Yesterday, Grosvenor House. The two days prior, Olympia Summer Fair. Art and antiques overdose? Hardly- I’ll be back at Olympia tomorrow and Grosvenor House on Monday.
The look of Olympia is wonderful- bright, airy, and the main floor with some impressive stands. This year, Partridges, a refugee from Grosvenor last year, is joined by Malletts and Pelham Galleries. Malletts have kept their place at Grosvenor House, but have done a kicky, two storeyed booth at Olympia with a mix of material- 20th century as well as period- giving their stand a look that might shock their regular visitors at Grosvenor.
Pelham Galleries have done something terrific from the outside- a free standing pavilion, redolent of what one might find in the garden of the quality- vaguely Middle Eastern in feel with colored marble pilasters affixed to the exterior. Impressive from the outside, the ingress is a bit pinched, making it a little less inviting than it might be to enter and view what’s inside. Indeed, one feels trapped inside and not at ease to have a good nose around. But, that’s only one man’s view, and Alan Rubin will doubtless have quite a bit to say about the design- both its rationale and its success. Wait for it in the next issue of The Antiques Trade Gazette. Still, what is more significant than anything else is the fact of Pelham, an institution at Grosvenor House, and now at Olympia.
Overall, the stands at Olympia looked good- open, with an excellent mix of traditional and modern material. Gordon Watson had a large stand with the mix of mid century material that he’s known for. My colleagues Reindeer Antiques, although on the gallery level, none the less have an impressive stand with a wonderful mid 18th century gilt wood serving table with a breche violette marble top. Fantastic looking, with its oversized paterae at the top of the legs, possibly the work on Francois Herve, or another émigré craftsman.
The stands that were in the main the most impressive were those like Reindeer where the items were impressive, and display sufficiently spare to showcase each piece. Having said that, there were a number of traditional dealers whose stands appeared the way they have always done, with a mix of mostly brown furniture- good quality, to be sure, but a sea of mahogany, none the less.
Grosvenor House- well, what can one say? The grandfather of all quality fairs, the ne plus ultra of English furniture, certainly. And, in terms of quality, this year did not fail to disappoint. Actually, it did fail to disappoint, because it failed to surprise. Yes, the stands all had good pieces, but nothing that one wasn’t already aware of, and some that had only recently been acquired in the sales rooms. Certainly, the ballroom of Grosvenor House makes for some logistical limitations- limited space and consequently, a limited area for display, and for aisle ways for punters. And, of course, the champagne bar, already busy by noon yesterday, has to be sandwiched into the middle of the floor. Expensive real estate for the dealers who participate, so, as a consequence, it isn’t too surprising the dealers all want to shoe horn as much material into this pricey space as possible.
In both shows, I did spy a few red dots. And there was at least one noteworthy sale. At Olympia, Butchoff Antiques had a large Wright and Mansfield desk that sold to a Russian oligarch on opening day for something in the range of £500,000. That’s a good day’s work.
Olympia Summer Fair closes tomorrow June 17 at 5PM, while Grosvenor House runs until Monday, June 18, closing at 8PM.