The Open Art Fair

The first edition of The Open Art Fair opened in March 2020 but closed after only two days.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

With space for around 75 exhibitors, the basic blueprint in terms of size and location matches the fair’s abortive inaugural 2020 edition and the BADA Fair it replaced.

Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry van der Hoorne remain at the helm, with BADA retaining a 20% stake. The trade association is also in charge of the vetting.

However, key differences are the dates, which set it a month later than previous stagings, and the length of the fair, now five rather than seven days.

The first Open Art Fair opened on the cusp of the first lockdown in 2020 and was closed after just two days. Since then Woodham-Smith says he has been in discussions with Cadogan Estates, which owns Duke of York Square, “pretty much constantly”.

A compromise on the length of the fair and the cost of the site were key to securing the space.

Woodham-Smith says: “It’s obviously more expensive than it was but not as much as I feared it would be.”


The cost for exhibitors will be £895 per square metre with a discount for BADA members and a further 10% off for those who stood in 2020. Those with both discounts will have 17% off, making the stand £743 per square metre.

At the last edition, BADA members were prevalent. Even so, organisers are keen to keep the ethos of an ‘open’ fair that welcomes items beyond those that would be found in a traditional antiques fair, without sacrificing quality.

“What happens with the fair will be a really interesting barometer of how the trade is going,” says Woodham-Smith. “Classic shop-based retail is in a seemingly terminal decline but face-to-face is still important. It has to be in a glamorous, uplifted environment, though, or the big bucks won’t come out.”

Woodham-Smith may have to win over some of those who were left significantly out of pocket when the fair closed in March 2020.

A series of legal cases ensued with disgruntled exhibitors seeking the return of their stand rental. In one case, a judge ruled that as the sevenday event had closed after two days, Silver Vaults dealers Peter Cameron and Linda Jackson were only liable for two-sevenths of their bill. They were awarded the refund and costs.

For years, the BADA Fair was just one of several high points in the London fairs calendar. In part due to the legacy of coronavi rus restrictions, few now remain.

Trade association LAPADA, which held a fair in Berkely Square in September for a number of years until 2019, is intending to return to fair organising next autumn.