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Linda Wrigglesworth, first-time exhibitor at Grosvenor House, had a splendid example of an 18th century Chinese imperial nobleman’s dragon robe.

The 67th Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, the flagship of London’s June fairs, was a grand event marked by change. A significant sixteen new exhibitors, the largest increase ever, multiplied the dealer roster to ninety-two, and visitor attendance was up a record 12 percent from the previous year. Not only bigger, the fair was also viewed as better, with a stylish $8.5 million refurbishment of the Grosvenor House Hotel, the fair’s venue from June 13–19; the launch of a successful Young Collectors Evening; and an estimated $76 million in sales. With all this activity, a first-time exhibitor still found the fair “most relaxing.”

The casual air, explained Asian textile dealer Linda Wrigglesworth, “was due to the fact that clients expected high quality from the exhibitors and could appreciate the
Richard Green’s stand at Grosvenor House.

importance of the material on display. We attracted enormous interest in our first year.” That serious and informed buyers descend upon Grosvenor House, making for some “easy sales,” is no secret, for many dealers disclosed that they sold the vast majority of their merchandise on Preview Day. In the first few minutes of the fair, S.J. Phillips sold a pair of rare English silver chandeliers for about $1.4 million. Other dealers reported their best fair ever, including Anthony Woodburn who sold several exceptional clocks in the six figures. “It was particularly good to see British collectors purchasing good items,” he said.

As Stewart Whittington of Norman Adams, Ltd., noted, “With over half our business going to American buyers, Grosvenor House proves that even in difficult economic times customers want to buy the best things.” The fair is a point of purchase not only for collectors, but also for American and European museum directors, who reserved several important pieces of German porcelain from Gertrud Rudigier.

The Grosvenor House stand of Richard Courtney, Ltd., with a Danny Lane glass sculpture in the foreground. Lane is a contemporary artist who exhibited his own work at the Ceramics Fair.

So what constitutes the best you can buy? For one, “rare to the market,” which included a J.M.W. Turner coastal sunset watercolor, circa 1830, sold by Agnew’s. As far as furniture, John Bly offered what many consider to be one of the most significant pieces of nineteenth-century English furniture on the market. Priced at $257,000, the remarkable satinwood chest decorated with silver-covered lacquer emblems was made by the renowned design-and-cabinetmaking team of Jackson and Graham. The piece has caught the eye of the Victoria & Albert Museum and Oxford’s Ashmolean, according to John Bly.

English furniture dealer Tom Devenish shipped pieces from his New York gallery across the sea for his first solo London exhibition this June at the Connaught. “It was an amazing success and will be a regular feature in the season,” declared Devenish. A fine pair of Gainsborough armchairs were among his sales.

Chinese ceramics recovered from an eighteenth-century shipwreck, pop singer Madonna’s diamonds, an imperial Russian sleigh, a 3,000-year-old mummy, and some half million other objects exhibited by 400 top dealers made for a vast and interesting Summer Olympia, held June 7–17 at Olympia’s Grand Hall in West London.

A selection of ceramics and woolwork pictures at the Olympia stand of Earle D. Vandekar, who also exhibited at the Ceramics Fair.

Exhibitor Paul Vandekar of Earle D. Vandekar of Knightsbridge, reported making sales to visitors from Peking to Portugal. “It’s a very international crowd. We sold a pair of Chinese crackleware vases, circa 1870, to a Peking dealer and a lot of Wedgwood to Luxembourgians.” A collector of railroad memorabilia snatched up an ex-Victoria & Albert collection woolwork of a train engine, part of Vandekar’s selection of British woolwork pictures, priced between $3,000–$8,000.

Buyers searching for the English country house look, particularly Americans, were pleased with “our usual selection of Georgian and Regency mirrors and drum tables,” according to Anthony James. A late Regency period bird’s-eye maple drum table (about $20,470) was among his offerings.

Mallett’s stand at Grosvenor House featured a red-lacquered secretary priced at $625,500.

If you’re looking for a pair of silver pepper pots modeled after Charles Dickens’s Mr. Pickwick and the Fat Boy characters, or simply a sturdy piece of English oak furniture, the enormous Olympia Fair is the place to find it. (A personal shopper to help guide you through the fair is available through show management.) But if your focus is exclusively on ceramics, then there is the International Ceramics Fair and Seminar held June 15–18 at the Park Lane Hotel—an affair about which Salem, MA, Peabody-Essex Museum curator William Sargent says, “is one of the few events for which I keep my calendar clear.”

The stand of Anthony James at Olympia included a Regency-period gilt overmantel mirror with inset beveled and fluted plates, circa 1815, about $25,000.

There was outstanding variety at the Ceramics Fair, with most items dating pre-1830: Alistair Sampson offered a rare pair of Staffordshire equestrian figures (about $35,000); Priestley & Ferraro had an early Tang dynasty white-glazed horse for around $56,000; and a six-figure sum would buy a very important Sèvres soft-paste porcelain plaque, circa 1769, enamelled with a military camp scene and presented at the 1769 Versailles exhibition to a French government official, at the stand of Dragesco-Cramoisan.

Other London fairs held annually in mid-June are the Antiquarian Book Fair and the HALI Antique Carpet and Textile Fair.

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