The great pleasure in exhibiting at an antique fair, particularly of the standard of LAPADA, is the sheer variety of content on offer. The average contemporary art fair, offering so many variations on a theme and no clear quality control can jade even the most enthusiastic art buyer. The experience of walking around an art fair is to have one’s visual palate constantly cleansed. Cleverly thought out floor plans arrange eighteenth century silver next to art deco furniture, sumptuous carpets next to oriental ceramics and of course stunning jewellery for all tastes.
Each object is a history lesson in itself, owned and presented by dealers who are the country’s - sometimes the world’s - leading experts in their fields. A Dealer’s knowledge is particularly deep, having been acquired over many decades of handling objects often unknown to museums and public collections. Most of all they are fired by a passion for their particular discipline. Naturally a profit is a necessity but even at the highest level dealers are more likely to go home on the bus than in a Bentley. It is their enthusiasm that drives them to seek out the next rare clock, coffee pot or rug. A love of the chase and the satisfaction of a discovery, a heart stopping moment recognising that vague dusty shape in a dim corner of a country sale room.
As with most genuine enthusiasts, dealers are more than keen to share their joy in each object and actively encourage fair visitors to engage and learn. LAPADA is one of the very few dealer-led antique and art fairs in the country. The organisation vets all its members who are obliged to comply with a Code of Practice, giving buyer confidence and a guarantee of dealer reputability.
Situated in the heart of Mayfair in a grand marquee in Berkeley Square, the fair is by far the smartest of the London Venues. It attracts an international clientele as well as a good number of buyers from the surrounding hedge funds and private offices. We even have a reasonable number of celebrities although I now judge my age by how few I’ve heard of each year.
Finally it is the closest that our industry gets to trade a conference in a seaside town. It is a chance for Dealers to chat about how terrible everybody is doing (obviously social suicide to admit to having had a good year) and exchange stories and experiences since the last fair, essentially a gossip forum.
In a business largely made up of single traders and small companies it can be a reassuring week of finding that your competition is doing as badly as you, or that they are finding similar issues and difficulties in the same areas you are. Usually it can be a friendly experience and it is as likely that we come away with a helpful hint - Usually to participate, or not, in a certain fair or to give a difficult artist or other awkward character a wide berth.
In all we come away from a fair like LAPADA with far more than sales and new clients. We make connections within the trade and renew old friendships, having conversations that lead to opportunities and ventures far beyond the week under canvas in Berkeley Square. A few years ago a casual conversation about London premises led to our discovery of Cecil Court and within a month we’d opened our gallery there!