With a global health emergency as a backdrop, no wonder Ingrid Nilson, organiser of the Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair, felt “on tenterhooks for months” before staging the 2020 edition on September 11-13.
Nilson, co-owner of The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited (ADFL), had a list of challenges. Top of these was waiting for the National Trust to license the holding of the fair as an outdoor event in Petworth Park.
With approval given in late July, the fair went ahead with gusto last week – rescheduled from May.
News of sales, from furniture to porcelain to contemporary art, came with pleasing regularity. As ATG mingled with the fair’s 50 dealers near closing time on Sunday, the word “happy” was being bandied about.
“The good thing about this fair was the positive feeling,” said Margaret Cowley of Petworth fair first-timers Garret & Hurst.
Horologist Richard Price picked up the theme, declaring himself “extremely happy with the fair. Everything I sold has been to new customers, which is fantastic”.
There was relief that the event had actually gone ahead, with Paul Pfanner of Timewise Vintage Watches glad of the chance to exhibit at all.
“Luckily for me, people wanted to spend on watches – my highlight sale was of a 1960s Rolex Submariner – as they clearly haven’t had a chance to go on holiday or buy a new car.”
No one was under any illusion about the difficulties the organiser overcame to stage this year’s event. Rigorous planning involved having wider aisles, sanitisers, visors for staff and Covid-19 signage everywhere.
Last year’s ram-raid of the fair’s marquee by jewellery thieves (ATG No 2393) led to a security overhaul for the event and exhibitors. “The insurance company insisted on it, though not a single dealer has been put off by the changes, which I’m grateful for.”
For Nilson, it’s onwards to the 2021 Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair, scheduled to run from May 7-9 next year and hopefully another ‘happy’ event.
Before lunch on the opening Friday, Richard Price sold two carriage clocks to new customers, priced around £4,000 each, and in the last half hour sold another carriage clock and an elephant swinging automat.
Haynes Fine Art dedicated one of its four booths to contemporary British artist Tony Karpinksi (b1965). Five of Karpinksi’s oil on canvas depictions of pre-lockdown London life appealed to buyers at the fair.
Object lesson: Shakespeare Silver Jubilee Festival pendant
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) may be the world’s most famous playwright today but his posthumous fame did require help to develop.
It took a Georgian-era dramatist/actor celebrity, David Garrick (1717-79), to conceive the first-ever festival to celebrate Shakespeare, on the bicentenary of his birth.
To commemorate the event, Garrick had several hundred silver passes struck bearing a bust of his hero, pierced for a ribbon to allow festival attendees to wear it around their necks.
Tim Millett, formerly of Baldwin’s, deals in objects relating to historical events, from Spanish Armada (1558) up to 1920. At Petworth, Millett was selling this example for £450.
“What’s nice is that Shakespeare’s portrait was struck very well originally, by a silversmith called Westwood down the road in Birmingham,” Millett says.
“It’s also engraved with the initials D. G., Steward on the reverse referring to Garrick’s hosting of the festival and is proof of what a showman he was in his day.”