Tuesday 17 September 2019

Treasures: All the fun of the Limerick Antiques Fair

Ireland's Fine Arts, antiques and collectables column

Wow factor: An Art Deco platinum, emerald and diamond bracelet with matching ring
Wow factor: An Art Deco platinum, emerald and diamond bracelet with matching ring
Vessels by Guggi

Eleanor Flegg

'You can each have a tenner," says the harassed dad, peeling notes into outstretched palms. "There's a prize for whoever gets the best bargain at the end of the day." The kids pocket their tenners and set off to explore the fair, supervising adult in tow. Their dad heaves a sigh of relief. With a bit of luck, it'll be a while before he sees them again. He spares a thought for the dealers. Whoever said that kids weren't interested in antiques never saw his crew in action.

This weekend's Limerick Fair has all the makings of a grand day out. Billed as the country's biggest antiques fair, it takes place at the South Court Hotel, Limerick. Its proper title is the National Antiques, Art and Vintage Fair and, with 80 stands, it ranges the gamut of antiques. The kids will find plenty to spend their cash on, for certain, but there's the posh stuff too - serious antique jewellery, furniture and fine art cheek-by-jowl with nostalgic postcards, mismatching vintage teacups, and ancient coins. "But only old stuff!" says the fair's organiser, Robin O'Donnell proudly. "We don't let new things in the door."

It all began in 1991. O'Donnell had been running an antiques shop in Limerick City since 1984. Like most dealers, he also sold antiques at fairs up and down the country. "They were very upmarket and quite elitist," he says. Then he had an idea. "One evening in 1991 I came back from a fair in Dublin," O'Donnell remembers. "I'd made no money at all. In fact, I'd lost my shirt." Highfalutin antiques fairs, he realised, didn't suit everyone. Like every specialist field, the world of antiques is prone to snobbery. The combination of precious objects and specialist knowledge is sometimes a recipe for snootiness and, at the upper end of the market, the airs and graces are all part of the fun. But Ireland needed a fair that worked for everyone. There were plenty of dealers, like himself, who wanted to get their stuff out there. And plenty of punters seeking antiques without attitude.

The first all-inclusive Limerick Fair ran in Jury's Hotel in 1991. Now, it's a thrice yearly event. For people living west of the Shannon, it's the easiest way of seeing what some of the Dublin dealers have on offer this side of Christmas.

"There's a great buzz at the Limerick fair," says Matty Weldon of Courtville Antiques, dealer in high-end antique and vintage jewellery. Like most of the dealers, he's bringing a few stunning (and very expensive) pieces - this year's show-stopper is an Art Deco platinum, emerald, and diamond bracelet - along with more accessible jewellery. "You could buy something for a couple of hundred or you could buy something for 10 grand," he says.

"You find more interesting pieces at an antiques fair than you would in a shop," says Patricia Doyle, who will also be taking a stand at the Limerick Fair. "I'm bringing a couple of pieces of Imperial Russian silver. I have this one piece, dating from 1839, that I picked up in Bulgaria. I knew that it was Jewish, so I brought it in to the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin to find out what it was. It has a jewelled finger at one end…" The object, it turns out, is a Torah pointer or yad, used to guide the reader as they chant from the Torah during the Bar Mitzvah ceremony, so that human flesh won't touch the holy book. The yad (€900) is for sale, but Doyle bringing it as a talking point. "I haven't done this fair before," says Joy Danker. Her shop, Danker Antiques, is on the Royal Hibernian Way in Dublin but she realises that not everyone who likes antiques is in a position to travel. It makes more sense for the dealers to come to them. She's bringing a couple of Celtic Revival pieces to the fair, including a spectacular silver two-handled bowl (€9,750), made in Dublin 1903 by Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co Ltd. If it looks familiar, that's because it's made in the form of the Ardagh Chalice but, at 22cm high and 32cm wide, it's considerably bigger than the original.

Both Danker and Weldon are members of the Irish Antique Dealers Association (IADA), a membership that carries a degree of authentication with it. But most of the stands are run by smaller dealers. Very few have websites and only some have shops. Some are hobbyists, operating quietly under the radar.. Some are retired but they will all be there.

The National Antiques, Art and Vintage Fair runs tomorrow and Sunday in the South Court Hotel, Limerick, from 11am to 6pm. Admission is €5; free entry for children. Free parking.

See also dankerantiques.com and matthewweldon.ie

In the Salerooms


Mid-Century Modern is having a moment and the auctioneers at Adam’s are taking that on board with their first dedicated sale of mid-century design, which kicks off on Tuesday at 6pm. There are plenty of big-name pieces in the sale. A Model 2127 ceiling light, designed by Max Ingrand for Fontana Arte in the 1960s is made of nickel-plated brass and glass and estimated to sell for between €10,000 and €15,000.

Vessels by Guggi.jpg
Vessels by Guggi

There are also several classics by Gio Ponti: two sets of his Model 516 armchairs, one with an archival certificate of authenticity (est. €5,000 to €7,000). The almost-identical chairs without the cert are estimated at €4,000 to €6,000. There are four lots from Osvaldo Borsani, including his adjustable D70 Sofa (est. €2,200 to €2,800). It was produced by Tecno the company he and his brother set up in 1953, and has 20 different positions. The sale includes an ingenious rosewood desk-and-sideboard combo (€3,000 to €5,000), designed by Arne Vodder and manufactured by Sibast and a rosewood swivel office chair designed by Ico Parisi and produced by MIM (est. €500 to €700). A pair of rosewood sideboards with tambour doors (€4,000 to €6,000) by Arne Vodder are for sale as a single lot. The sale also includes contemporary art by Sean Scully, Callum Innes, Guggi (see above), and Mark Francis. Viewing is today, 10am to 5pm; tomorrow and Sunday, 1pm to 5pm; Monday, 10am to 5pm; and on the day of sale, 10am to 4pm. See adams.ie

Antiques & Vintage Fairs

The North Dublin Antiques & Vintage Fair takes place at Clontarf Castle Hotel, Dublin 3, on Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Expect around 30 antiques, art and vintage traders from across Ireland and the UKwith antique and vintage furniture; jewellery; art and antiquarian maps; rare coins and collectables; film, television and music memorabilia; and vintage fashions and accessories. Admission to the fair is €3.50 per person.


“I made a bet almost 40 years ago, that a people who could speak and write so brilliantly and compose music so lyrically, surely must also have painted. I have made it a personal mission to inform the American Irish diaspora about the beauty and the visual tapestry that Irish art has bequeathed the world,” said Brian P Burns, Irish-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and collector of Irish art. His collection— A Living Legacy: Irish Art from the Collection of Brian P Burns — will go on sale at Sotheby’s London on November 21 at 2.30pm. It’s a mouth-watering array of pieces that collectively represent a significant chunk of Irish history and heritage.The selection of paintings by Roderic O’Conor is particularly memorable, but the sale also includes works by Jack B Yeats, John Lavery, William Orpen, Walter Osborne, John Leech, Mary Swanzy, and Rowan Gillespie. You’d like to think that at least some of it will be coming home.See sothebys.com

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