Buzz buzz buzz.
The fairs are in full swing in London, The Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair opens on the 18th June and Masterpiece opens a few days later on the 24th. Like industrious worker bees everyone is madly working away. Each dealer has a few precious clients akin to the Queen Bees all the drones strive for. Or so I imagine the clients. The metaphor continues as the old regular clients/queen bees have to be attended to with care and love but every season a new client/queen takes off and some of the workers leave while some stay loyally with the old queen.
A swarm of Bees in Sussex - a metaphor for the trade ( image writer's own )
We drones - the dealers - gather our belongings together hoping to please both our existing clients and tempt new ones. To achieve this we exhibit at these fairs.
But it is the lead up to the show that excites almost as much as the fair itself. This year I am exhibiting at Olympia. As a dealer I am too junior to exhibit on the grand stage of Masterpiece, even though I founded it. My offerings are quite humble - though, of course, fabulous. I have taken a large stand and everything, over 200 lots, has to be made ready.
To our clients we may act as drones but we are the queens to our restorers and helpers. At Hatfields restoration in South London they crack the whip on upholsterers, electricians, metalworkers, cabinetmakers, polishers, framers and glass workers. All work feverishly to get things ready. Decisions are made hourly about a particular finish or button or repair. The hive is throbbing. What is so intoxicating about this phase is how much everyone cares beyond the requirement of mere work. The man who specializes in wiring antique light fixings sits hunched over a chandelier, he is big man - keen on rugby - or so says his t-shirt. His large sausagey fingers are fighting to wire on the last glass drops. Jerry also a large man whose hands never lose a polychromy of polish and wood stain sweats over an Art Deco chest to engender the right richness of tone. Phil who looks like a young Edward VII with a full beard, works hard to get the perfect match for a piece of missing veneer. These are but a few of those who really want to do the best they can.
Mirrors waiting in turn patiently, ( image writer's own )
But that is not all, I have three artists with whom I am working who are spraying, nailing, bending and wiring. Here I am uncertain who is the queen and who is the drone. But for Ben who is an immaculate fair haired ultra technician who is fashioning from wire a lion's head for me at Olympia or Marcus the bespectacled Caractacus Potts of art electrics who from NY is twisting copper into flowers or Simon who is adjusting from his Somerset studio, sweeping his long grey hair from his eyes, his video piece of a breathing rock. I am buzzing around them or vice versa?
In a Dunkirk spirit all manner of vehicles convey precious cargo to temporary homes in tents and buildings around town. The vans gather and young men without bad backs load and sweat, load and sweat. Jamie with his head of curly black hair carries a marble top under one arm. I struggle to move it. Orlando, sweat beading from his brow and his armpit carries a vast sofa on his head. We then spend days planning and executing our stand display. Drills and hammers sing their traditional summer songs as this is enacted. Picture hanging with tremendous care and furniture moved one half inch to the left or right. Then comes vetting, figures academically and jealously hunch over everything to dispute and proclaim on the legitimacy of every morsel. This is followed by fevered rearrangement and then readiness for the public.
A exhibition stand in play, ( image writer's own )
Preview day at Masterpiece is a lavish affair beginning with coffee and cakes and ending with champagne and canapés. Olympia has no such delights. But both days are well attended with enthusiasts, buyers and trade hangers on. The principle that Masterpiece is for the great and very valuable and Olympia is more reasonably priced and less serious is definitely most peoples understanding. As the days pass we will see who comes from our home shores, from America and from Europe. Hopefully all visitors will find delights to tempt them at every level of collecting.
The Internet crackles with gallery openings and invitations to the fairs. Lists of delightful and hopefully tempting treasures pop into the inbox or flop through the letterbox.
This is London in June. It is an amazing month. Buzz, Buzz, Buzz