Olympia’s Fair unique charm was not to be missed by the record 34,867 collectors, interior designers, celebrities, dealers, and devotees who came through its doors over the past eleven days. Looking every inch the stunning international art and antiques fair it is, the fair enjoyed record attendance figures on the collectors’ preview day, and overall visitor figures were up 10% on last year. Many of the exhibitors commented it was the best fair for decades. This year’s fair attracted a glittering array of celebrities with visits from Dustin Hoffman, the Hiltons, Piers Morgan and Tamara Beckwith to name a few, all keen to purchase original works of art from the world’s best dealers. Interior designers also visited the fair in force, with many dealers noting a rise in sales to this group; including Michael Smith, the Obama’s interior designer, bought several pieces.
Considering the difficult economic times, sales throughout the fair were exceptional; Adrian Alan’s Linke bed was sold to an American private buyer for a considerable six figure sum, and will be sent to the US after the fair. Made in 1900 for the Paris Exposition, the Linke bed, Le Grand Bureau and La Grande Bibliothèque were showcase pieces for Linke and are once again for Adrian Alan at Olympia as Le Grand Bureau won LAPADA’s Object of the Year award.
Many of the dealers reported consistent sales of high priced items, selling pieces every day; Paul Andrews was one such dealer who sold an important Art Deco cabinet, originating from an artist’s home in Paris, dated c1930. The Edward Barnsley Workshop, which creates modern pieces of furniture to order, sold out of stock in the first few days, and Arts and Crafts jewellery dealer Van den Bosch sold as much in the first three days as it did during the whole fair last year. Beedham Antiques had an exceptional fair, having to restock their stand after the first day of selling. Specialist in 18th and 19th century glass, Brian Watson, noted he was selling to an increasingly younger audience and this was the best Olympia he had had in twenty years. Pelham Galleries, who exhibited incredibly rare pieces at the fair, including a Claude-Nicolas Ledoux bed that once belonged to Louis XVI’s mistress, commented on how happy they were with the buyers the fair brought in and that they had sold several key pieces.
Buyers had a thirst for contemporary and twentieth century art with Lucy Johnson selling works by British painters Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland. Dealer Piano Nobile sold all three of contemporary artist Adam Birtwistle’s portraits, an artist shown in the National Portrait Gallery, whose ever increasing popularity was reflected in the quick sales of his work. Meanwhile Whitford Fine Art sold a Pop Art piece by the sculptor Clive Barker and an important Aboriginal painting. Taylor Gallery sold a painting to a private Australian buyer, dating from 1932. The work is of a Burmese princess named Saw Ohn Nyun by the British artist Sir Gerald Kelly, who fell in love with her. The painting went for £90,000.
Old Master artwork was well represented at the fair; the Tomasso Brothers were incredibly pleased with the response to their debut show at Olympia, and commented they looked forward to being at the fair next year. It was a successful show for the sculpture dealers, yielding good sales and introducing them to a great number of new and important international clients. Jean Luc Baroni, debuting at Olympia, was very positive about the fair. The Old Master dealer sold eight drawings and eight watercolours in total and was hugely impressed by the quality of buyers at the fair.
Mid-century modern pieces, ever increasing in popularity, did extremely well with dealer Gordon Watson selling an important 1940s Paulo Buffa trumeau and a large scale lino print by artist Kara Walker, called “Keys to the Coop”. These items were sold alongside many smaller decorative pieces such as lamps, bowls and lighting. Jewellery was also popular at the fair; Greens of Cheltenham, whose recently-acquired c1918 emerald and diamond necklace, priced at around £300,000, sold to a private buyer for an undisclosed six figure sum. Didier Antiques, very happy with their performance at the fair, sold consistently throughout; sales included a small piece by Picasso, and a further six pieces sold to a single buyer. 21st Century Jewels received a high level of interest in pieces by the designer Marilyn Cooperman and Catherine Noll, and sold a significant Art Deco piece for a six figure sum.
There was an incredible level of interest in the letters from Grand Duchess Olga, the sister of Tsar Nicholas II, on sale at Argyll Etkin. Several Russian visitors came to view the letters and three separate interested parties have gone back to Moscow to lobby for them to return to Russia as part of the national archive. New introductions to the fair, including the Castle Howard loan exhibition were received very well, with the director of Brideshead Revisited, Derek Granger, attending the preview evening, alongside the actress Diana Quick, who appeared in the original series. Photo@Olympia was established this year, with the iconic image of Jane Fonda as Barbarella selling, and the Photographers’ Gallery selling several pieces.
Sir Timothy Clifford, fair patron: “In spite of the fact we are in a difficult financial period, and were affected by the underground strike, we had visitors from all over the world and attendance figures were excellent, it’s gratifying to note we were up 10% compared to last year. Many of the dealers were delighted with their sales and many of the stands at the fair looked very handsome indeed. We have had several important new dealers from abroad and they tell me they intend to return next year and bring more of their colleagues.”