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I am feeling proud; I attended my first Antiques Fair and survived. However, I am also a little ashamed; how, as an Art History student, have I never attended an Antiques Fair before? In my defence, they don’t make it easy, but let’s not point the finger too soon.

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This year the Irish Antique Dealers Association held it’s 48th Annual Antiques Fair in the Royal Dublin Society. The Fair commenced with a Charity Preview Night in honour of the Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation, a fantastic charity that provides direct funding to families of children with severe brain damage who suffer from delayed physical and intellectual development, allowing them to avail of home respite care. The Jack & Jill ladies were omnipresent in their bright orange t-shirts, collecting for the charity. Over the whole weekend, a total of €2,000 was raised. Some entertaining speeches were given by the President of the IADA, George Stacpoole, and Senator Fergal Quinn whereby the former lamented the negative repercussions of the Endangered Species Act, droite de suite (Artist’s Resale Right) and those troublesome Auction Houses for Antique Dealers.

A VISUAL RESPITE

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Of course, refreshments were provided to aid us in our wandering and assessing – Lily O’Brien Chocolates and wine? Yes please! The first thing that struck me was how quiet it was. I had always imagined Antique Fairs to be a bustling hub of socialising and treasure trove hunting, but alas, the bustling seemed a little subdued this year. I was not alone in my assessment; many a comment I heard directly and indirectly proclaimed the same view.

Despite this, the Fair had an interesting array of stands for viewing. I was delighted and intrigued to see quite a few contemporary designers and art galleries hidden amongst the mounds of mahogany and china. The juxtaposition of old and new allowed for a lovely cross over of aesthetics and interests. As Niall Mullen, both an organiser and one of the younger participants of the Fair, pointed out, the event was more about representing ‘interiors’. This year, it strove to find a balance between the more antiquated styles and the new generation of designers and dealers that are emerging, such as Peter Johnson Interiors, Zelouf+Bell and Dunleavy Bespoke. Similarly, stands by Sol Art Gallery, Jorgenson Fine Art Gallery and the Whitely Gallery offered visual respite from the high number of antique prints, maps and gilded frames.

INFORMATION AND CONFIDENCE

antique antics 3antique antics 4There were a number of talks, lectures and launches that added an academic edge to the fair. A particular favourite of mine, was a lecture by Sara Donaldson on ‘Exploring Jewels and Jewellery in Painting’. The slides of Renaissance and Elizabethan portraiture pulled on my art historic heartstrings, aided by the presence of an old Trinity classmate. The lecture translated over to the

beautiful collection of jewellery on display. I fell in love with a stunning bracelet made of tiny natural Victorian era sea-pearls that had been restrung and completed with a Georgian clasp of gold, blue enamel and pearl that Courtville Antiques were kind enough to let me try on. Needless to say, I didn’t look at the price tag – sometimes it is better just not knowing. The launch of the book, ‘Franz S. Haselbeck’s Ireland – Selected
Photographs’ added another string to the Fair’s bow. Compiled by granddaughter Patrica Haselbeck Flynn, the book of glass plate images was accompanied by a striking exhibition of his photographs.

PARTICIPATION AND INTEREST

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As two of the younger guests of the Antique Fair, my friend and I certainly brought the average age bracket down by at least 20 years.

Nevertheless, we were welcomed by many of the dealers. The Irish Georgian society were the first to the post with their promotion of their €15 student membership, while others encouraged our participation and interest in their collections. We swanned around with our wine, filling our imaginary house with a delightful mix of old and new – ‘yes, I do think that painting by Katarzyna Gajewska would offset that pair of early nineteenth century Italian marble-topped tables’. As we wandered around playing make believe, I noticed how many smaller pieces were set at somewhat affordable prices. Perhaps not for the student who is trying to make rent while studying full time, but for the first-time earners there was a wealth of items under the €300-€500 mark. A Victorian School House Bell from Yeats Country Antiques and a collection of nineteenth century tea bins from the Store Yard stood out. The Store Yard must be commended on their fantastic collection for which they were awarded ‘Best Stand’ by Mark Hill of the ‘Antiques Roadshow’.

LET’S POINT THE FINGER

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I believe this younger market of potential collectors could definitely be tapped into, especially through the use of social media or ‘freezines’ such as dublin.lecool.com, Totally Dublin and AAD. Confidence in the market has been lost and, with a growing emphasis on contemporary aestheticism, antiques are in danger of becoming antiquated, if they haven’t already done so. The up and coming generations are what will save antiques. An interest in object from a slower and more labour intensive design period exists amongst the young, yet we lack access to information and confidence to go out and get it. The world of Antiques does seem to be becoming aware of this, but more could be done to get the message out to people that it is not all big buys, tweed jackets and pearls.

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