The Covid-19 pandemic has brought its fair share of challenges, but one major upside for the trade has been the ‘stay at home’ surge in demand for interior furnishings. But, as restrictions lift, will the trend continue? Dealers standing at the latest Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair – the go-to event in the capital for interior decorators and home furnishers – will hope so.
The popular fair returns to Battersea Park with a full-strength line up, welcoming over 150 exhibitors across two floors from September 28 to October 3.
They bring with them a wide range of art and antiques for the home spanning the traditional to the contemporary including painted furniture, folk art, textiles, ceramics, rugs and cushions, pictures, mirrors, bronzes, sculpture, garden ornaments and architectural pieces. As in previous editions, stands are arranged as room layouts to help generate ideas and inspiration.
Like most fair organisers, it has been a tough 18 months for Jane Juran and Darren Hudson. Last spring’s staging was the first cancellation in the fair’s 35 years. They had to postpone and cancel subsequent planned fairs – Battersea is held three times a year – due to the various lockdowns. Instead, they hosted a series of virtual events, including online auctions, to aid trade sales and keep up interest in the event.
While these plugged the gap, the return of the physical edition is keenly anticipated by exhibitors and will be the first fair many will have attended since March 2020.
There are a few changes to the set-up as the organisers navigate a changed world. This includes the launch of a shopping service for members of the trade not able to attend the fair in person.
With continuing restrictions on international travel, the fair hopes this will help make up a potential shortfall in overseas visitor numbers, especially among American trade buyers who are usually quite active at the Battersea fair.
The service, dedicated to buyers looking to acquire multiple items, will be fulfilled by established antiques buyer Gail McLeod.
A new admission system also comes into effect this September. Pre-booking is essential at a cost of £20 per person for the opening day, dropping to £10 for the other days with no complimentary tickets being issued.
Organisers say the move is necessary to safely monitor numbers inside the venue with social distancing, temperature checks and other safety measures also being implemented. In addition, the organisers have cancelled the ‘special focus’ display that is usually sited in the fair’s foyer to make more space for social distancing.
Around a dozen new exhibitors have signed up for this fair including Craig Carrington with neoclassical and Grand Tour antiques, Tribal Art & Textiles with ethnographic objects and weavings, Christopher Hall Antiques with French and other European antique furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, lighting and decorative objects, Christopher Hodsoll with rare and unusual furniture and mirrors and Tomkinson Churcher with vintage travel and ski posters.
Other new faces include van Halm & van Halm with 17th and 18th century Chinese and Japanese export porcelain, Portico with decorative European and British antiques and Brown Elliott with 18th to mid-20th century furniture, ceramics and glassware.
Meanwhile, returning exhibitor Adrian Pett of Darnley Fine Art in London brings a selection of decorative pictures including a striking portrait of a young girl executed in the style of Lucien Freud but ticketed at £4500, a fraction of an original Freud.
“It is great news the Decorative Fair is back on,” says Pett, who has relied on virtual events for much of the pandemic. “The digital fairs seem to have mixed reviews, but they will play a big part of our future as the technological advances improve and the way the fairs are displayed online,” he adds.
Robbie Timms of traditional furniture specialists S&S Timms, another regular, says he is looking forward to reconnecting with fellow clients and dealers after having “little success” with digital events.
“We have done well selling via our own website and the various portals we are part of over the last 18 months, especially the BADA website, but most of that has been with new customers and nothing can beat getting out and about showing clients new and old these beautiful objects in person,” he said.
Among the items on his stand are a diminutive, well-proportioned early 18th century Georgian walnut chest and a mid-18th century English ash and elm farmhouse kitchen dining table.
Other traditional furniture exhibitors include returnees Kate Thurlow & Tony Bunzl, Wakelin & Linfield, David Bedale and Peter Bunting Antiques.
Elsewhere, The Home Bothy, David Levi Antiques and Nic McElhatton bring folk Art; Brownrigg, Nadin & Macintosh, Vagabond and Lorfords offer the country house look and Hatchwell Antiques, Malby Maps and Don Kelly Books cater to collectors and lovers of curiosities.
The fair plans to return for a winter edition on January 25-30.