By Sallie Brady
It’s the second week of London’s June antiques fair season and every dealer in town is on the look-out for their most coveted shopper: Oprah! The monosyllabic megastar began frequenting the London in June antiquing season a couple of years ago, arranging to visit the Olympia Fine Art & Antiques Fair (see last week’s Letter from London), and Art Antiques London, which opens June 14, before they opened to the public.
Last year, Oprah arrived at the luxury marquee in Kensington Gardens that is Art Antiques London with her dogs in tow. She shopped while they enjoyed a walk in the park. Sitting under the shadow of the glittering Royal Albert Memorial, just across from the Royal Albert Hall, this fair is an intimate, elegant event that caters to everyone from the world’s top museum curators of ceramics–a fair specialty–to well-heeled Kensington types who arrive to browse and end up buying.
Welcoming, and not in the least bit stuffy, the fair is organized by London-based Brian and Anna Haughton, who for more than 20 years have staged the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in October in New York at the Park Avenue Armory. In London, they’ve curated a mix of 70 dealers of paintings, sculpture, drawings, antique furniture, silver, and Asian works of art. The jewelry offerings are particularly stunning, everything from rare Indian Mughal jewelry dripping with emeralds, rubies and pearls, sold by Samina; to impossibly chic one-of-a-kind vintage pieces made by the late London jeweller, Andrew Grima, who counted Jackie Onassis and Princess Margaret among his client list. His wife and daughter of the Grima gallery are showing here.
The fair also has a lecture program, with talks on ceramics by leading museum curators. Want to know what’s in the Queen’s cupboard? Jonathan Marsden, the keeper of the Royal Collection will tell you.
Art Antiques London is on through June 20, 2012; L15 admission.
Where to Stay: In some destinations, a solid budget hotel is ideal–you’re never in the room and all you need is a clean, safe, comfortable place to sleep. In others, like London, I can feel a little destinational-aspirational even if it means splashing out a few extra bob to have a retreat for a night, or two, that feels like my own little Kensington Palace apartment. Especially if it’s a chilly, rainy evening in the capital (yes, even in June) That’s the atmosphere at The Milestone, a Kensington Palace neighbor, by the way, consistently topping readers’ poll lists in both Conde Nast Traveler and Travel+Leisure., The boutique, red-brick hotel combines quintessential English style and decor with sincere service–and it’s literally across the street from Art Antiques London–no taxi fare. Let the raindrops fall, just put your feet up by the roaring fire in the salon, sip a glass of sherry, exhale, and live London.
A Good Night In: If I’m staying in a really lovely hotel, I want to enjoy it. Too often it’s a hurried check-in, appointments or touring all day, dinner out and next thing I know I am checking out, and I’ve only seen the lobby and the elevator. At The Milestone I like to tuck into the Egyptian cotton sheets with the Telly’s remote control and the room service menu. The hotel’s top selling item? Chicken noodle soup–made according to the hotel owner, Bea Tollman’s personal recipe. These days her chicken curry and chicken pot pie are also on the menu. If you find dinner tasty, Mrs. Tollman’s recent cookbook, A Life in Food, is sold at the hotel.
The Milestone, 1 Kensington Court; 011.44.20.7917.1000
Traveler’s Tip: While making the rounds at antiques fairs make it a point to sign a gallery’s guest book that’s often open on a table in a dealer’s booth. This time next year you just mind find complimentary fair tickets in the mail–a great excuse for a return trip toLondon.
Sallie Brady writes about travel and also covers the international art, antiques and design markets. A former editor at GQ, House Beautiful, This Old House, and travel editor at Bride’s, she contributes to Conde Nast Traveler, ForbesLife, Veranda, Art & Antiques, Business Traveler, 1stdibs.com, New York Spaces and has contributed to Esquire, The New York Times, Travel+Leisure.com, and other publications. Previously she was the New York correspondent for the inflight magazine for British Airways’ Concorde passengers.