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London International Art Fair Successfully Relaunches with New Exhibitors
Hatchwell Antiques’ Stand at LIFAF Olympia. Photo: John Alex Maguire / Rex Features.

LONDON.- “The main aisle on the opening night of LIFAF was like a conveyor of celebrities and luxury!” exclaimed veteran Olympia exhibitor Gordon Watson (London).

Excitement filled the air for the re-launch of the London International Fine Art Fair (LIFAF) at Olympia. As the fair closed its eleven-day run June 13th, it had recorded 28,000 attendees – many of whom were first-time visitors – and strong sales for some exhibitors – many of which were to new clients. There was also uniform praise from dealers and visitors for the fair’s elegant new design and presentation in Olympia’s historic Grand Hall. The thousands who streamed in to LIFAF on opening day encountered a dazzling new fair design, which featured a spectacular entrance, new wall system, new fascia, and a new lighting system, all accented by luxurious and deep pile carpets.

In its 37th year, the revamped summer event – organised by International Fine Art Expositions (IFAE) founders David and Lee Ann Lester in partnership with Clarion Events – brought together 166 prestigious British and international exhibitors with collectors, curators, interior designers and trade buyers from more than 30 countries. LIFAF emerged as London’s largest and most established June fair, showcasing antiques, paintings of all periods, sculpture, furniture, modern design, jewellery, silver, textiles, books and objets d’art. Sales were reported by LIFAF dealers across a variety of disciplines, with a common theme being the development of new clients for both returning and first-time exhibitors.

A number of internationally known personalities made their way to Olympia, including Steven Berkoff, Sir Peter Blake, Julie Christie, Rupert Everett, Bryan Ferry, Olivia Harrison, Jeremy Irons, Sir Mick Jagger, Jemima Khan, Piers Morgan, Ivana Trump and Kanye West.

International businessmen and leaders of industry also perused the fair, including Lord David Alliance, JP McManus, Jonathan Newhouse, Crispin Odey, Emmanuel Perrin, Wilbur Ross, Jacob Rothschild, Sir David Tang and Galen Weston.

Representatives of Roman Abramovich made multiple purchases at the fair as well. Prominent designers, decorators and museum curators from around the world visited LIFAF throughout its eleven-day run.

First-time international dealers found success this year. “I was extremely happy to meet a number of sophisticated new clients who I couldn’t meet in Rome. LIFAF has developed a very good collector base in London,” said new exhibitor Paolo Antonacci (Rome), who reported sales of six paintings at the fair. United States rare book dealer 19th Century Shop (Stevenson, Maryland) reported the sale of the first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations from 1776 – priced at £110,000.

Having sold works by contemporary artists Clifford Rodd and Julian Schnabel, Marco Voena of Robilant + Voena (London and Milan) said, “I am pleased with LIFAF.”

London veteran Peter Petrou – recognised by LAPADA for his extraordinary stand - sold a monumental copper head of Buddha circa 1800, priced in the six figures. “This was an excellent show that you can build on – the level of clientele this year was much higher than in previous years. We sold to new clients throughout the fair – this year we had a greater number of buyers. We were especially pleased with the number of museum curators who visited. Financially, the fair was quite successful for us.”

Former Grosvenor House Antique Fair exhibitors found success at LIFAF this year. “I saw very many of my old regular Grosvenor House clients at LIFAF,” said William Weston (London). “Without exception, they acclaimed the new look and style of the Fair. ‘Very elegant’ and ‘very enjoyable to visit’ were frequent comments.

Personally, we had a successful fair with sales to both existing and new clients.” Adrian Mibus and An Jo Fermon of Whitford Fine Art (London), also former Grosvenor House Antique Fair veterans, commented, “Under the Lesters’ directorship, Olympia has risen to a new standard. Dealers appreciate their unparalleled drive. The elegant outlook, the overall quality of the participants, the new floor plan and the quality of the stand-building all drew positive reactions from the public. We ourselves had a successful fair.”

The new Collector’s Crescent section for smaller exhibitors was well-received by both dealers and visitors. Crescent dealer David Brooker (Woodbury) noted, “LIFAF was the best looking fair I have ever attended in over 180 fairs and 23 years. The show introduced us to new people from China, Russia, the UK, the US, France and Italy; and many bought. We sold six works to private clients and bought from other dealers, so business was done with both trade and private clients. The atmosphere in the Crescent was one of friends doing business together, either with new clients or old.”

Olympia veterans also reported excellent results. Mary Cooke (London), exhibitor at the fair since its inception, said, “We have exhibited at the Summer Olympia Fair since it began. This is the best trading fair we have ever had. The fair looked quite amazing and it’s been given a much needed re-design and boost. We sold to a number of new overseas buyers and sold our five best pieces within the first two hours of the fair opening. We sold good pieces each day and were very happy with the results.” Kaye Michie (Richmond) was also pleased with her results, “I did good business almost entirely with new customers. I sold seven pictures to a well known personality who I had not met before.”

LIFAF’s wide selection of furniture was a popular choice of buyers at Olympia. Moxham’s Antiques (Bradford-on-Avon) sold among other objects a patent dining/boardroom table priced over £30,000, a walnut marquetry chest of drawers priced over £20,000, and a set of eight Hepplewhite dining chairs priced at £15,000. A unique 19th century French bamboo side cabinet in the Brighton Pavilion manner priced at £12,500 was among the sales by Lennox Cato (Edenbridge). A chez lounge by Guillermo Ulrich, a 1950s lacquered wood bureau, a writing desk by Paolo Buffa and several other pieces of fine furniture were sold by Gordon Watson Ltd (London).

Furniture sales at Lucy Johnson (London) included a 17th century Spanish walnut cupboard from the Maiden’s Tower, Leeds Castle and a Swiss walnut drawleaf table also from the 1600s, both priced at £15,000. The dealer also sold from its stock of Modern British Pictures, including works by John Piper and John Tunnard, priced at £20,000. “Each day I spoke to informed and/or affluent people who were looking to buy. Half of my sales were to new clients,” said Johnson.

Ceramics were the star at Sylvia Powell Decorative Arts (London), which sold objects ranging from £500 to £30,000 by William De Morgan, the Martin Brothers, Jean Cocteau and Fornasetti. “We had a wonderfully successful fair selling to both old and new clients,” said Powell. Decorative objects were also offered at Geoffrey Stead (Banbury), which sold an early 17th century Florentine statue of Neptune priced at £17,000.

John Hamshere with Hamshere Gallery (London), which specialises in canine paintings and jewellery, noted, “We sold several good pieces at the fair - many to new clients.” The gallery sold two paintings to a new website client and handled requests for 30 dog paintings for a New York interior designer, two 18th century portraits for another American client, and the request of yet another new client who wants to fill a house with the gallery’s portraits.

Clocks from Richard Price (Dorset) found multiple buyers. “Throughout the fair, there were always people who showed an interest in our clocks,” said Price. “Fifteen of the sales were to new clients I met for the first time at the fair.”

Wimpole Antiques (London) sold an array of wearable jewellery throughout the fair, from fine Edwardian pieces to gold Etruscan revival jewellery. Among its sales was a fine art deco ruby ring, priced at £19,500. “As a veteran of 32 years at summer Olympia, I personally exceeded my sales expectations,” said Lynn Lindsay. “After sales are still happening.”

Other dealers reporting sales included Augustus Brandt, Geoffrey Breeze Antique Canes, Cohen & Cohen, Peter Finer, Greens of Cheltenham, Stephen Kalms Antiques, Pelham Galleries, Paul M. Peters Antiques, Unix Fine Art and Vanderven & Vanderven Oriental Art.

LIFAF featured an extensive programme of lectures, book signings and special events, a partnership with Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres and special exhibitions including the never before seen “Modern British Masters: Pictures from the Bryan Ferry Collection” and “Young Masters Revisited.”

London International Art Fair | Gordon Watson | Steven Berkoff | Sir Peter Blake | Julie Christie |

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