In just five short years, Masterpiece, the London-based exposition of art, antiques, and design, has earned a firm reputation among both serious collectors and important curators acquiring on behalf of such institutions as the Rijkesmuseum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and the Getty. Held over eight days between 25 June and 1 July in a tent — a marvel of architecture and engineering that feels nothing like a temporary structure — on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the sixth edition will build on last year’s half billion pounds in art sales by welcoming 150 galleries representing a diverse array of practitioners and mediums extending some 4,000 years into the past.
‘The primary strength of Masterpiece is that it’s able to gather fine and decorative art across all mediums and all time periods, from antiquities to the present,’ observes Simon Andrews, International Specialist of 20th Century Decorative Art & Design of Christie’s London. ‘It’s a folly to assume collectors are only interested in one area,’ he continues. ‘The configuration of our sales at Christie’s reflects a diversity of interests — the signature lot of our Exceptional sale (to be held on 9 July at Christie’s London) is the Spitfire airplane, which will be sold alongside lots such as the Cremorne Candelabra of Georgian silver and a Roman marble torso. It’s important to push these boundaries.’
Masterpiece’s special mix includes a 1980 oil on linen by Bridget Riley from London’s Piano Nobile, a 2011 console by Ingrid Donat from Carpenter’s Workshop of Paris, a lifesize head of Aphrodite from New York’s Ariadne Galleries, a 1913 landscape by John Singer Sargent from that city’s Collisart gallery, and a jade dagger handle in the shape of a horse from 17th-century India from Amir Mohtashemi, also of London.
Left: Jade horse head dagger handle, India, 17th Century. Courtesy of Amir Mohtashemi. Right: An Important Greek over-life size Marble Head of Aphrodite. Courtesy of Ariadne Galleries.
‘At the end of the day, all of this material is being considered by very versatile collectors, who don’t limit themselves to any particular medium, time period, subject, or aesthetic,’ says Andrews. Masterpiece’s ‘diverse and profound depth of material is an acknowledgement of the sophistication of the behaviour of the market.’
But as the Brussels Art Fair has been showcasing a mix of art and antiques for some 60 years and the venerable European Fine Art Foundation expo has been drawing collectors to Maastricht for the last 40, the attractions of London complement Masterpiece’s spin on such offerings. ‘We’ve got to acknowledge London’s tradition as a capital for the international decorative arts market and it’s suitable the city should have a fair of this calibre,’ Andrews states.
Indeed London is a treat is any season, but at the start of summer, it holds special appeal, likely putting collectors in an affably acquisitive mood. ‘Very often when people are seeking to purchase, it’s often the object’s personal story that makes them feel connected,’ says Andrews. ‘There are very few collectors that collect objects solely on the details of manufacture. It’s really about romance.’ Late season strawberries with that Sargent, anyone?
Masterpiece is at The Royal Hospital Chelsea from 25 June to 1 July. Main image at top: Masterpiece London Preview Night © Ben Fisher Photography
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