THE BLOG

Life In The Arts Lane - Week 93 - Death Stalks the Hall

05/11/2014 14:20 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 10:59 GMT

I took my little black dog out for a walk. She always sits sweetly and patiently at the lights. She trots along obediently and ever so slightly swaggering she crosses the road and scampers off into the churchyard. She runs and leaps with puppyish enthusiasm despite being a mature 2 years old. She chases the squirrels and rushes blindly after the pigeons. She sniffs and is sniffed and it is all very innocent and charming. This morning she spots a flock of blackbirds and rushes. They scatter screaming in indignation - but one is a bit lame. It hops rather than flies off. A short but lethal dance ensues as the black bird narrowly escapes the dog again and again - and then she strikes. The pretty gentle silk-coated spaniel bites down hard on the neck of the blackbird. She twitches and twitches and each time the dog holds on harder and more lethally. Death is the inevitable conclu-sion. I arrive on the scene too late to stop the initial strike; I watch from afar, it is like a ballet being performed on a stage. I debated for a second and decided to let nature take its course. Separating them would have left the bird mortally wounded and it seemed the better of the potential evils to let her to finish her kill. She was effective. I put the bird in the bin and we went home. The dog was breathing hard; the intensity of the moment clearly making her heart beat fast.

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After this morning drama I headed off to the Olympia Winter Antique Fair where I am exhibiting for the first time. It is an odd thing to say - as I have been an exhibitor at Olympia countless times as a scion of Mallett, but this is the first one with my name over the door. The winter Olympia has shrunk over the years, from its heyday when it covered the main floor and the balcony. It is down to just over 100 stands, which is still a big fair, but it feels small and intimate. It is a beautiful fair too. Simply built it has a neo-classical white design, which compliments the magnificent white ironwork of the building. The dealers have a collegiate air and everyone is very encouraging and helpful. The opening is low key with a few glasses of near toxic sweet Prosecco, which encourages one and all to remain sober. Sales do happen and the dealers seem not too gloomy. My neighbour Roger Lamb is dapper and charming. Medium height with well cut grey suits and hair. He sells traditional old school English furniture. He is pretty old school himself. But he does it with a weather eye to modern taste. He has eschewed damask silk for modern un-patterned fabrics and this renders the Georgian mahogany and walnut much more contemporary. In addition he is commercial. His prices are low and he is happy to take a short profit. He may not be a Young Turk but he is

totally young in his outlook. As I watched my black dog kill I worried that it was an omen or a symbol of the demise of our trade. But it was not true - here before me is the future. I am optimistic be-cause I can see that the wheel does not have to re-invented it can be re-upholstered instead.

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But the transition is hard and amongst my friends death is closer than ever. Recently, two great figures in the trade have died, coincidentally both called Paul. Paul Johnson from Ireland, who was the pre-eminent dealer in 18th century Irish furniture and Paul Tomasso, father of the Tomasso brothers who are titans in the world of great sculpture. The trade is greatly diminished and a little less interesting following their passing. The sad mood of the moment is enhanced by the weather in London, which has been very peculiar. It has been unseasonably very warm and the skies are blue. But Nature is not fooled and the leaves are brown and make a lovely rustle as you brush through them on the grass. The pavements look like they have been printed with leaves as the damp leaves marks when the leaves are tidied away. But now suddenly it is getting cold and the rain is tumbling. The season change echoes the departed and seems a herald to a change across the market too. The sales in NY at the Haughton fair and in the auctions were erratic and patchy and that is not encouraging. There the mid term elections maybe acted as a distraction. But the omens are that there will be another lurch downwards. Here in London the contemporary art world seems still strong but even there is a new air of wariness abroad. A change is in the air here too. Again the untimely but natural death in the park seams portentous. This is the natural way of things and though one can intervene it is ultimately useless, what must be must be. But Roger Lamb is hope for us all. They say that Antique dealing is the second 'oldest' profession. We will survive, find a way and some will flourish.

Back at the fair the night is falling and the interior glow of the fair takes over from Natural light and a wintery twinkle takes over. Next door a fair called the Spirit of Christmas is opening and crowds and crowds are queuing up to buy early Christmas cheer. The buzz washes through and cold optimism pervades.