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Bada sells majority stake in Chelsea fair to Masterpiece founders

The event will be renamed The Open Art Fair and will launch in March next year

BADA 2019 Courtesy BADA/ © Rob Irving

Bada (The British Antique Dealers’ Association) has sold a majority stake in its annual Chelsea fair to the founders of the Masterpiece fair Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry van der Hoorn.

Renamed The Open Art Fair, it will launch on March 18-24 at Duke of York Square, Kings Road, the longstanding venue for the Bada Fair.

Bada's chief executive Marco Forgione tells The Art Newspaper that the decision secures the sustainability of the fair and offers the opportunity to develop the event through investment, innovation and greater internationalisation. “Thomas and Harry have first rate experience in our sector, specifically in art and antiques fairs,” he says.

The new owners have pledged to review every aspect of the fair, with Woodham-Smith saying: “We will bring a fresh approach, making the fair into an unmissable event in London… Having been a dealer all my career the exhibitors are at the forefront of my mind. It is crucial that we keep the costs down and give everyone value for money.”

Bada revealed that negotiations had gone on all summer and that, under the deal, Bada members would enjoy a discount of up to £1,750 off their stand and security of participation. “Vetting will be carried out by Bada in support of the vision to extend the focus on craft and quality,” Forgione says, while the association will continue to have a board member and retain a 20% stake in the fair.

Stands will no longer be restricted to Bada members, but the confines of the Duke of York Square means that a major expansion above the current 100 or so exhibitors is unlikely at that location.

The sale proceeds will go towards developing the Bada website to attract a greater international audience as well as to developing the its Collection events, boutique fairs and shows typically centred on London’s premier antique districts.

Bada's chairman Michael Cohen says: “This partnership protects Bada members, will help raise the profile of the fair to an international audience and enable Bada to expand the range of services we offer our members, particularly investing in bada.org”.