Last week the UK followed other European countries as it went into lockdown. Retail spaces, galleries and museums were added to the list of businesses closed after government guidance, meaning for many traders a complete change in the way business is done, from the closure of their shop to the cessation of in-person transactions and valuations.
The economic ramifications of these changes for dealers are unquantifiable and daunting. Yet when dealers spoke to ATG last week, many showed a cheerful Blitz-spirited determination as they sought to promote stock and continue trading in a changed world.
With indoor and outdoor markets also on the authorities’ list of closures, the trickle of fairs being cancelled or postponed turned into a deluge. By then The Open Art Fair (TOAF) in London, which had initially gone ahead despite around 20 exhibitors withdrawing in the lead-up, had already closed after just two days.
TOAF took to the internet, promoting a virtual version of the event. Director and creator of TOAF Thomas Woodham-Smith said in a statement: “We are all in the virtual age. TOAF was always planning to provide a virtual tour as a service to our exhibitors… If a dealer chooses he can contact a client, and they can remotely walk round the fair together, achieving intimacy across continents.”
Other fairs announced their own virtual visiting system. The London Original Print Fair, for example, which takes place annually at the Royal Academy, will replace its physical staging with fair highlights available on its website from May 1.
Meanwhile, Sunbury Antiques Market has offered its exhibitors the chance to showcase items of stock through its new Meet the Traders initiative. Traders are invited to submit items for feature on Sunbury’s social media with links back to the dealers’ pages.
Dealers who had planned physical exhibitions have moved them online. Among them are Jenna Burlingham with a John Hitchens show and Osborne Samuel with its upcoming Nash & Nevinson: Impressions of War and Peace.
Pace Gallery has expanded its online viewing room and has published a series of solo exhibitions including one on Saul Steinberg and group show on stillness.
British picture dealership Abbott and Holder notified clients of its new approach as it temporarily shut its premises. It will now produce two monthly ‘List’ emails of new stock, each containing 51 works.
Hemswell Antique Centres near Gainsborough, which has around 50 staff and 350 dealers, publicised some of the steps it is taking to continue running online as its doors shut, including freezing all rents for at least two months from April 1. Managing director Robert Miller said that the online business would go on as usual “uploading stock to the website and then remotely assisting with enquiries, sales and deliveries which will be dealt with when able”.
Decorative antiques showrooms Lorfords announced that it would start running daily videos of different parts of its various premises as well increased presence on Instagram. Purchases made during this period of uncertainty are eligible for free storage.
Also opting for daily videos is London dealer Philip Mould, who started last week a series of daily livestreams dubbed Art in Isolation during which he walks viewers through different elements of the personal collection stored at his Oxfordshire estate, Duck End.
For silver dealer Robert Nevin, who does the bulk of his selling on Instagram, his usual transaction style may not have changed, but house visits for valuations have. He is among the dealers now offering valuations via Skype and FaceTime.
Here at ATG we wanted to find the best way to support dealers at this time and decided to offer them the opportunity to showcase – for free – one item of their stock that our readers could view online and purchase. We approached dealers directly and encouraged major trade associations to contact their members.
We had expected to receive enough responses to fill two pages but as the emails kept coming and quickly surpassed 200 it was clear we had hit the nail on the head.
In the pages that follow, we display 40 of the items submitted to us that demonstrate the sheer variety of objects that can be found on dealers’ websites: from high-value masterpieces to tiny treasures, and across every collecting field.
Buyers will know that every dealer does business differently – some objects can be purchased directly through an online store; others can be viewed as part of a catalogue listing while an actual purchase will be conducted offline.
Next week we will feature another selection. We encourage our readers to explore the range of items on offer and contact the dealers directly.
They will be delighted to share their expertise and passion for great art and wonderful antiques – and even more delighted if a transaction should ensue.
An optimistic Guy
Guy Peppiatt is among those reporting good news, despite having to call off his exhibition of British Portraiture and Figure Drawings.
“The catalogue came from the printers the day of Boris’ ‘stay at home’ announcement and I debated whether to send it out or whether to delay the whole exhibition for a few months,” he told ATG. Works include Joshua Cristall’s A Girl Seated by a River (1824), which is available for £5500.
Peppiatt added: “I think clients stuck at home have enjoyed having some reading matter and I’m delighted to have sold 14 drawings from it. It has made me much more optimistic about the next few months.”
Send us your objects
The pages that follow represent the first in a series planned for the coming weeks. Dealers are encouraged to send an item of stock available online for consideration. Submissions should include a high-resolution image of the piece along with a caption, price and web address where the item can be viewed. Objects are welcome at any price point.