Glamorous, imaginative, fresh, unashamedly expensive and just a bit OTT – ‘Masterpiece London’ is back for a third time.
The 2012 Masterpiece fair runs from June 28 to July 4,
with a preview on June 27, in the same location as last year, a
pretty phenomenal marquee with a red-brick facade on the South
Grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea in London.
The fair launches the second wave of the
now-divided London June season for art and antiques, opening its
doors ten days or so after Olympia and Art Antiques
London close theirs, but in time for the capital's major art
sales in the auction rooms.
Masterpiece is essentially a
dealer-organised fair, co-founded by the furniture dealers
Harry Apter of Apter Fredericks, Giles
Hutchinson Smith of Mallett, Thomas
Woodham-Smith (who was also at the time at Mallett),
Simon Phillips of Ronald Phillips and the
president of Dutch stand builders Stabilo, Harry van der
Nicola Winwood, formerly
at Grosvenor House, is fair director and joining this year is the
art adviser Philip Hewat-Jaboor, who takes on the
two-year role of non-executive chairman from Thomas
Thomas's infectious zeal will now be
channelled into his new position as creative director,
concentrating on the future direction and vision of this work in
progress - or adding the pixie dust and magic as he puts it.
Part of this vision has always been that
the event should break the mould of the traditional antiques fair -
the fusty, fuddy-duddy image - and make it into a glamorous
experience, fusing art and antiques with wine, classic cars,
jewellery and hospitality from Caprice Holdings in order to attract
a new and younger audience, particularly those City folk with
bonuses burning a hole in their Savile Row pockets.
So to what extent has it succeeded in
these aims in its first couple of years?
It certainly looks the part and pulls in
the punters (an impressive 28,500 last year), many of whom would
not normally frequent an antiques fair, adding to a vibrant and
optimistic buzz so often lacking at these events.
But the cold, hard question of sales
across the board is a more difficult issue.
Last year while sales of modern art and
jewellery, for instance, were strong, dealers in other areas such
as period furniture or with stock of a more academic appeal often
Paying for the costly structure and stand
build, lavish entertainment and marketing make it an expensive fair
to take part in.
Now, exhibitors need to start seeing some
serious financial return if they are to keep signing up for it,
however much they are keen to see the event succeed as London's
answer to a truly top-end and international art and antiques fair -
a 'mini-Maastricht' as it is so often dubbed.
For the first two events,
Masterpiece's marketing avoided that word 'antiques' like
the plague, instead repeatedly referring to 'the best of the best',
a rather elusive slogan which irritated a few exhibitors and
perplexed some of the public.
"We all felt rather chastised by the fact
that a lot of people didn't know what Masterpiece was
actually selling," says Thomas Woodham-Smith.
"Antiques can be a tricky word with
negative connotations - no one wants to be described as 'an
antique' for instance.
"But it is what we do and we decided we
had better just face up to it - we're proud of the range of stock
and exhibitors and don't want any of them to feel undervalued."
Hence the redesign of the 2012 marketing
material to incorporate the simple tagline 'Art Antiques Design' -
undoubtedly an improvement.
So what else is new for
"The fair is roughly the same size this
year, but part of the Masterpiece philosophy is never to
do the same thing twice," says Thomas.
"So this year we have changed the
restaurants around a bit - Harry's Bar will now be in a more
intimate space to one side and the large bar down the centre will
be occupied by the seafood restaurant Scott's -
and we have brought in a wider range of contemporary design, with
displays of contemporary pieces from the Carpenters
Workshop Gallery, Based Upon and the
Gagosian Gallery, the
world's largest dealer in modern and contemporary art, also take
part for the first time, apparently creating a 'special project'
which they are so far keeping very tight-lipped about.
The American decorator Jamie
Drake and the London-based property developers and
designers Candy & Candy will both be creating
room sets that fuse old and new, mixing designs from different
periods to show how they can be effectively combined.
Although he is aware thatMasterpieceare
hardly pioneering such an approach, Thomas hopes: "We can promote
the idea that design doesn't have to be from just one particular
period or discipline and encourage people to take a bolder, more
expansive approach to collecting and furnishing. A commercial art
fair can play a didactic role and be part of a wider process of
But he is keen to stress that despite
these shows of contemporary design and an influx of new exhibitors
of Modern British and contemporary art dealers: "There is a
perception that we're only interested in the 20th and 21st
centuries, which we're absolutely not - around 75-80% of our
exhibitors deal in traditional decorative arts and furniture and
this is still at the core of the event."
Looking at the figures, the fair is a
touch larger this year, with the latest official figure being 'over
160 exhibitors' compared to approximately 151 in 2011 and 118 at
the first event. There is a pretty high turnaround of exhibitors
within that too, with 41 new dealers at the last count for 2012,
including a few TEFAF regulars.
There is a more global flavour this
year, and what's distinctive about the new sign-ups is the
number of international, particularly American, dealers debuting -
the fair has an American committee for the first time to foster
transatlantic relations, with co-chairs including the designer
Rose Tarlow, who is treated with the reverence of
a visiting dignitary on her buying trips to fairs.
New American dealers this year include
The Silver Fund, Sperone
Westwater, Siegelson, Collisart
LLC, Geoffrey Diner Gallery, Fred
Leighton, Sebastian + Barquet, and
The Merrin Gallery, Inc.
There are also a handful of Italians
(Chiale Antiquariato, Alberto Di
Castro, Galleria Cesare Lampronti,
Il Quadrifoglio and Riccardo
Bacarelli) alongside some Munich-based exhibitors
(Hemmerle, Röbbig München and
Rudigier Alte Kunst) and a couple of Parisians
(Applicat-Prazan and Pascal
Belgian dealer De Backker Medieval
Art, Oslo-based art gallery Kaare
Berntsen, Spanish jeweller Deborah Elvira
and Zurich clock specialist Richard Redding
Antiques also join.
But the majority of first-timers are
London-based, predominantly art galleries, including James
Hyman Gallery, Christopher Wood Gallery,
Waterhouse & Dodd Ltd, Whitfield Fine
Art, Crane Kalman and Aktis
Gallery. Eclectic art and design dealer Peter
Petrou, carpets dealer C. John and,
adding to the 'boys toys' appeal of the fair, Harley Davidson
dealership Shaw Speed & Custom from East
Sussex also add to the mix.
And the regular dealers? They include
London names such as art dealers Dickinson,
Agnew's, Offer Waterman,
MacConnal-Mason and Osborne
Samuel, as well as a clutch of period furniture dealers
including Peter Lipitch, Anthony
Fell, Butchoff and Ronald
A personal favourite are the stylishly
designed stands of the antiquities specialists, among them
Londoners Rupert Wace and Charles
Ede, New York's Safani Gallery and
Switzerland's Cahn International.
Repeat attendances in other areas include
sculpture and works of art dealers Tomasso Brothers
Fine Art (Leeds) and Univers du Bronze
(Paris); London-based Asian dealers Jacqueline
Simcox, Jorge Welsh Oriental Porcelain & Works
of Art and Susan Ollemans;
N.&I. Franklin of London with silver; London
clock dealer Anthony Woodburn and Adrian
Sassoon, also from London, who chooses his contemporary
pieces of British studio ceramics, glass and metalwork for this
That's the art and antiques, but luxury
goods are, as mentioned earlier, a big part of this event.
Big cars and big rocks are back again,
with jewellery from Wartski,
Hancocks and Symbolic &
Chase, as well as some pretty sexy horsepower from the
likes of Rolls-Royce and Duncan Hamilton
& Co with historic cars.
Masterpiece's champagne partners for the second year and
will take a stand too, exhibiting portraits by the Israeli-born
artist Gideon Rubin, which are painted onto old
Ruinart presentation boxes.
The glitzy Masterpiece London Midsummer
Party takes place this year on Thursday, June 28, in aid of the
cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
• Dealers Trinity House
will be exhibiting Portrait of an Age: John Singer Sargent and
Paul César Helleu at Masterpiece 2012. As the Summer
fair season kicks in, they will also be staging concurrent
exhibitions of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, Modern British
and 19th century works in their permanent galleries at 50 Maddox
Street, Mayfair, London W1S 1AY and 24 East 64th Street, between
5th and Madison Avenue, New York 10065.