The Shrinking of London’s Summer Fair Season
And then there were two. London’s summer fairs scene, that once stretched to half a dozen events beginning at the very start of June, is this year somewhat pared back. After five years, Art Antiques London has folded and instead the seven-day The Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia kicks off the season from June 26-July 2 (preview June 26), running almost concurrently with Masterpiece London in the south grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea (June 29-July 5 (preview June 28).
There’s no doubt the limited numbers reflect a traditional antiques trade under pressure. However, there are no shortage of events to sate the appetites of the dealers, collectors, curators and furnishers who have made London’s summer fairs their antiques-buying destination of choice for over half a century. This year, to paraphrase the song, the dealers are doing it for themselves.
While around 160 dealers exhibit in the National Hall at Olympia in its 45th year and 149 international galleries at the eighth Masterpiece fair, others will be hoping to draw London’s summer fairs crowd without the eye-watering expenses and the obvious restraints of a 10 by 10ft trade stand.
Ceramics enthusiasts, who for 30 years flocked to the International Ceramics Fair and later to Art Antiques London, will now find their quarry at a series of independent events. Rebranded and moved to a later date in the calendar, the collegiate selling exhibitions put on by Kensington-based ceramics dealers this year takes place from June 27-July 1. Formerly known as Eight Days in June, it is henceforth to be known as Kensington – The Heart of Ceramics.
Three other dealers that would previously have been found at Art Antiques London – Brian Haughton, Christophe Perlés and Robyn Robb – will now join forces for a group exhibition titled A Collectors’ Paradise which runs from June 30-July 7 at Brian Haughton’s gallery. It follows the dates of the London Art Week initiative, the eight-day celebration of largely traditional or ‘pre-contemporary’ art in and around Mayfair and St James’s, which has put down substantial roots across its five years.
The organisation, which became a limited company late last year, is now planning a second event for the winter and pitching to a wider audience. Several shops and galleries, that might typically have patronised one of the top fairs are this year, prepared to fully commit. Around 50 will participate – some with bespoke exhibitions, all preaching the merits of buying or just window shopping in the gallery setting.
The Mayfair Art Weekend (the rebranded Brown’s Art Weekend of past years) operates with a similar raison d’être. In addition to its new name, this year’s event (June 30-July 2) sees a partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts, marking its 250th anniversary in 2018. It’s a coup to have an academic institution and 60 or more commercial shops and auction houses singing from the same hymn sheet; together they will ensure the art market’s focus remains firmly on London in the summer months.