All the fun of the fair

John Windsor previews this summer's big art and antiques fairs: Grosvenor House and Olympia

Strange though it seems, the craze for downsizing among top earners is good news for London's two big summer art and antiques fairs - Olympia, which opens next Thursday, and Grosvenor House, which opens a week later.

For one thing, a small fraction of "redundo" pay tends to get blued on consolation buys such as jewellery or a painting. For another, survivors of downsizing work such long hours that they have no time to swot up on Chinese porcelain or Regency ormolu-mounted furniture. Result: a new breed of youngish, rich, know-nothings eager to acquire the trappings of wealth - the antique dealer's dream.

Today's antique fairs were invented, not exactly for the rich and ignorant - though they are plentiful enough - but for busy punters happy to pay double for strictly vetted pieces that they can be confident are "right". Such is the antiques take-away culture at Olympia and Grosvenor House.

Those vetting committees are not just chums in the trade giving the nod. They are about as forgiving as Judge Jeffreys. I once watched a clock dealer at Olympia tremble with shock after the vetting committee had swept past, condemning as "un-fairworthy" his "William Scott longcase of 1790- 1810", which, they alleged, had a 1720-1740 case of the wrong colour with a movement added later.

For the past three years Olympia's 150 vetters have been briefed to keep a specially wary eye open for country and Regency furniture over-restored with added paint and given a tenfold price hoick. This year has brought a new threat: brand-new metalwork - table lamps, lanterns, wall-brackets - picked up in the Paris flea markets and passed off as 18th or 19th century period pieces.

Olympia (now thrice yearly) has traditionally been looked upon as a "trading" or "intermediate" market while glittering Grosvenor House in Park Lane is an "end-market", the ne plus ultra for rich private buyers with a million pounds or so to spend. Clever traders at Grosvenor House, whose early days coincide with Olympia, used to brag about carrying off under-priced items from Olympia to Park Lane to sell for more. They still make the occasional killing. But nowadays, Olympia is approaching end-market status, too: highly polished and highly priced - but at least you know what you're getting.

Both fairs' public relations efforts emphasise that they also offer inexpensive antiques: at Grosvenor House this year, that could mean an 1840 brass fender from a doll's house (pounds 125); at Olympia a collection of eccentric tea cosies, popular between the wars, at pounds 35-pounds 300 each.

Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair, Earls Court Exhibition Centre, Warwick Road, London SW5, 6-16 June, entry, including catalogue pounds 15 (0171-370 8188). Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, Park Lane, London W1, 13-22 June, entry (including handbook) pounds 12 single, pounds 20 double (0171-499 6363).

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

    £22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones