As new owners of The Chelsea Antiques Fair, 2Covet aims to continue connecting discerning antique collectors, interior designers and art enthusiasts with the best dealers in the world.
With a passion for art and antiques at the core of 2Covet, we hope The Chelsea Antiques Fair can become a trusted place for antiquarians to explore within the traditional fair model, reinforced by the foundations of the 2Covet online marketplace.
Having organised 65 Chelsea fairs, previous owner Caroline Penman has now passed the baton to 2Covet, who will continue to support the antiques trade whilst maintaining the longstanding tradition of the antique fair.
Continue the story with us in 2021, for the first Chelsea Antiques Fair in partnership with 2Covet.
In 1950, the chief Librarian, Mrs Schultz, in Chelsea Old Town Hall was tasked with organising an antiques fair, as antiques were quite in fashion in London. This she did, for one year, then passed the Fair onto a “commercial contractor”. This was Josephine Graham Ballin and her husband Donald who were antique dealers with a shop in St Albans. The Fair business was named Antique Dealers (Exhibitors and Organisers) Limited. They started the “First” Fair in Aug/September 1951 with Irene Worth as the opener. It ran for 15 days. There were 26 exhibitors, including Ian Askew, Richard Ogden, Alexander Podd, Geoffrey Van.
By 1955 the Fair ran for 11 days (but closed on Sunday) and included 39 exhibitors, adding in the Small Hall instead of Chenil Galleries. Fresh exhibitors of note: Beauchamp Gallery, Dunnings, J Graham-Ballin herself, Michael Inchbald, Newman & Newman and Leonard Spero. The Fair included numerous packers and shippers and the publishers of the main Antiques publications.
The Fair continued as an annual autumn Fair until 1960 when
Organiser Josephine gradually grew the Fair in stature so that in the
Organiser Josephine ran a tight ship and kept standards very high, with a strict vetting committee and a dateline of 1830 for everything on sale. However, this took its toll on her, and at the
She was the successful bidder and ran her first Fair (which was actually the 59th Chelsea) on 11-22 September 1984 with the Duke of Westminster as opener – starting at the deep end! Fresh stand-fitting brought the Fair a new sparkle. The Fair entailed more than two weeks’ tenancy in
In the 1980’s and 1990’s the Chelsea Antiques Fair continued from strength to strength, enjoying its heyday, with top flight Dealers selling fine art and antiques to a keen and knowledgeable audience from across the world as well as just around the corner! TV cameras often covered the Fair live and publicity played a big role. Tony Gill was Press Officer, and achieved very good coverage, hence the number of visitors at the Fairs regularly exceeded 8,000 over the 10 days. Following Tony’s retirement, Duncan Phillips took on the PR role with one outstanding success when Hiscock and Shepherd exhibited an Elephant Bird’s egg, which Duncan held in front of his face for the cameras, making it seem the egg was a human face, leading to half a page coverage in the Telegraph as well as TV and many other papers.
During these golden years, openers were often involved with a charity supported by the Fair. Most memorable was when Brian Rix opened the Fair in 1989 in aid of Mencap and the Fair advertised itself along Kings Road with a horse-drawn bus bringing visitors from Sloane Square! Other charities supported by the fair included Childline, with Esther Rantzen, The Red Cross with Leslie Philips, Radar with the Rt Hon Earl of Snowdon and Barnardos with Henry Sandon.
Memorable exhibitors from the 80’s and 90’s included Maria Andipa’s Icon, John Barry, Christopher Buck,
In 2006 The Chelsea Antiques Fair celebrated its
It was a struggle for The Chelsea Antiques Fair to compete with the BADA Fair, and in
Then, in 2010 the September date also came under threat, with LAPADA establishing the Berkeley Square
There were just too many exhibitors who were divided between
In 2019, Caroline began searching for a new owner of Chelsea – at 75, she wanted to reduce the stress levels and having
Meanwhile, BADA had sold the BADA Fair to Thomas Woodham-Smith who re-named it “The Open Art Fair”, with mainly BADA exhibitors, still running at the same time as Chelsea. This new Fair was a major undertaking and the marquee was being erected when Covid-19 intervened. Fortunately, The Chelsea Antique Fair was in a better situation, with no on-site preparations underway. So the decision was made to cancel our Antiques fair, a week before it was due to open on
Caroline renewed her efforts trying to find a new organiser with more optimism for the future. Former exhibitor Peter Bunting was keen to see Chelsea return to its former glory and introduced to Caroline a company who might fit the bill…
The story continues... 2Covet has taken over The Chelsea Antiques Fair and we are bringing new life into the event and the Old Town Hall - post Covid! We are delighted to announce the appointment of our New Fair Director, Sophie Wood, who has joined the 2Covet team from LAPADA and we have released our up and coming Fair dates. The 2Covet Chelsea Antiques Fair will be held from the 21st of September to the 26th of September 2021 - An invitation only preview will held on Monday 20th September 2021.
We look forward to continuing the incredible history of The Chelsea Antiques Fair.