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The Arts and & Antiques Fair Olympia, is a key event in the global art and antiques calendar. As London’s original art and antiques fair it offers more choice and diversity of high quality vetted art, antiques, furniture, jewellery and collectors’ pieces than any other event in the British capital. 160 dealers will showcase over 55,000 items with prices ranging from £100 to £1 million and an eclecticism to cater to seasoned collectors, trade professionals and those looking to acquire beautiful and unusual items. Eden spoke to Mary Claire Boyd, Fair Director for over 20 years at The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia, about tips and advice on all things Art & Antiques world, who told us, ‘Be warned, buying art and antiques is an addiction but a very rewarding one that can often prove to be a savvy investment!’

1) Visit fairs for choice – fairs are a wonderful entry point with so much variety, which if you don’t yet know your taste is a perfect place to start. And don’t assume that just because they are elegant that the prices are all beyond your budget. It is very possible, even at the major London fairs like Olympia to buy unframed paintings for around £100. Looking at the more important and expensive works will begin to train your eye to understand what a really good work is. If a dealer has had the piece for some time and is keen to sell it you may get a lower price but be aware that if it is new stock that is well priced already, there may be no room for negotiation.  Buy the best you can afford and you will never regret it.

2) Vetted fairs or dealers who are members of the key associations will provide assurance – For anyone, making their first purchase is daunting and fraught with doubt, but there are things you can do to protect yourself. The art and antiques world has two key trade associations, BADA and LAPADA. Buying from someone who is a member of one of one of these will greatly reduce your chance of buying a fake. Similarly, major London fairs have a strict ‘vetting’ policy to help visitors. This means that before the fair opens to the public, a team of over 100 experts have checked every single piece to check that is genuine and of sound quality.

3) Consult with dealers for knowledge of their subject and build up relationships for future buying and selling – Don’t be intimidated by dealer’s knowledge, learn from it, use it. They have probably been studying their area for over 20 years and are happy to talk about the history of a work and why it is special. This will help you understand the price. Pricing can see mysterious as every piece is unique so has to be priced as such but it will be affected by rarity, materials (oils paintings are more valuable than prints), craftsmanship and, like so many other things, current taste and fashion.

4) Dealers to help fit into room with their interior design skills – Just from an interiors view point a room without any paintings on the walls looks incomplete and lacks soul. Interior designers know this and are often found shopping for clients at Olympia. They know that just one piece of antique furniture, even in a very modern setting will make a space. You can always ask a dealer if you can take a piece on spec to see if it fits into a space. Many good furniture dealers are also interior designers and brilliant at placing the right piece in the right place. Think laterally as well, sometimes a textile on a wall can give a room lovely warmth and texture.

5) Mix old with new – see interior magazines for how to do this but remember that smaller items or one off pieces are easier to work into decorative schemes. Think interesting pieces of furniture, one off items like odd chairs and occasional tables, or decorative objects and works of art.

6) Find out how to look after antique furniture – use websites such as BADA (The British Antique Dealers’ Association) and speak to dealers and experts at fairs and in antique shops

7) Any paperwork or provenance will help with value – Most experts encourage a little research before you head off to help the experience although one of the advantages of buying from dealers rather than at auction is tapping into the incredible depth of knowledge. Visiting fairs can be an educational experience as well as a retail one.

8) Use antique furniture for working on (desks), storing things (chests, bookcases), it is functional not just decorative, it is important to remember that antiques are skilfully made and so beautiful, no match for the mass produced items of today but both have the place in modern society and in our homes as more people mix and match.

9) Remember antique furniture can be repaired and last for many generations in a way which much high street furniture cannot.

10) It is a fantastic time to buy antique furniture – Buy from people you trust and do your research – Word of mouth is one of the best sources when buying antique furniture. Speak with friends and family members who may have recently bought pieces and see who they bought from and their opinion on them.   Also get an experts opinion if you want to feel more comfortable buying, it certainly helps to choose a fair or exhibition that provides vigorous vetting of all stock before opening. The top art fairs all do this including The Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia which returns in June.  Many dealers will let you try a picture or a piece of furniture in your house before committing.

June 30, 2016

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