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George Meets the Dragon

David Harvey looks forward to an Autumn Exhibition and speculates on the antiques trade


About half the visitors to both the fairs where I recently exhibited were under the age of forty – a most encouraging phenomenon

This has been an interesting autumn for the Fine Art and Antiques Trade.

The results from recent antiques fairs have been disappointing from the dealers’ point of view. At a time when articles abound claiming that young people are no longer interested in antiques, I have noted that about half the visitors to both the fairs where I recently exhibited were under the age of forty – a most encouraging phenomenon that overturns another myth! The highly prestigious annual LAPADA Fair in London’s Berkeley Square attracted over 17,000 visitors in five days, which was a spectacular turnout but disappointingly not as much business was achieved as in previous years. Nevertheless, there is hope that new generations of collectors are around the corner.

Was this the result of the Scottish referendum, with so many people being distracted? Or the slide in the stock market? The uncertainty of the Middle East situation? The failing of the Eurozone? The answer may well be all of these and a bunch of other reasons too, but it might just be that age-old reason – it is part of a cyclical trading pattern. If I go back to the 1970’s when Harvey’s had showrooms in Chalk Farm just north of Camden Town, my father remarked that we appeared to have a location problem as fewer people seemed to come through the door. To counter this I asked whether we might not hold a special exhibition to create interest, and so in 1978 we held our first in-house show to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Thomas Chippendale.

Thirty-six years on and our annual exhibitions continue to be very successful, covering a huge range of exhibitions specialising in different periods, timbers, designs, settings, purposes, makers and so on. Now is an opportunity to do something radical and different with this year’s show in November, so we have ‘East meets West’ with “George Meets The Dragon”. The exhibition will demonstrate how easy it is to place Chinese and English antiques in juxtaposition.

The English style of furnishing is unique for many reasons but most spectacularly because it has always encompassed pieces collected from all around the world. If you just see a map of the British Empire from the 19th century you will see why. Two thirds of the known world was owned or run by Great Britain and with such large numbers of Britons travelling throughout its Dominions, it is no wonder they acquired items along
the way.

Our autumn exhibition draws together fine English furniture with a range of stylish Chinese pieces. Illustrated is one of a pair of century Chinese yoke-back armchairs made from elm alongside an English Regency mahogany reading table. They really do go so well together! Indeed, when you look at the timeless shape of the central splat on this chair, it begs the question whether or not this was the inspiration for the late 17th and early 18th century splat back chairs made here in England.

The exhibition, where everything is for sale, will include a super range of freshly acquired English antiques along with Chinese cabinets, chests, tables, boxes and works of art mostly from Shanxi Province. Another of my favourites is a Brushpot with its very simple shape, but note the way it is just slightly waisted to give it that all important extra elegance.

During the three weeks of the exhibition at my Corn Street showrooms in Witney, Sharon Fitzsimmons, the renowned China expert, will give a series of lectures devoted to Chinese furniture and works of art, their history, culture and context. Mounting a show is a great occasion for catching up with regular clients and friends and saying thank you to them for their loyalty over the years. I hope readers will be able to drop by, enjoy the exhibition and say hello.

- David Harvey