uch has changed since 1934 when visitors paid a mere two shillings to visit The Grosvenor House Arta & Antiques Fair for the very first time. But, despite the test of time, the strong values and beliefs extolled all those years ago are still firmly adhered to today, and the Fair maintains its prominent position in the world of art and antiques for this very reason. The Fairs success is due to its commitment to the best dealers offering the most beautiful objects all strictly vetted for authenticity, in a magnificent setting reminiscent of a fine country house.
It was on the site of the old London residence of the Earls of Grosvenor, which had housed one of Englands finest private collections of art, that the first Fair was held and is still held to this day. Richard, the first Earl of Grosvenor, constructed the
Grosvenor Gallery at Grosvenor House to display his magnificent collection of paintings, including Gainsboroughs famed Blue Boy, and over two hundred and fifty years later, masterpieces (including Gainsboroughs) once again grace the walls of the Great Room at The Grosvenor House Fair.
In 1927, when Park Lane was still a narrow road on the edge of Hyde Park, the new Grosvenor House hotel was built on the site of the old Grosvenor House at a staggering cost of £1 million. The Grosvenor House hotel, in the heart of fashionable Mayfair, was selected as the perfect location by the Fairs creators, English dealers Alex G. Lewis and Cecil F. Turner, to realize their idea of an exhibition at which the exhibits would be for sale.
|Painting of the Great Room as a spectacular ice rink.
At the time the Great Room at Grosvenor House was a spectacular ice rink where extravagant society galas were held. The Park Lane Ice Club, often frequented by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, was the place to be seen in London, just as the Fair (in the same location) is today. To meet the changing needs of London society, the ice was boarded over in 1934 and the area was converted to become Europes largest ballroom. Located in the new Great Room, the first Fair was a bold move at the height of the Great Depression but proved a resounding success, running for three weeks in September, 1934 and opening from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day but Sunday.
At the first Fair there were 87 stands, exactly the same number as today. Christies held a sale on the balcony to aid the miners dependents, where a Chelsea plate went for a mere guinea and a Chippendale card table for eight guineas. Today, in stark contrast, some £300 million worth of art and antiques are offered for sale with prices ranging from as little as £200 to as much as a few million pounds each.
The Second World War caused the Fair to break for six years when the Great Room became the largest officers mess in the world and housed US forces. When the Fair resumed in 1947 the date was moved from September to June during the height of the London Season and so it remains, one of the highlights of the social calendar today, attracting the rich and famous from around the world particularly to its glittering Charity Gala Evening.
Evolving from solid traditions of excellence and innovation, part of the Fairs enduring appeal is due to its careful balance of fine tradition with gradual contemporization. Originally, 1830 (marking the end of the Georgian era) was adopted as the date line, and items created after this date were not permitted to be displayed. In 1994 the date line was removed and contemporary painting, sculpture, furniture and other works of art are now exhibited by leading dealers such as Waddington Galleries, who stand alongside exhibitors such as Hotspur and Spink, who have exhibited since the very first Fair in 1934.
In 1937, Queen Mary, mother-in-law to our present Queen Mother, a notable collector herself, accorded the Fair her patronage. She was a regular visitor, spending hours browsing and chatting to exhibitors and her interest in the Fair continued until her death in 1953. The following year, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, became the Royal Patron and remains so to this day. The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair is the only fair in the world to be honored with Royal Patronage a reflection of its high standards and international importance.
The Fair has had no less than twenty-seven Royal openings, and a distinctive feature of the Fair every year is the loan of treasures from the collections of Her Majesty The Queen, The Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family which are not ordinarily on public view.
International dealers were invited to exhibit at the Fair for the first time in 1990. In 2000, 15 of the 87 dealers are from overseas, reflecting the broad international appeal the Fair has gained. Visitors now attend from around the world, particularly from the United States, to see an increasingly diverse and international range of exhibits from Ancient Greece and Persia to modern China and Japan.
The Fair was launched under the name The Antique Dealers Fair and was so called until 1970 when it was changed to The Grosvenor House Antiques Fair. Since 1934, The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, as it was named in 1994, has prided itself on the strict vetting of its exhibits by an extensive panel of experts divided into different specialities and under the auspices of the British Antique Dealers Association. Setting the standard for all that is best in art and antiques, the Fairs international popularity can be attributed to the quality of these exhibits. Since 1934 art lovers of the world have been visiting The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, united by a love of that which is rare and beautiful.
The Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair will open to the public from June 14-20 at Le Méridien Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W1. For eight days at the height of the London Season, 86 leading international dealers will offer a stunning display over $450 million worth of fine art and antiques in the splendid setting of the Great Room.
The Fair has been honored by the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother since 1954, and to celebrate the new century Her Majesty has graciously agreed to loan her Robe of Estate, designed and embroidered by the Royal School of Needlework for the Coronation in May 1937.
The social highlight of the Fair will be the Charity Gala Evening on Thursday, June 15. This exclusive event allows international celebrities and guests the pleasure of viewing the works on show at the Fair while raising money for Barnardos, the UKs largest childrens charity.