The Times of London takes a look at the history of the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair:
Because of its location in the hotel’s Great Room, no more than 90 to 100 stands can ever be accommodated. Thus the fair can never expand into an international event on the scale of TEFAF at Maastricht or the Basel contemporary art fairs. Maastricht, launched modestly in 1975 by just over 30 picture dealers, has now grown into a vast and unrivalled market place, a spiritual descendant of the great medieval trade fairs in the Rhineland. By contrast Grosvenor House is a good size to represent the best that the national trade has to offer.
The organisers have taken the occasion of the anniversary to announce a change of direction, with new disciplines complementing the traditional strengths of furniture, silver and paintings. Other areas have been growing in importance for some time, among them antiquities. A star of this year’s cast is an impressive Egyptian bronze falcon, dating from the Late Dynastic Period, 664-332 BC, with Rupert Wace at £85,000. In 1965 it was sold from George Spencer-Churchill’s Northwick Park collection for £420.
In fact, though more noticeable this year, there has always been a turnover of exhibitors. Of 89 stands only 27 are occupied by firms present in 1998. However, at least one dealer who was not there then has returned since. Indeed Delomosne, specialists in antique glass, were at that very first fair. A photograph of their 1934 stand, with an article by Martin Mortimer who joined them in 1948, appears in this year’s handbook. As he says, then dealers took a “rag-bag selection” of their own display cases and cabinets, and laid out stands as if they were their shops. To a modern eye there was care, but less flair in the displays, and the lighting was cruel. Nowadays stand design, building and lighting is a not-so-little industry of its own.
Raucous Irresponsibility or Cloisteral Calm? (Times of London)