Mary Claire Boyd, - Fair Director for over 20 years at The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia -shares her first-time buyers’ guide to antiques.
How to buy, focusing on negotiating, how to tell if it’s a genuine article and the importance of vetting.
The art and antiques world can certainly seem mysterious to those outside it but it is a wonderful world to enter and can provide a lifetime of passion and learning. You can visit every major fair and exhibition and check all the auction results or dip in and out when your time allows.
Art and antiques 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 and beautiful 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.
Just from an interiors viewpoint 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 sing. 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.
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 seem 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.
As well as the large variety of dealers present, The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia will boast an impressive line-up of speakers bringing together an exceptional selection of interior designers alongside insightful talks by leading museums including Tate Britain and the British Museum.
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.
Your taste will evolve, but be warned, buying art and antiques is an addiction but a very rewarding one that can often prove to be a savvy investment. In terms of price, if the 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.
Celebrating its 45th edition The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia is taking place in London from 26 June – 2 July 2017. It is a key event in the global art and antiques calendar and plays host to a vast array of items from antiquity to the present day. 160 dealers will showcase over 55,000 quality pieces with prices ranging from £100 to £1million. A wide range of disciplines feature including furniture, clocks, ceramics and glass, jewellery, textiles, sculpture and art. Each object will be individually vetted by independent experts, providing peace of mind for any buyer – whether a first-time visitor or a regular returnee.