no means a newcomer, but he stressed that there is plenty to be learned from those who have been in the business for longer still.
“Even after your fifth fair you’re always learning,” he added. “The conversation filled me with confidence, and I think that showed to the customer.”
Running alongside the London Antique Rug & Textile Art Fair, the first event was marked by particular strength in sales such as painted antiques, primitive country furniture and upholstery among other categories.
“Many buyers at the January fair are in the early stages of a project,” Chaffer adds. He will store several of his sales for three to six months before taking them to their new owners.
Visitors arrived for the usual opening crush ready to buy.
On the opening day, Maison Artefact sold a hand-painted folding screen, c.1780-1800, from Skane in southern Sweden.
Ticketed at £12,000, it included a naïve depiction of a grand country house, pleasure gardens and men on horseback. To the reverse were ornamental pictures of bouquets and flowers in vases.
Elsewhere at the fair, at least two exhibitors found new homes for Howard pieces, including a pair of chairs ticketed at £9500 offered by Richard Steenberg. Dean Antiques sold two Howard sofas in the first 20 minutes of the event.
Another exceptional moment came when Fontaine sold 44 paintings, mostly French from the late 19th century to the 1960s, but some British as well, to a famous film director. They included two pictures by Peter Shackleton. “Things like that only happen at this fair,” said dealer Stuart Atkinson.
Fair organiser Jane Juran said: “This was one of the best-looking fairs I’ve experienced. Many dealers had brought truly exceptional items, and the response to these was strong.
“Clearly our customers are seeking out the most distinctive pieces, and steady business was done.”
The next event runs from May 14-18 – a change in schedule for the venerable event.