LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair is quite possibly the most glamorous antiques fair on earth. Set within the salubrious surroundings of Mayfair’s Berkeley Square, it showcase of exquisite, one-of-a-kind antiques and fine art attracts a discerning international crowd. Just five minutes walk from The Chesterfield Mayfair, the event is one of autumn’s cultural highlights. Here, Mieka Sywak, LAPADA Fair Director, explains the everlasting appeal of antiques and what she’s got her eye on at the fair this year.
Can you describe the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in 3 words?
Eclectic, exceptional, and British.
You started your career in contemporary design, what lead you to specialise in antique art?
While the start of my career was in contemporary and modern art and design, my education was rooted in the fine and decorative arts. Many of today’s contemporary designers look to the past for inspiration and quote previous generations of work. I find that when I consider contemporary design I cannot help but be drawn to earlier periods and wanting to learn more about the inspiration behind a piece whether it be the specific historical techniques or and materials used in its production. With an understanding of historic art, architecture, and design I feel it allows me to better appreciate contemporary work and to appreciate what is truly original and different.
For me the materials, craftsmanship and character of antiques cannot not be rivalled today and the more time I have to admire historic works of art and design, the more I marvel on their originality and how ground breaking they were at the time. I enjoy the V&A Museum and their way of juxtaposing exhibitions of historic importance with contemporary works so that we can better understand the whole spectrum of human creativity throughout the centuries.
Can you tell us your first experience of the fair?
The first year I joined the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair I remember welcoming a crowd of visitors in Berkeley Square into our new marquee. Seeing a crowd of visitors waiting to meet our exhibitors after a year’s work is so rewarding, especially with many of them coming to see specific works of art and exhibitors at the fair. Each year we look to attract new visitors, bring together diverse galleries and dealers, and to stage a beautiful exhibition for the public. To see a crowd gathering before we open helps to settle the nerves, and I love hearing about what visitors discover at the Fair.
Why is Berkeley Square such a great location for the fair?
There simply is no better location in the world today. I have looked into staging shows in other international cities and time and time again I find myself describing the unique ambiance of Mayfair and the beauty of Berkeley Square. We are so lucky to be in the centre of where art, business and fashion meet and to be surrounded by the world’s finest restaurants, hotels, private members’ clubs, and galleries. After ten years in Berkeley Square I have seen the area evolve and reinvent itself into a landmark location with a whole new generation of restaurants, shops and galleries emerging in and around Berkeley Square which I cannot help but think we had a part in encouraging.
What made you decide to partner with The Chesterfield Mayfair?
The Chesterfield Mayfair remains one of the finest hotels in Mayfair and London. From the exterior you know exactly where you are and are welcomed by a truly professional staff who go out of their way to make you feel relaxed and welcome. Most of our exhibitors and visitors stay at The Chesterfield and for them; it is their home away from home.
What are your best memories of the fair so far?
There are too many to count! I think the best are when a new visitor discovers the fair who would have never normally attended an art and antiques exhibition. I love to hear about what they saw and learned and their enthusiasm after speaking to our exhibitors.
Briefly describe a typical day for your during the fair?
There is absolutely no typical day during the fair. I always say that every fifteen minutes the entire atmosphere of the Fair changes depending on who is coming through the door. You can have torrential rain or a heat wave, then a wave of visitors arrives and like any performance the show goes on. I love to see our exhibitors interact with the public and to see smiles and relationships forming.
What pointers would you give those who are new to buying art and antiques?
I am a true impulse buyer. I always fall in love with something from a distance and then I am sold on the history and provenance of the piece. Satisfy your curiosity and ask as many questions as you want. There is no rush and the more you learn, I think the more you want to bring a work home with you. At LAPADA, each and every piece is vetted so you can rest assured knowing that authenticity is assured thanks to a specialist committee vetting everything on offer.
What would be your top recommendations for visitors to the fair this year?
Allow yourself to be surprised by what you are drawn to. I constantly observe visitors who come to the Fair to see one genre of work and who discover a whole new area of collecting. That is the beauty of staging a Fair with no specific dateline because we cover everything from antiquities to contemporary art. That leaves plenty of room for seeing something new and visualising it in a modern context. Lately I cannot keep myself away from the antique jewellery, ranging from Roman earrings to 1970s designs and this year the fair has it all. The need for people to adorn themselves is timeless and to see so much under one roof is a privilege.
Are there any antiques you think we should all be buying more of?
Everything! I am constantly learning how much history and craftsmanship this country is steeped in, and how much of it is reflected in its decorative arts. You can find beautiful samplers embroidered by young women in the 17th century, to furniture made by some of the world’s finest designers. The materials are unparalleled, often coming from across the world, and combined in one work of design.
There’s no excuse to brush up on your Old Masters as guests staying at The Chesterfield Mayfair during the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair will receive free passes to the event.
Image Credits: All images courtesy of LAPADA