Set a budget, buy early. It is classic advice for fair visitors and Christmas shoppers alike and very relevant for the Winter Art & Antiques Fair at Olympia (October 29- November 4).
This year the event runs over the gallery level of Olympia with the simultaneous Spirit of Christmas Fair running below it at ground level.
Many of the items on offer are pitched to attract experienced buyers with a lot of spending power.
However, the new format has been purposefully organised to encourage crossover and bring new visitors to the antiques event.
For these visitors, searching for a different kind of Yuletide gift may be the perfect way in to a new kind of buying – and dealers in everything from fine art to furniture are ready to receive them. “It may be early but people will definitely use the opportunity to shop for the festive holidays,” says silver dealer Stephen Kalms, who suggests going for pieces that enhance a home and are both functional and attractive.
His selection includes enamel boxes, tableware and drinking vessels available at a range of price points. Though, like all the exhibitors at the fair, he will stock high-value items, he adds that “I like to have things on the stand that are affordable and can be good-quality gifts.”
One advantage of buying a gift at a fair rather than online is the chance to get guidance from the dealers, who are typically happy to guide shoppers who come with a field in mind (silver, glass, ceramic, and so on), but not a specific object. And, Kalms adds, they are happy to have an object brought back for exchange – all the better if it means meeting a new client.
Generally, he observes that objects with simple patterns and straight lines – think Art Deco or modern works – are on-trend.
Enduring brands can also attract gift-givers. Timewise includes a number of Cartier pieces among a wide selection of vintage watches and Anthea AG brings a selection of jewellery, including unusual pieces by Hermès. Items at both stands tend to start at four figures so are likely to be for buyers with big budgets.
Christmas shopping can also be a chance to prepare the home for an influx of visitors.
“Armchairs for desks or side tables for hallways are at a good level to buy right now as they are fairly inexpensive,” says Nick Arkell of Walton House Antiques. “When people come for the holidays it is great to have something different in the guest room, and when you can have an amazing chest of drawers for around £1000, that’s a wonderful option.”
He adds that versatile objects, such as leaf tables, are popular as they can be folded down into unobtrusive pieces during most of the year and open out for large family dinners.
With 70 exhibitors signed up to the fully booked Winter Olympia, there is a lot to choose from and many feel that their stock will have a natural appeal to a younger generation of buyer.
“Part of ‘being green’ in this world means buying antique rather than new furniture,” Arkell says. “Antiques are more exciting than just another modern piece – plus you’re saving the planet.”
And working with a dealer can mean building a relationship that lasts over many years and for different purposes from decorating to collecting. Antiques, after all, are not just for Christmas.