The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair (DATF) has unexpectedly become the first major event for the art and antiques trade in London this year.
Typically the fair, which runs from January 25-30 at Battersea’s Evolution London, takes place after several other events.
However, cancellations and postponements have plagued the calendar so far this year. The Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair, typically held in the first days of the new year, did not go ahead, and last week the London Art Fair, due to open on January 19, was rescheduled for April.
Coronavirus concerns over public health are enough to put off organisers of more international events. Here DATF has two advantages: first, its visitors tend to be more local, and second, the fair has already one post-lockdown staging under its belt.
“Our plans are ‘full steam ahead’”, says Darren Hudson, who organises DATF three times a year with Jane Juran. He dubs their October comeback highly successful and adds that “an exciting, live winter event” is what “our customers and exhibitors all want”.
Filling a void
In fact, it could be perfect timing. Dealer Alistair Drennan of Drennan & Sturrock expects DATF to fill a void – and that, he says, is “fabulous”.
He adds: “There are no other high-calibre fairs for clients to attend. I can’t gauge how it is going to go this time, but London has a more positive vibe than here in Scotland, so I am again reasonably optimistic.”
Fellow exhibitor Nick Jones also welcomes the chance to get back in the tent. “You connect with so many trade and decorators who just don’t buy online. There was serious shopping going on in October – clients felt starved of seeing things in real life.”
Most dealers will agree that the personal touch is key, though it does mean there will be a focus on health and safety. Expect temperature checks on entry, increased cleaning and the requirement of masks – up-to-date procedures will be posted on the website.
The fair can host up to 160 exhibitors, making it a major destination for private and trade buyers and interior designers.
Many of the large stands are arranged as room sets to attract and inspire, offering antiques, fine and decorative art, 20th century design and more.
Among those standing at this staging are Hickmet Fine Arts, Dee Zammit, Ed Butcher and Catharine Miller. Newcomers include Arabesque Antiques, Antique Modern Mix, Peter Cameron and Marie Ducasse.
LARTA, The London Antique Rug and Textile Art Fair, which runs alongside DATF, returns as a physical fair this month after running online only last year.
The UK’s only specialist event for fine textile art, antique carpets, vintage rugs and associated works of art, its return has been hailed by exhibitors – and buyers are likely to follow suit.
The online side of the fair will continue this year but the physical fair is fully booked with 18 exhibitors bringing carpets, rugs and textiles, offering a chance for meeting, greeting and shopping.
“We are very excited”, says LARTA organiser and exhibitor Aaron Nejad. “We’ve all been working remotely and although some of us are back in our galleries there hasn’t been much footfall.”
Indeed, for some, such as first-time exhibitor Phil Bell of Phil Bell Antique Oriental Rugs, the physical fair is a major opportunity – a long-awaited step into the world of London trading after a history of bad timing. “I went live in April 2020 and everything was called off. I was booked in to do some fairs and they were cancelled, then I took some space in a shop at that was closed”, he says.
“It felt like everything was conspiring against me. But it gave me a chance to do more buying. I’m hoping that exhibiting in London is going to give me more exposure and I’m already seeing some of that because of forward publicity.”
LARTA is his first major event since opening. “It will be nice to come in and join the party," he says.
Even for long-time exhibitors the chance to come back in person is welcome.
“It’s a relief”, says exhibitor Owen Parry, who has been with the fair since it began. “There is an energy about doing a fair that you don’t get trading online. It’s about selling but it’s also about meeting clients and fellow exhibitors.”
A final crucial element of the fair is the chance to line up with DATF, indicating to dealers what sort of look decorative buyers are going for.
“The fair shows what trends there are in terms of decorative style and trends”, Nejad adds.
“Being with the Decorative fair really helps us to understand where we are and where we’re going and you can really only gauge these things in a public setting.”