Thursday, December 6, 2012

"Insufficient commitment" from the UK trade forces cancellation of leading antiques fair

LAPADA President Earl Howe and Judith Miller in happier times
The January 2013 edition of the National Fine Art and Antiques Fair, scheduled to take place at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham from 16-20 January, has been cancelled due to what the organisers, Clarion Events, describe as "insufficient commitment from the trade".

This is a major blow to Clarion and doubtless also something of an embarrassment to the London and Provincial Antique Dealers' Association (LAPADA) and the British Antique Dealers' Association (BADA), the two UK trade associations whose members make up the majority of the dealers who usually exhibit at the fair.

Meanwhile, over in Miami, the annual Art Basel Miami Beach contemporary art fair continues to attract the super-rich collectors, or what another collector/speculator, Adam Lindemann, has described as "scenesters, people who don’t even pretend they are remotely interested in art.”

According to The Art Newspaper, Mr Lindemann recently penned a stinging attack on contemporary art fairs, adding his voice to others at the top of the market who have been pouring scorn on the oligarchs and other philistine trophy-hunters attracted by the rising prices for high-end art.

Jeff Koons, Hanging Heart, 2006
But it's not as if Mr Lindemann hasn't himself pumped this market. In 2006, he bought Jeff Koons's Hanging Heart (right) from Larry Gagosian for $4 million only to 'flip' it at Sotheby's months later for $23 million, on which occasion Gagosian bought it back (see my report of that sale here).

Over the past twenty-five years the pattern hasn't changed. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Forbes recently reported that the fortunes of the three wealthiest people in America — Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Larry Ellison were up $7 billion, $7 billion and $8 billion, respectively, despite the three men's charitable donations. The art market mirrors that trend with the top of the market remaining strong and the middle squeezed.

So, back in the UK, if you were planning on a New Year trip to Birmingham for a little antiques shopping, you should adjust your calendar. Was the cancellation of the National Fine Art & Antiques Fair in part an issue of location, underscoring the 'north-south' divide? Are London-based LAPADA and BADA members reluctant to travel north? One can't see BADA members showing "insufficient commitment" to their own London-based fair on 13-19 March 2013. 

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