One of my favorite antiques venues in London is Mount Street, a short street in Mayfair with red brick and terracotta late Victorian buildings on either side. The Connaught Hotel is at one end of the street, Berkeley Square at the other, and the venerable Scott’s Restaurant is in the middle. Although I don’t always go into Scott’s for dover sole, I always walk down Mount Street and look in the windows of the antiques dealers. Unfortunately, there are fewer all the time, with Stair and Company closing two years ago, and Kenneth Neame offering fewer antiques and more decorative items. Now, Pelham Galleries is closing, consolidating their operations at their Rue de Varenne gallery in Paris. Although I enjoy walking Mount Street, apparently fewer and fewer other people do, as Alan Rubin, whose family opened Pelham in 1928, says he is closing due to a lack of walk in traffic.
As the debacle of the Mount Street dealers is repeated around London, with fewer dealers in the Fulham Road and Kensington Church Street- and several arcades in Islington’s famed Camden Passage now being developed into condominiums- the remaining dealers doubtless wonder if their departing colleagues didn’t do the right thing. Certainly, in Jackson Square in San Francisco, the 22 dealers that comprise our local trade association are keenly aware that to stay an active venue for collectors and interior designers, it’s imperative to maintain a critical mass of fine quality dealers.
Alan Rubin is quoted in The Antiques Trade Gazette as saying that their galleries constitute less of a venue for sales than antiques fairs. Considering how erratic attendance is at even the best antiques fairs, Pelham’s gallery traffic must truly have been abysmal.
Although fair attendance, the auction houses, and the internet all function to siphon off traffic into the antiques and art galleries, it is surprising that it should be so. Of course, fairs and the occasional auction both provide a prospective purchaser with the opportunity to browse and look at a wide variety of objects. But isn’t that what the established antiques venue does? And, while the auction happens on the day, and the span of the fair may be a few days, the dealers in the antiques venue are there every day. What could be better? An on demand antiques show! And admission is free.