Grosvenor House fair scrapped after 75 years: dealers react

The Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair, London’s grandest and most traditional art fair, is closing down after 75 years. The surprise announcement came less than two weeks after this year’s fair (11-17 June), which was heralded as a success despite the difficult financial circumstances.

“This is an iconic loss—it was the London art world’s Wimbledon,” historical portrait specialist Philip Mould told The Art Newspaper. “A week ago we were being encouraged to fill in our forms for next year, and now we’re told it’s not happening again.”

The official reason given for the decision was that the fair was “no longer financially viable”. The fair is owned by the hotel, part of the Marriott group, and it is understood that tying up the Great Room for three weeks at the height of the summer season—when functions at a prestige address on Park Lane command premium prices—is not sufficiently profitable.

However, many in the trade feel the Grosvenor House fair had become old-fashioned over the years, and was trapped in a venue that was far from ideal.

“That location was a bummer—very claustrophobic, dark and gloomy,” said dealer Christopher Kingzett, of Agnew’s. “What we need in London is a proper, Maastricht-style fair, and this could be the catalyst to produce it. After all, we still have the greatest concentration of dealers in the world.”

Mr Kingzett echoed the sentiments of the statement released by the Grosvenor fair’s organisers – that there was now an opportunity for the trade to mount a “new event commensurate with maintaining London as the centre of the art market”.

Whether it will be a new event—possibly modelled on Tefaf at Maastricht, which is owned by its exhibitors, so profits can be ploughed back into improving the fair—is not yet clear. Meanwhile, Florida-based fair organisers David and Lee Ann Lester are expected to announce a link-up with the rival Olympia Art and Antiques Fair following talks at this summer’s event (5-14 June).

Although the demise of the Grosvenor House fair was a surprise, it had already been weakened this year by the closure of three traditional furniture dealers, including Norman Adams, and by the defection of a group of important old master dealers, led by Konrad Bernheimer of Colnaghi and Johnny van Haeften. They have launched their own summer event, London Master Paintings Week, 4-10 July, with 23 dealers taking part.

The Grosvenor House fair was founded in 1934 by a group of dealers anxious to stimulate trade at the height of the Great Depression.

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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