London Summer Capital of Art Preview – Fairs

The art and antiques events that blossom in London in the summer were once firmly linked to The Season: the Henley Regatta, Wimbledon, the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy and the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair were all part of London’s ‘moment’ in the international social spotlight. However, those ties are weakening.

Fine Art & Antiques Olympia

The capital’s fairs scene, that previously squeezed the antiquarian book fair, the summer Olympia, the ceramics fair and Grosvenor House into the first half of June, is now much evolved. It’s no longer possible to visit for a week and have it all covered. With Rare Books London now over and done with in late May, other events don’t begin until late June and July.

Charles II child’s high chair c.1680

Oak and country furniture specialist Peter Bunting Antiques, who has showrooms at his home at Harthill Hall, near Bakewell in Derbyshire, will bring this Charles II child’s high chair c.1680 to Fine Art & Antiques Olympia. It is priced at $5600.

The ‘June’ Olympia fair (now June 27-July 3) is the one venerable occasion still with us. This year – rebranded for its 44th staging as Fine Art & Antiques Olympia – it is shortened from 11 to seven days in an effort to keep costs down and the event fresh. Other new initiatives planned for the 160 dealers include designated areas for textiles (produced in association with HALI magazine) and contemporary design (with Chicago-based SOFA) plus Showcase, a section on the balcony level for five ‘new’ dealers.

The venue is both the draw and the drawback of the Olympia fair – a spectacular towering space in an iconic building but one geographically removed from the natural habitat of the international A-listers dealers hope to attract.

mixed media canvas reminiscent of Giuseppe Arcimboldo

This mixed media canvas reminiscent of Giuseppe Arcimboldo is by Saatchi prize winner Shani Joel (b.1991). Buddha, fashioned with shells, jewellery, butterfly wings, fabric and other materials, from 2014 is priced at £7750 by Vanessa Clewes Salmon at Art Antiques London.

It was the lack of suitable permanent exhibition space in the prime areas of Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster that – with the closure of Grosvenor House fair after 75 years in 2009 – encouraged the use of upmarket tents as venues for large-scale art and antiques fairs. Two new events emerged in 2010.

Art Antiques London

Running from June 24-30 (with a charity preview on June 23) is Art Antiques London, held in a marquee on Kensington Gardens next to the Albert Memorial. It requires a two-week build time. The show, organised by Haughton Fairs, was borne out of the defunct International Ceramics Fair and Seminar and exceptional pottery and porcelain provides the backbone to both the 60-dealer event and its extensive lecture program.

Macclesfield Tompion, an exceptional burr walnut longcase clock
At Masterpiece Winchester dealers Carter Marsh & Co will ask £295,000 for the Macclesfield Tompion, an exceptional burr walnut longcase clock probably bought by Thomas Parker, Lord Chancellor and 1st Earl of Macclesfield, who acquired Shirburn Castle, Oxfordshire in 1716. The month-going movement is numbered 239 for c.1694 as is the case – a rare transitional type 2 case with a rising hood of a type that is unique to clocks by Thomas Tompion.

Masterpiece London

As Art Antiques London ends, Masterpiece London begins. The primary driver of the discernible creep into July, the unashamedly glamorous art, antiques and luxury goods fair is held in the south grounds of the historic Royal Hospital in the wake of the Chelsea Flower Show. The tent, printed with a Georgian facade to match that of the hospital, is spectacular (builders Stabile are co-owners of the event) and so too are the exhibits and stand designs. Expect over 150 international galleries from June 30-July 6 (preview June 29) and a crowd that last year topped 40,000.

Eight Days in June

Of course, events such as this are eye-waveringly expensive to stage – and pricey to exhibit at. Conscious that the objects that are the real starts, enterprising members of the trade choose instead to plough the marketing budget into exhibitions of their own. Some, such as the 15th annual ceramics event Eight Days in June (June 23-30), are now established annual affairs. Others such as the month-long 140th birthday retrospective at the Bond Street dealership The Fine Art Society mark a significant anniversary. All seek to bring customers to the shop or gallery.

London Art Week

18in (47cm) cast of Rodin’s Jean D’Aire
The Sladmore Gallery, specialists in 19th and 20th century bronzes, was launched in Mayfair in 1965. Their 50th anniversary celebrations form part of London Art Week. Pictured here is an 18in (47cm) cast of Rodin’s Jean D’Aire, one of the sculptors celebrated Burghers of Calais, priced at $763,150.

The largest such initiative is London Art Week, the umbrella title for a series of exhibitions, tours and late-night openings in Mayfair and St James’s running from July 1-8 (preview June 30). In its fourth incarnation the event continues to broaden its wings beyond the strict confines of picture and sculpture dealers. There will be close to 50 participants (including three auction houses) with first timers including the Kallos Gallery and Charles Ede (both with antiquities) and arms and armour specialist Peter Finer.

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About the Author:

Roland Arkell is the Contributing Editor at ATG Media. For almost two decades, Roland has been writing about the British and international art and antiques market for Antiques Trade Gazette, the leading publication for serious buyers and sellers of art and antiques.