Fair and Auction Report Card: June
“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Oscar Wilde
The London season traditionally revolves around flowers, horses and regattas. To these outdoor events, a trio of fine and decorative arts fairs now competes to be added. One is a long-established fair that has fallen onto hard times and is, just now, trying to rediscover its footing; the other two are newly out of the gate, both in their second year, and both finding their artful niche.
London Fairs in June:
June 9-19, Olympia International Fine Art & Antiques Fair, London, Olympia Exhibition Centre.
Olympic was the sister ship of Titanic. While the Olympic did not have the tragic end of her sibling, it is the Titanic disaster that brings to mind last year’s Olympia fair. Like a ship in peril at sea, it too had lost its way, and allowed the winds of fashion, caprice and greed to push it dangerously close to rocks, shoals and the icy depths.
Long known as one of the biggest British fairs (and often the biggest, sometimes with over 300 dealers), Olympia had historically run the gamut of price points and exclusivity of dealers. It was a great big grab-bag, a wonderful cross-categorical market in an historic and architecturally significant iron and glass exhibition hall, and that was its great strength.
Last year, the fair was re-launched as the London International Fine Art Fair (LIFAF), put under new management, and made more “exclusive.” Stand prices were increased, the marketing campaign stressed “world class art and antiques for sale,” and the number of dealers plunged to around 180, with a significant number brought on at the last minute, lured by significant discounts that enraged dealers who had signed on many months earlier. The results were not good. A poor overall impression, worse sales, and a core group of dealers murmuring “revolt.”
This year, the fair’s 38th edition, is one of rebuilding. Dates have been pushed back from early June to mid-June, so as not to overlap with Art Basel (the mammoth modern and contemporary annual art fair in Basel, Switzerland), last year’s managing team has been replaced, and the marketing message is, again, one of fiscal inclusivity, “whether your budget is
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