“To finally be going back again is very enticing and we have taken a larger stand than ever before,” says Robert Young, one of the exhibitors at Masterpiece London. He predicts the fair will appeal to “an audience starved of ‘in person’ art and antiques fairs” and draw huge crowds.
Attending every event this year will be a challenge. Here is the logistical balancing act:
First, BRAFA Art Fair opens in Brussels and runs from June 19-26 (not to mention the contemporary giant Art Basel which will draw crowds from June 16-19). Then it’s over to west London for The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia (June 23-26) and the West End for Mayfair Art Weekend (June 24-26).
So far so good – except then it’s time for TEFAF Maastricht, the huge traditional European art fair which has swapped its usual March slot for the summer this year (June 25-30). Somewhat controversially, the new dates mean that Masterpiece London, the similarly high-level event in Chelsea, overlaps TEFAF by one day, opening on June 30 and running until July 6.
But once you are there it’s a shame to miss London Art Week that takes place around various London galleries from July 3-8 and Asian Art in London’s inaugural summer walking trail (June 29-July 2). Exhausted? You will be.
Of course, with such a packed schedule, some galleries have had to make difficult decisions.
Martin Levy, director at H Blairman & Sons, chose Masterpiece over TEFAF.
“I was somewhat surprised the organisers of TEFAF had chosen dates that clash with an established event at the height of the summer in London,” he says. “Fairs only survive with the support of the dealers, and this has put everyone under unnecessary pressure. The art market belongs to London in June. This has traditionally been the case and will continue.”
However, Young expects many VIP visitors will make both events. “My hunch is that the serious international buyers (both collectors and institutional) will attend both previews and each event will retain the loyal local visitor base they have built up over the years,” he says. “Northern Europe will be the place to be in the second half of June.”
As a specialist in European paintings, Dover Street gallery Stair Sainty was among those choosing TEFAF. Earlier in the year, gallery director Thomas Smith said: “We would have done both if they hadn’t moved. Even if they’d been just a couple of weeks apart, we might have considered it.
"We were disappointed because good buyers come to Masterpiece. But Maastricht is an established fair and an Old Masters fair and it’s the one we’ve done the longest.
“It just seemed the obvious choice based on the paintings we have at the moment. The museums tend to go to Maastricht too.”
For most dealers and buyers, however, the theme for this summer will be a sigh of relief as fairs gear up again. Many are preparing to be back in their element.
“The key to success at the fair is to show top-quality paintings, impeccably presented and appropriately priced,” says Jonathan Green of Richard Green (Masterpiece) making the eternal quest of every fair exhibitor sound almost simple.
Expect the unexpected
Others returning to familiar stomping grounds include Robbie Timms of S&S Timms, a long-time participant at the summer Olympia. Over the years, he says, he’s realised the best strategy at the fair is to simply “expect the unexpected”.
“Some of our best sales and meetings with top clients have been at the most unlikely of times – like just as the fair is closing at the end of a long, slow Friday afternoon.
“Most of all, ensure you bring a whole cross-section of stock to put on display. The people who walk around tend to be extremely eclectic in their tastes.”
Welcome back to a world of surprises.