Business was up 50% by volume over last year’s total at the event, which ran from January 29-February 2 at the Mall Galleries.
Organiser and exhibitor and Anna Wakerley of Oriel Fine Art said the figure was important, demonstrating that “the right people are coming and can find something to buy and take away. It is an unpredictable economy at the moment. We want visitors to feel that they can buy and come back next time.”
This second staging of Connect was a chance for the dealer-organisers to work out the kinks and build their brand as they prepare to host their third event in just a few months’ time (June 25-28).
“Obviously doing the second of anything whether it’s your second novel or second album is always hard as you’ve got to be as good as the first time and better,” said Wakerley. “So we thought, what can we do that would be different?”
While sticking to a mid-market price bracket – pieces generally range in price from the low thousands to about £40,000 – and a creating a relaxed, sociable atmosphere, organisers staged a new exhibition of London pictures. They also addressed administrative challenges such as controlling the flow of traffic in the venue and encouraged visitors to visit every stand in the event.
Returning dealers included Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, who reported selling to several young collectors buying their first work on the first day. Neil Schofield had buyers vying over RB Kitaj’s The Man with the Matisse Tattoo, which eventually went for a low-four-figure sum.
Newcomer Thomas Spencer Fine Art sold works by artists including Mary Fedden and Patrick Procktor at prices ranging from £200-5500. Also new to the fair was Goodman Fine Art, whose pictures were pitched higher than those of other dealers. Within the first 24 hours of the event, it sold an Alan Davie with an asking price of £14,000 and a Graham Sutherland for £38,000.
Dealer Mark Goodman dubbed Connect a “lovely, relaxed fair”, and added that buyers had plenty of “purchasing power”.