Major antiques fair turns up some real treasures

 

Items of historic and quirky interest are on show at the Fine Art and Antiques fair in London, writes Alanna Gallagher

The Summer Fair Olympia, Fine Art and Antiques is one of the highlights of the antique calendar and business is booming, thanks in part to its newfound accessibility.

"Dealers have begun to mix up the genres, says fair organiser Freya Simms. "Collectors are now purchasing for pleasure and like to mix styles. An early antiquity might be displayed on a modern Perspex table for instance."

Prices start from the affordable couple of hundred to a £1.75 million Renoir, shown by Dutch firm Wyermars Antiquairs.

Pelham Galleries' stand, inspired by Sir William Chamber's architecture, features a showstopping Kangxi period 12-fold lacquer screen and a pair of Bengali armchairs with three-dimensional carvings of tigers and other exotic animals.

Vanderven & Vanderven (0031 73 614 6251) have some rare Chinese ceramics: another show highlight of the show. The provenance of many of the pieces is exciting and even if you only plan to window shop, these experts offer a wealth of information.

Draw me close

Fashion illustration is increasingly collectible and still relatively accessible, price wise. More importantly it mixes well with modern art collections.

FIG (www.fashionillustrationgallery.com) sells original art work by artists who have worked as fashion illustrators.

The company is run by William Ling, husband of illustrator Tanya Ling.

Antonio is the designer credited with changing the genre from fusty to sexy with his fluid lines and new materials. His fashion best friends helped get him seen by the right people and included a roll-call of 1970s' and 1980s' A-listers.

For sale at the show is Bike Girls (£7,500), which was commissioned for British Vogue for its April 1968 edition is an early example of the man's talent.

The drawing, in crayon, uses watercolour and overlay film, which was painstakingly cut and placed, a now obsolete technique thanks to the introduction of Photoshop. It was, says gallery owner William Ling, a precursor to the digital age.

Precious metals

Silver continues to rise in popularity and price. Koopman Rare Art (0044 207 242 7624) is showing a large Victorian water vase, over one metre in height, made for Gavin, 1st Marquess of Breadalbane. It has a price tag of £1 million.

"The two Pauls, Storr and de Lamerie, continue to be incredibly collectible," says Koopman's Lewis Smith.

He maintains Irish silver remains bullish, although it is unrepresented at the stand.

Elsewhere, Finch and Co (0044 207 413 9937), whose antiquities, ethnographica and works of natural history include human skulls. This mid-17th century European cast-silver skull, Memento Mori, costs a mere £1,500, chicken feed compared to the £50 million price tag on Damien Hirst's diamond and platinum version.

Mini me

Miniatures are making a comeback, says Claudia Hill of Ellison Fine Art (0044 1494 678 880).

"They are a slice of history and a lot of collectors are trying to buy their family back. They are also beautiful to look at."

Dealers are as likely to use eBay as any other outlet to source pieces as is illustrated by Hill who bought Man with beaded frame from someone who didn't know its value on the auction site. Bidding started at about £400 and while Hill won't say how much it cost to secure the piece, it is now selling for a cool £6,500.The piece is by Philippe Jean, and features John Pit, the brother of English Prime Minister William Pit. Let the games begin

It seemed fitting that Olympia showed a significant amount of board and card games - given that London is hosting the 2012 Olympics.

While backgammon and tarot cards are becoming increasingly collectible, the favouite among exhibitors and the public alike was Pelham Galleries' 0044 207 629 0905) exceptional Jeu de Loto boards.

The set of 12 Italian late 18th-Century painted Jeu de Loto boards were painted with Roman Emperors, mythological subjects and details from Italian baroque paintings.

Each set of six panels is mounted on an ormolu rod on a fluted blue turquin marble pedestal above a square rouge griotte marble base. They once

belonged to Alphonse de Rothschild and cost £64,000 for the pair.

Bamboo

A secondary trend, but one worth remarking on, is the return to vogue of bamboo. Glaisher and Nash (0044 208 670 3241) feature a pair of George Third sofas, in lime-cordial green, with dainty bamboo legs (£52,000). The sofas are unusual in their early use of this material. Bamboo didn't come into vogue until about 1830.

Timepieces

Dutch-based Wijermars Antiquairs (0031 522 440 170) has already recieved a lot of press for the £1.75 million Renoir.

What caught my eye was its beautiful Art Nouveau, white marble longcase clock with lapis lazuli and gilt bronze attributed to Egide Rombaux. At 2.37m high, it has a white enamel dial with Arabic numerals and elaborately pierced gilded hands. It is signed EO Wehrle.

The gilded and malachite inlaid pendulum motion is set in front of the figure of Atropos, one of the three fates, in bas-relief.

Other symbolic features with reference to time are: the snake with his own tail in its mouth which is depicts eternity in Egypt; the bat at the left under the dial is the symbol of night and death and the oil lamp on the right is a symbol of day and life.

Mix and match

Among the variety of items on show at Partridge Fine Arts 0044 207 629 0834) is a fine example of classic British design.

"The pair of pyramid bookcases, black painted and parcel gilt, by John Fowler of Colefax & Fowler demonstrate the new way people are decorating," says Oscar Humphries,

of Partridge.

"People have changed the way they want their homes to look and feel. These 1950s' cases house a £0.25 million Sevres dining set, which illustrates perfectly the juxtaposition of styles we see now. It's about mixing up styles and eras." They cost £18,000.

Campaign trail

Campaign furniture is making a return to fashion. Christopher Clarke Antiques (0044 7971 287 732) specialises in military, campaign and travel furniture. The pieces are increasingly collectible, even if this early era Ikea seems ridiculously unportable.

A Butler four-poster bed, circa 1810, promised fatigued officers a good night's sleep after a long day at the battlefront, while a pair of green leather mahogany chairs by Dublin-based Ross & Co, circa 1870, are also of interest.

Several campaign pieces have been buoght by a Dublin interior designer to furnish the Cliff House Hotel, a new boutique premises that is due to open in Ardmore, Co Waterford.

Summer Fair Olympia, Fine Art and Antiques runs until June 17th