Montpellier Fair

The antiques fair at Montpellier, which is a one day trade only event, happens around 5 times a year. I remember first going there about 30 years ago when the hangars seemed to me to be brimming with amazing pieces, and I wanted them all – I’ve calmed down a bit now, but the energy and enthusiasm generated by Montpellier continues to inspire the next generation of young dealers who are looking with open minds, not hampered by the blinkers of experience.

Montpellier is a lovely historic Provencal town, with a lively atmosphere helped by it’s young university population. As I had a walk round on Monday afternoon, checking the local antique shops for anything interesting and affordable, I couldn’t help but pick up on the subdued atmosphere after the horrific incidents in Paris a couple of weeks ago – the fountain of the three graces in the main square was festooned in floral tributes and candles to the fallen of Paris – but the French seemed determined to go on as usual, and the outside terraces were vibrant.

The fair starts at 8am at the sound of a klaxon as a couple of thousand eager buyers from over 50 countries rush into a series of empty hangars – empty, because the exhibiting dealers get in at the same time, so nothing is out yet. This doesn’t stop us all from rushing around like headless chickens, peering into the back of trucks as the exhibitors try to unload.

I like to find something worth buying in the first half hour or so – it’s like scoring an early goal – the pressure’s off, and I can slow down a bit. Luckily I spotted a lovely 50’s coffee table by Maison Jansen with a Chinoiserie lacquer top, after 20 minutes or so, did the deal, and was on my way.

My haul for the day ranged from a beautiful and classic Bureau Plat to a quirky beaded glass chandelier in the shape of a sailing ship – if you go to Montpellier with a shopping list, it’s probably better to throw it away before starting. Expect the unexpected.

It was a good opportunity to catch up with some French dealers, and they confirmed that the events in Paris had pretty much closed their businesses down, especially the Paris Flea market dealers – The Flea market is actually in the district of St.Denis – so prominent in the violent events as they unfolded.

But at the end of the day, antique dealers are quite resilient individuals, and they don’t stay inside waiting for things to improve – as an Italian dealer who had driven through the night from Venezia to set up her stand told me “You know, we are all addicts”, which is as good an explanation as any!