ATG's news story on the sale of the BADA fair.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

My travels have always coincided with the major high-end antique fairs, with BADA and LAPADA being my favorites. The new owners have stated that they plan to broaden and “improve” the show with the inclusion of more overseas dealers, non-BADA members, and dealers in contemporary art.

Unless a larger venue is secured, my fear is that within a few years this will become just another pretentious art fair, to the detriment of dealers in traditional antiques. Without a significantly larger space, I’m guessing that a number of the antiques dealers will be forced out and replaced by purveyors of modern and contemporary art.

If that happens I will likely (but regrettably) end up eliminating the March trip to London from my calendar.

Rex Stark

Gardner, Massachusetts, USA

New owner replies...

We invited new co-owner of the fair Thomas Woodham Smith to reply:

MADAM – It is excellent that you have received this letter as a general sense of nervousness and misunderstanding has been whistling around the trade.

The venerable and highly-regarded BADA Fair has many loyal followers and exhibitors. Over the last few years however fewer and fewer members have signed up to exhibit. In turn the visitor numbers have dropped. The fair was faced with an intractable problem, if the members won’t exhibit what can they do. In short, the debate raged about whether to change or close. The BADA Council decided to protect exhibiting members’ interests by selling the fair while retaining influence and negotiating a substantial discount for those exhibiting members.

For the fair to have a future it has to broaden. Most buyers today want variety and choice and they require a pleasant and entertaining environment. There are specialist collectors but most people simply want to furnish their homes. We bought the fair because we love it and want to cherish it but by doing so we must irrevocably alter it.

There is an old adage that you cannot step into the same river twice. At the same time people say you need to change something completely in order to keep it the same.

These two maxims guide us and while we don’t want to lose your letter writer as a visitor they do need to appreciate the realities of modern dealing.

We are building a fair for everyone who wants to come and anyone who wants to exhibit. We have every intention of nurturing our existing roster of antiques dealers while encouraging other disciplines like antiquities, photography contemporary art and others. We have no intention of excluding anyone who can be vetted by the scrupulous eyes of the BADA vetters.

Maybe all of this will make us a ‘pretentious’ fair. But if so it will be for the best of reasons.