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This Month: The Europe and UK columns from the Summer 2012/13 issue of Antiques and Collectables for Pleasure & Profit.

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Judith Dunn

The Euro Column
An update of European news from Judith Dunn

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Only the French could make the phrase "more of the same" sound as profound - or romantic - as that. Well, in May they voted for radical change. Six months later and they are still waiting.

Some of the handful of changes introduced by the new socialist government have had distinctly counter-productive effects. The new 75% supertax bracket for those earning over €1 million a year has already seen luxury brand LVMH boss Bernard Arnault apply for Belgian nationality. He will not be the only one, although at least the government has backtracked on its proposal to include works of art in the new wealth tax. That would have pulled the plug on many existing loans to museums and put a brake on the activities of dealers and auctioneers.

Still, it isn't all doom and morosité. Not yet. In spite of having lost their bid to London 2012, the French have taken full advantage of the Olympic feel-good factor and the Ivoire group's Clermont-Ferrand saleroom, Vassy-Jalenques, sold eight Olympic torches in Paris on 11 October. The Melbourne 1956 Summer Games torch sold for €6000 against an estimate of €4500 and the Innsbruck 1976 winter version made €8800 against an estimate of €3000. But the runaway winner was the 1968 Grenoble Winter Games torch, one of only 33, craftsman-made of japanned brass. With a mid-estimate of €35,000 it made €190,000.

Scraping the barrel?

Themed auction sales attract attention, sometimes headlines. Large auction houses don't usually have to try that hard, but one recent and particularly tenuous example was by Paris auction house PIASA. They had a sale 'turning the spotlight' on 20th century Parisian culture and, specifically, the contribution made by some of the Greek artists living there at the time. Given that Paris is Mecca to ambitious and struggling artists of all nationalities, which nationality might be next?

One more encouraging story emerging from Paris is that of Ludivine Lellouche. Not everyone can succeed with both an antiques shop and dépêt-vente (op shop) in the posh 7th arrondissement. Ludivine's parents were dealers and she was fascinated by the trade at an early age. She has explored many aspects - learning, teaching, creating therapy workshops, establishing links with auctioneers and the local authority, charming colleagues and initiating evening and seasonal events. In her shop she entertains 40-somethings, super-cultured and in search of original, unrestored items with impeccable provenance. It seems to be working, both for Ludivine and her clientèle. I'll try and pay her a visit next time I'm over there.

Two trade events resurrected

The last issue of ACPP mentioned likely developments on the trade fair scene in northern France. Here are the details. Erik and Valérie Przybylak of Organisation Haute-Vallée du Loir (OHVL) have been running a monthly 200-exhibitor trade event at Chartres Parc-Expo for years and have attracted a loyal following. They have always slotted that event into the day before Ouest-Arts enormous trade event nearby at Le Mans (1000+ stands). Piggybacking it, if you like. Now, in a major and entirely independent initiative, OHVL has recently resurrected the once vibrant trade events at Paris Le Bourget Airport Exhibition Centre and, way to the north, Lille's Grand Palais Exhibition Centre.

The once major international event at Paris Le Bourget bit the dust two years ago following a long series of organisers and a short spell of bad weather. Lille folded too, despite relocation to a purpose-built and more sympathetic exhibition centre in one of the suburbs. Has OHVL entered the big time - or bitten off more than it can chew? Time will tell. The first new Paris Le Bourget is in November. It falls on the day after Le Mans and will be on the way home for the majority of dealers heading home northwards - to UK, Germany and the Benelux countries.

Lille Grand Palais is a standalone event, differing from maybe half a dozen comparable events in France because of the very high proportion of Belgian and Dutch exhibitors - it's just over the border. One of the reasons it failed four years ago was that buyers were forced to park outside the venue in the streets, on the pavements and on the hard shoulders of the inner-city motorway. OHVL has done a deal with Lille, restructuring the event and freeing up on-site parking for buyers.

At the time of writing, Erik is contacting the Mayor of Lille, Martine Aubry (former leader of the French Socialist Party and passionate about her town) and is confident that her support will help restore the Lille déballage (literally "unloading") as a major commercial and cultural event.

The first of what should become a monthly event, as opposed to its two-monthly predecessor, is on 11 December. Again, watch this space...

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine
Ivor Hughes

The UK Column
An update of news on the UK scene from Ivor Hughes

The vintage and retro elements continue to gain pace on the UK antiques and collectables scene and the recent Battersea Fair (London) was a clear indication that the decorative element remains as strong as ever. Ivor Hughes visited the autumn event (2-7 October)

Battersea Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair started in 1985 and now runs three times a year at capacity. It does exactly what it says on the label, with over 140 top exhibitors from UK and Europe in the fields of antiques, decorative items and textiles. Battersea Evolution, the relatively small temporary exhibition building in Battersea Park (south bank of the River Thames) is not only full at every event, there is also a waiting list. Indeed, it was the expanding Decorative Fair that prompted the park authorities to start using a hard-sided structure instead of smaller marquees.

Strong competition for space at the showcase event, and the 38-strong Standards Committee, ensure that all exhibits are of the highest quality - whether decorative, antique, textile or a little of all three. The fact that it is the only UK event of this calibre able to run for six days, three times a year, is hard evidence that it is, and remains, extremely popular with private buyers, trade and interior designers.

October Battersea on the fourth day

Very visual. The efforts made by exhibitors to show their star exhibits in sympathetic settings made you see a lot of things quite differently, though whether they'd look quite the same in your living room is another matter.

Half way through the fair, on the Friday afternoon, was indeed busy. More often than usual I had to wait for enquiries and sales to be concluded before getting a chance to take snaps, although the biggest flurries of activity had apparently been a couple of days earlier. One US visitor had been buying the entire furnishings for her new home in affluent Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts while another, Rose Tarlow (a big name in US interior design), had also been very busy buying large pieces of antique furniture. Yet another had flown over by private jet - just the kind of overseas clients any fair seeks to attract. On-site shipper Simon Hall confirmed an unusually high number of consignments heading overseas and many named dealers reported their 'best ever' fair, with one (Drennan Edinburgh, furniture) selling more quickly than he was able to restock.

You get the picture, with no need for quotes or superlatives from Battersea's post-event press release. There are eight pages of it - eight pages of names and quotes from exhibitors, designers, dealers and big names from the performing arts including specific details of sales, clients and amounts. So, unlike the rather vague press releases sometimes issued elsewhere - "Several exhibitors reported strong sales" - this one had more than a ring of truth to it. Yes, the event was a runaway success.

Battersea Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair - or simply Battersea Fair or The Decorative Fair is next in Battersea Park 22-27 January 2013, 23-28 April 2013 and 1-6 October 2013. www.decorativefair.com.

Village fairs making a comeback?

It's early days yet, but at least five small antiques and collectables fairs have very recently sprung up within a twenty-five kilometre radius near me in Yorkshire (northern England) in Keighley (an old industrial town near Bradford City), Horsforth, Pool and Pudsey (villages near Leeds City) and one in the City of York itself. Two are resurrections of events long past and three are entirely new. In addition to those five, there's a new fleamarket in the grounds of an old Cistercian abbey near Leeds centre. Modestly priced pitches and admission, small numbers of exhibitors and, to be fair, exhibits more on the collectable side than the antique. But it's not just in these parts - more small events are popping up, nationwide, in adverts in the trade press. Who knows why? Perhaps overheads have driven another wave of dealers out of shops or centres. Perhaps fairs venues and organisers have become more realistic about pricing. Perhaps dealers and collectors have been missing the social side of things. The presence of the internet means that things will never return to the glory days of the nineties, but the small one-day event is definitely making a comeback.

Australia's Most Informative & Entertaining Antiques Magazine