The delight of a "VIP" invitation is always welcome, and armed with mine, courtesy of a generous Melbourne-based dealer, I made my way with great anticipation, to the 2015 Melbourne Antiques Fair (7 to 10 May), held at the world heritage classified Royal Exhibition Buildings in the Carlton Gardens.
I have always enjoyed an art fair: the nervous but excited enthusiasm of the vendors, the thrill of the buyers with their new acquisition, the 'dressed' booths displaying presumably the best on offer, and the breadth of choice, all making for an enjoyable and leisurely exercise. So it was with a tad disappointment that this year's fair experience was a little lacklustre.
Certainly our welcome was most congenial: a representative from the Antique Collectors Club engaged us almost immediately upon our arrival, with his polite introduction to the club. With the obligatory acceptance of pamphlets, we proceeded to the main hall, having passed through a rather surprising and too large area devoted to the café. The latter made sense upon taking in the long and narrow rectangular floor plan, which comprised the 33 exhibitors.
Challenging enough is the cavernous space that is the Royal Exhibition Buildings, but the uniformed black material (?) backdrop to each booth, uneven signage, and at times a rather ad hoc manner of display (particularly with regard to the "fine art" exhibits), meant the anticipated 'showcase' of a "fully vetted" fair was not apparent, at least in terms of presentation. Which is not to suggest there was anything 'problematic' about the pieces themselves: clearly, there were indeed some gems.
Anton Venoir Interiors presented some extraordinary pieces, most notably an expansive 17th century Royal Aubusson tapestry by Isaac Moillon (1614-1674) depicting "The Banquet of Dido and Aeneas" (286 x 375cm) retailing at $65,000.
Walter & Co included some charming 2-D works amongst the collection of 18th and 19th century English and Australian furniture: a 19th century Indian portrait of a maharaja and his son in its original gilt frame caught my eye immediately, and at just under $3000 was good buying.
Miles Davis-Kielar, a young and utterly charming dealer (only 21 years according to his website!), was perhaps the most friendly of exhibitors, only too obliging to allow my numerous IPhone snaps and terribly forthcoming on information regarding his wares.
If only this type of 'youthful' enthusiasm had permeated the fair itself.
17th century Royal Aubusson tapestry by Isaac Moillon (1614-1674) depicting "The Banquet of Dido and Aeneas