For the first time since the early 1980s, folk art dealer Robert Young is not standing at a fair this calendar year. He has planned instead a blockbuster summer exhibition at his Battersea gallery.
Running from June 21-July 1 with an evening preview on June 20, the exhibition features 80 works of folk art at prices ranging from £1000- 25,000.
Think of the show’s title Because as answering the endless questions over the potential effectiveness of a gallery show in the age of online selling and fair appearances.
“There are increasingly fewer specialist antique dealerships with showrooms or gallery spaces in London and we feel that this year is the perfect time to do something a little different and special in our own space”, Young told ATG.
The title of the show might be succinct but the real reasons behind it are more complex. Most important to its genesis was the loss of the Masterpiece, London’s flagship summer fair, where Young had stood since its launch in 2010.
Before news of the cancellation broke, he had decided not to stand at his other annual event, the New York Winter Show in January, making this the first calendar year since 1982 that the firm will not appear at any fairs.
Stands to reason
Young regretted the scrapping of Masterpiece. However, he skipped a long mourning period in favour of an idea: a big summer show.
He and the rest of his team began planning quickly. On the dealer’s site are a list of reasons about how the idea gained momentum including: “Because… we haven’t held and exhibition here since well before Covid”, “because… it will coincide with the neighbouring Royal College of Art Degree Show”, “because… it is a wonderfully busy and exciting time of year in London”.
By the time the offer of a place at The Treasure House Fair – the Masterpiece successor launching this month – came just weeks after the cancellation it was too late. Young was committed to the exhibition.
Young is no stranger to gallery shows. For many years he had a major event every May, and he organised catalogues and displays for the first two editions of BADA Week, which runs in October.
Light on their feet
This show does not signal a complete shift in his way of doing business – he plans to be back in New York for The Winter Show next January, for example.
Nevertheless, the rapid switch from fair to gallery demonstrates just how light on its feet the trade can be.
For six days before the preview the premises will be shut down, cleared and then, like a stand at a fair, the front showrooms will be set up anew, treated as an installation. Filled with fresh stock, a catalogue will be produced alongside the show.
Some of the works on offer were acquired with an eye towards Masterpiece, but, Young says, “it gives us the opportunity to use much more exhibition space than we have at fairs and to receive people in our ‘home’ environment. Once we started exploring the idea, we felt there were so many positives.”