Although different coronavirus restrictions are in place depending on the tier level of the region, most art and antiques businesses will be able to reopen to the public in time for Christmas shopping.
The government guidance lists businesses and venues that can be open in all three tiers such as “essential and non-essential retail, including indoor and outdoor markets and car boot sales”. However, the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) told ATG it is currently working on the detail of the policy for each tier and clarification with regard to fairs, markets and venues is expected this week.
In the meantime, organisers are getting ready for their events and reminding visitors to check their websites before setting off.
The easing of lockdown means Ed and Jennie Cruttenden, owners of Sunbury Antiques, can go ahead as planned with the market at Kempton Park Racecourse (in tier two) on December 8.
Ed said: “I doff my cap to the trade. Whatever they have been through, if dealers get knocked down they get up again. At the end of the last lockdown, the trade coming back to the fairs were phenomenal.
“We are very happy markets in December will go ahead and we are hugely excited about next year.”
As well as Kempton on December 8, Cruttenden is also in talks to see if another December date can be arranged at either Kempton or Sandown before Christmas.
IACF’s Newark event (tier three) is set to be held on December 10-11.
Eve Oliver, IACF’s marketing administrator, said: “We’re anticipating a busy antiques market – many people are looking forward to its return as they haven’t had one to attend.”
“New Christmas customers”
Indoor events, such as fairs in conference centres, may be able to go ahead subject to local restrictions and tier levels. In tiers one and two, public attendance at ‘business events’ can resume, but are limited to 50% capacity or 1000 people indoors, whichever is lower. However, indoor public gatherings such as ‘large business events’ are not allowed in tier three.
Worcestershire is in tier two, allowing B2B Events to hold its December 13 Malvern Flea at the Three Counties Showground with both inside and outside dealers. Organiser Helen Yourston said: “We are really pleased we will go ahead and we are looking forward to welcoming regulars and new Christmas customers.”
Auction houses will be able to hold viewings and have limited numbers inside their premises once more.
Many successfully held online-only auctions during lockdown and this is likely to continue. Helen Carless, chairman and managing director of Lawrences of Crewkerne and chairman of the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers, welcomed the news and said the firm will resume viewings in its premises. She added that the market was proving remarkably robust: “Our general sale (November 25) was only 6% unsold with an increased average lot price – despite nobody being able to view or bid in person.”
Art dealer Freya Mitton has been planning a Modern British art selling show in Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery which had been postponed in November. It is now rescheduled for January 9-23, 2021, as Bath is in tier two. Mitton said: “I am delighted that the show will now be able to go ahead. It feels like an optimistic way to start the New Year. In the meantime, business has been carrying on behind closed doors in a Covid-safe way.”
The new regulations mentioned above affect England only. Devolved nations of the UK have their own restrictions.