Chelsea Antiques and Fine Art Fair

The 2021 edition of Chelsea Antiques and Fine Art Fair.

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Until recently there were three events on the books for the firm: two editions of The Chelsea Antiques & Fine Art Fair in March and November and The Petworth Park and Antiques & Fine Art Fair.

The two west London fairs have been cancelled outright, while Petworth has reverted to its previous owner Ingrid Nilson, director of the Antiques Dealers Fair Limited. Three events staff running its fairs have been made redundant.

Last week’s developments followed the news that 2Covet had ‘postponed’ its newest event, a November edition of the Chelsea fair, due to insufficient exhibitor numbers. It clashed directly with the Winter Art & Antiques Fair Olympia.

However, the firm has since stated that the March edition of the Chelsea fair has also been shelved with no plans to revive it in the near future.

In its online announcement the company – which retains its internet portal – said: “Due to the uncertain climate and spiralling inflationary costs coupled with the understandable lack of commitment from exhibitors, and a crowded calendar of fairs in 2023, the directors feel that now would be the wrong time to look to schedule the Chelsea Antiques & Fine Art Fair for March 2023 or any further fairs beyond.”

Rapid expansion

The team behind the 2Covet portal had built its events portfolio rapidly. In the early weeks of 2021 it purchased Chelsea from long-time organiser Caroline Penman. The first staging was that autumn (usually in March, it was reorganised due to Covid restrictions). The inaugural run was heralded by many participants and it ran again earlier this year in its traditional springtime slot.

In May 2Covet teamed up with the Petworth fair as official marketing partner. Then in July it took on full ownership, with a three-year contract allowing for ownership to revert to Nilson should certain conditions not be met.

Zara Rowe, director of 2Covet, told ATG that the financial implication of losing the November fair at the 11th hour had prompted further difficult decisions. “The cancellation was the catalyst to the closing of the event side to our business. Although Chelsea and Petworth are not related in terms of contracts, we are unable to run Petworth next year without the staff needed for a successful fair.”

Though 2Covet retains the rights to Chelsea, Rowe said there are no plans to either run or sell it.

This is not the first time that the future of the Chelsea fair has been uncertain. Launched in the early 1950s, it was bought by Caroline Penman in 1982 when previous organiser Josephine Graham Ballin died mid-fair.

In the early 2000s it competed with the BADA and LAPADA fairs, eventually closing its autumn edition due to clashing dates. In 2019 Penman started to search for new owners of the fair as she planned for her retirement and was introduced to 2Covet.

The date of the next Petworth fair has been changed to avoid clashing with the Coronation, scheduled for May 6. It now runs from May 19-21.