Around 150 dealers have signed up so far to take part in the winter edition of the triannual Art & Antiques for Everyone (AAfE) fair, which runs from November 24-27 at the exhibition centre in Solihull.
They bring a huge array of art and antiques, catering to all levels of the market below £100,000, with a strong ceramics field (traditionally the backbone of this event) as well as furniture, silverware, jewellery and glassware.
Other disciplines added to the set up in recent years include midcentury, salvage, vintage and garden statuary.
Dan Leyland of MaD Events, who acquired AAfE from Clarion Events in 2019, says it remains the most affordable of the major fairs to stand at. “It is the cheapest fair pound for pound. We still charge the same price per square metre as we did in 2012. The only reason we can do that is because of our relationship with the NEC.”
However, Leyland says he has absorbed “significant cost increases” to put on the latest event and so for the first time dealers will move into the hall one day before the fair opens to the public as opposed to two.
“Traditionally we got the dealers in on the Tuesday, but in order to keep prices the same as they were 12 years ago we have reduced one day of tenancy giving dealers a 13-hour window to set up”, he adds.
It is of course a challenging time for antiques fairs across the UK. Still recovering from the disruption of the Covid years, they now must contend with a cost of living crisis and a weak pound adding to the pressure of filling venues.
Speaking four days after Kwasi Kwarteng announced his shock minibudget, Leyland says he is concerned about the impact on the lower end of the market for dealers: “The buyers who spend £20,000 on a painting don’t have to worry about the base rate, it’s those that spend between £50 and £800 that are going to be squeezed and I do worry about that.”
Despite the economic uncertainty, AAfe welcomes a number of new faces including Anthony Bernbaum of The Peartree Collection who specialises in Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau silver and jewellery.
“I will be taking around 150 pieces to the fair embracing silver, jewellery and copper, with a price range that hopefully suits everyone, starting from a few hundred pounds and upwards”, he says.
Some of the biggest names from the 1880-1920 aesthetic and Arts & Crafts movements will feature on his stand including Christopher Dresser, Charles Ashbee, Archibald Knox and Omar Ramsden.
“I try and ensure all pieces have that special charm and soul present in pieces from this era or portray an amazing ‘ahead of their time’ design modernity”, Bernbaum adds.
A silver two-handled dish with enamelled lid by Charles Ashbee (1863-1942) for the Guild of Handicraft is priced over £10,000. Bernbaum is also taking one of only two known claret jugs designed and signed by Christopher Dresser (1834- 1904) and made by James Dixon & Sons. It carries a price tag in excess of £5000.
New to the fair
Meanwhile, fellow newcomer Irita Marriott of Irita Marriott Antiques is taking a large, c.1900, Dresden porcelain tureen with its cover and base plate hand painted and flower encrusted, priced at £425. “My stall is all what I would refer to as decorative antiques – glass, silver, porcelain”, she says.
Also going with her to the fair is a rare set of four c.1890s continental glass decanters with enamel floral and portrait decoration depicting the Duke of Wellington, William V, President Washington and Admiral Nelson, for sale at £1100.
After a busy October including a run at the Decorative fair in Battersea, King George Antiques is also heading to AAfE for the first time. An 18th century Swedish drum head clock with a rare wood face, original paint and with added gold leaf will be priced at £2200.
Other fresh faces include antique British porcelain specialist Willa Latham and Rountree Tryon Galleries.