Wells Abbott, which distributes a range of decorative homewares including textiles, wallcoverings and lighting, hosted a trip of 100 US designers and decorators to London.
The itinerary included visits to Chelsea Harbour’s Design Centre and the traders of Pimlico Road. The expedition’s timing followed the French trade shows Paris Deco Off and Maison & Objet, encouraging Stateside guests to lengthen their stay in Europe.
Following the two-day organised trip in London the group descended on the Battersea fair held from January 23-28. The decorators swept through on the Tuesday opening day and Wednesday, welcomed with open arms by the 120 exhibitors.
Contemporary art dealership Panter & Hall was one of the traders boosted by the visit. The gallery’s Modern British art arm, called Panter & Hall Decorative (based in Cecil Court) said it sold 18 pictures on opening day alone.
Speaking to ATG on the Friday of the fair, co-founder Matthew Hall said: “We brought some of our best things to the fair and we have already sold more than 40 paintings. Usually we sell around 20 by now.”
Hall said the pictures he sells in the £300-500 price level “have the look” that the decorators are after. He added: “These pictures look authentic, are well chosen, sophisticated and cost £500 but can look £5000.”
Joe Chaffer of Petworth’s Vagabond Antiques also hailed the busy start to the fair. “There was a strong mix of US trade buyers and interior designers on the opening day, followed by some strong sales at the weekend from private clients old and new,” he said.
Among Vagabond’s highlight sales were a c.1800 pair of Italian grand tour alabaster volute Kraters, with a ticket price of £38,000, which sold to new private client; and a c.1850 vast copper vat from southern France bought by a new private client for their Cotswolds garden, ticketed at £8000. Another high point was the sale of an 18th century silk embroidery (as reported in ATG No 2627).
Dealer Giles Hutchinson Smith of Shropshire’s Chalet White said the fair was “way beyond expectations” with the second day “phenomenal”. He was pleased that US buyers “were back in force”: private buyers, trade and decorators.
This edition was his 11th fair at Battersea and he said: “The fair is so well supported by the design fraternity but also a must-visit by private buyers. Part of the DNA of the Decorative Fair is it is the perfect blend of professional buyers and private collectors.”
Among his highlight sales were 17th-century Baroque crewelwork panels from Leeds Castle. Hutchinson Smith said two companion side hangings are in a foundation in New York. The panels sold for a five-figure sum to a US buyer in Connecticut.
He also sold an unusual French c.1860 log burner in the form of a scarab beetle with an enamelled turquoise back which had a £6000 asking price and went to a new US private client for their farm.
According to the fair organiser, many of the US visitors bought across the event from many dealers, with one American customer shipping more than 30 items during the week.
Although buyers from the US were out in force, there were also many other nationalities ready to spend.
Jewellery dealer Anthea AG Antiques reported a solid week with sales to Chinese and eastern European buyers (as well as US and UK) while the fair organisers also reported news of a Bahraini client who made extensive purchases across multiple dealers’ stands.
Dealer Nick Jones, who extended his stand to one large unit (a change from usually having two smaller stands), had his best-ever fair. He said: “I was very, very happy with my new bigger stand. It allowed me to showcase more of my stock. The fair management have been very supportive of me, and kindly offered this opportunity.”
He added: “We were selling across the board, but furniture was selling very, very well. Clients were going for the big-ticket items, nearly everything I sold was at the higher end, priced over £5000. I sold five commodes on one afternoon alone.”
Traditional and formal antique furniture was in demand, a relief for many dealers. Bookcases, armoires, commodes and large tables were reported to be popular around the fair, followed by mirrors and lighting.
William Cook Antiques’ highlights included a George III console table with an unusual bold lion paw foot which sold for a price in the region of £10,000 and Craig Carrington sold a grand c.1760 Italian rococo mirror, in untouched condition, priced in excess of £25,000 which went to a decorator.
Specialist in antique Japanese bronzes Laura Bordignon reported among her sales a sculpture of an eagle ticketed at £9500 to a new private buyer and several bronze vases.
A new exhibitor, 18th and 19th century furniture dealership McBain & Byrne, was pleased with its debut and among the sales was a late 17th century mortar selling to a new client, priced at £4800, and an early 19th century farmhouse table, priced at £6800.
Strong sales continued over the weekend, with some dealers reporting their best sales on the final day. Fair co-organiser Darren Hudson, who also runs his own stand as Hudson Antiques, reported a new international buyer visiting on Sunday afternoon who made a “not inconsequential purchase” and Hudson then took them to see “a similar item on another dealer’s stand” where they spent more than £20,000 on another purchase.
With a great start to the year, exhibitors are already buying for, and planning, their next appearance at Battersea. The spring Decorative Fair will take place from May 7-12.