United Kingdom

Increased visitors and sales for Lapada Art & Antiques Fair

New venue in London’s Berkeley Square proves a success

new york. Despite the still-shaky financial picture—with dealers defecting in record numbers from fairs, and traditional antiques appealing to a dwindling audience—the revived Lapada Art & Antiques Fair (24-27 September) proved a winning success on many fronts. Held since 2006 at the Royal Academy of Art’s splendid Georgian Burlington Gardens, this year Lapada organisers cleverly staked out a chic tent—incorporating 250-year-old plane trees—in Berkeley Square. Even the carpet choice, a pale brown, was a sophisticated change from black.

The venue drew in 88 exhibitors (versus 70 last year) and 44 of them were new, confirming the appeal. A record 14,000 visitors took in the fair, while in previous years attendance hovered in the 7,500 range. Americans were in scant supply, but French, Italians, Germans and Japanese buyers filled the aisles. The vernissage, attended by aristocracy, Emiratis and others, was filled to the brim with 4,000 visitors. Strolling in were the Duchess of Bedford, fashion designer Alexander McQueen and British design stars such as Jasper Conran. Even California designer Michael Smith, who is decorating the Obamas’ White House, showed up.

“With 77 of the dealers already rebooking for next year and approximately two thirds of all sales to new clients, we command a preeminent position…dispelling any notion of a lull in the market for traditional antiques,” said Sarah Percy-Davis, Lapada chief executive.

Although 80% of the dealers are Olympia veterans, this fair skipped the grandiose two-storey stands for a tamer look, with a mix of 18th-century English furniture along with decorative art, which sparked strong sales across the board. Millington Adams of Cheshire sold a William III mulberry cabinet for £35,000, a George I walnut kneehole desk for £27,000, a 1770 marquetry Pembroke table for £32,750, a 1740 settee for £29,000 and an Alfred de Breanski oil painting, Highland Waters (undated), for £47,500. “People want good period furniture with good colour and reasonably priced,” said Millington Adams director Marcus Adams. “Those antiques are really symbols of stability. The attraction is stronger than ever as there was less interest in the cheaper material.”

Not every dealer sold such high-ticket items, but by and large business was considerable. “We can offer far more competitive prices, reflecting the fact that we don’t have to maintain a London showroom,” said Wiltshire dealer Edward Hurst. He sold a George II chair for £24,000, as well as tables, a George I gilt mirror and a George II bracket clock.

Dublin-based Rogers & Carroll sold a Chippendale-style mahogany cabinet for around £60,000 and a George I walnut kneehole desk. “This event is reaching people who would not necessarily go to an antiques fair, said Rogers & Carroll co-director John Carroll. “Olympia’s a trek, but if they’re walking down New Bond Street or work in the City, this is perfect.”

In addition, 20th-century design was favoured. The Cheshire-based Holly Johnson Antiques sold a 1970 radio-controlled model airplane, a Robert Heritage drum table and other items. UK- and Switzerland-based Paul Andrews put up for sale a Paul Evans steel and glass table for around £15,000, while Hampshire-based Gazelles of Lyndhurst sold a pale-pink Bakelite clock, a pair of cloud-back salon chairs with walnut veneers and a burl-wood nest of tables, among other items.

Pictures are generally slow to shift at such fairs. For new dealer Oliver Cyzer, from West Sussex, Lapada was his first major fair and he touted the splashiest picture: Alfred Munnings’ 1907 Going to the Meet for £1.1m. The Gloucestershire-based Titian Gallery offered a recent discovery: a cache of Sir Henry Raeburn, with prices up to £20,000. By the close of the fair, Titian Gallery owner Ilona Johnson-Gibbs had secured an appointment with the British Museum and two reserves.

Clients at the Scottish dealer Campbell Wilson was capitalising on the vogue for pre-Raphaelites by snapping up James Wright’s oil The King’s Daughter to Noroway (date unknown) for around £16,000, along with watercolours by followers of Burne-Jones. “Compared to June’s Olympia, sales here are up 25%,” said Campbell Wilson director Neil Wilson.

The Surrey-based David Brooker Fine Art had five paintings for sale, including a pair of Patrick Nasmyth 1820 landscapes for £10,000 and a Harry Brooker 1903 interior for £25,000. “Sales were to English clients as well as those overseas,” said David Brooker, referring to collectors hailing from Indonesia and Lebanon, among others. “The fair hasn’t ended at all and I’m taking a dozen pictures for approval to a client with a country house in Sussex. This means the middle market is percolating,” he said.

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