What’s in a name? In the brand-driven, global world of art fairs, quite a lot, really. So it is for Masterpiece London, the multi-disciplinary fair that juxtaposes art, antiques and design from antiquity to the present day.
Now in its ninth instalment, the headline news for Masterpiece in the past year was the acquisition by Art Basel parent MCH Group of a majority stake (67.5%) in the fair.
With the backing of MCH, Masterpiece has vowed to expand to the US, Asia and the Middle East.
Yet the London fair, with its marquee venue in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, remains the brand’s “mothership”, says Masterpiece chairman Philip Hewat-Jaboor, talking with ATG a month before Masterpiece London starts with its preview day on June 27.
“The cross-collecting ethos of Masterpiece and the way we present objects make up our DNA and we’ll look to export that,” he says of the brand’s plans to expand beyond the UK.
“But London is the essential loadstone of moving forward and we’ll continue to build on this.”
Not many would argue with Hewat- Jaboor’s assertion that Masterpiece “is, along with auctions, the focal point of weeks of intense artistic activity in London’s summer”. The Masterpiece team works with the ‘big four’ auction houses to cross-promote each other’s events, guided by the realisation that – as the Masterpiece chairman pithily puts it – “nobody has a client to themselves”.
“It’s an opportunity to nurture a new generation of collectors”
London-based visitors are a mainstay of Masterpiece London, he stresses, together with those from the Continent and the US. Meanwhile, targeted marketing has increased visitors from Asia and the Middle East. Footfall, a key measure of a fair’s success, was up 20% in 2017, Hewat-Jaboor says.
The fair’s new strapline, ‘The Unmissable Art Fair’, hints at the competition for collectors’ and curators’ attention in those ‘intense weeks’ but also underscores the event’s self-confidence about its role in the art market’s efforts to widen the pool of art buyers. “At the fair, we don’t differentiate between contemporary art and 18th century furniture. To categorise art in different pockets makes it more difficult for those learning about this world to get involved.”
To this end, Masterpiece encourages exhibitors from different but complementary disciplines to share stands, emphasising the event’s cross-collecting mission. This year, for example, French and US gallery Les Enluminures, specialists in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, miniatures and art, will share with Daniel Crouch Rare Books.
For 2018, broadening the fair’s reach beyond established collectors to novices will be helped by new educational talks.
The chairman is proud that Masterpiece dealers last year all reported sales to “at least one new buyer or collector”. He says: “It doesn’t matter if it’s an object costing £1500 or £150,000, it’s a great opportunity to nurture a new generation of collectors.”
Amen to that.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2018?
Layout: Enlarged for 2018, Masterpiece London 2018 will have a new cruciform layout, with an additional central aisle running east to west to improve the flow of visitors.
Exhibitors: 32 new exhibitors make up the 160 total in 2018. The newbies this year include: Hill-Stone (Old Master to modern works onpaper), Hammer Galleries (Impressionist and modern art), Hauser & Wirth (contemporary art), Jill Newhouse Gallery (modern and contemporary art), Kallos Gallery (ancient art), Landau Fine Art (modern and contemporary art), Lullo Pampoulides (Old Master painting and sculpture) and jewellers Moussaieff and Cindy Chao.
Content: Includes a new ‘How to look at’ series of presentations aimed at educating prospective collectors. Contributing to one talk is the Colnaghi Foundation, a not-for-profit body for promoting Old Masters and antiquities to a 21st century audience.
‘Masterpiece Presents’: Masterpiece London likes to blend the present with the past and for the second year, the fair showcases new work by a contemporary artist in its ‘Masterpiece Presents’ exhibition. This year it’s Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović’s turn with the ‘Five Stages of Maya Dance’, a set of five alabaster portraits that merge performance, light and sculpture.
NEED TO KNOW
June 28-July 4 2018
Wednesday June 27, 11am-9pm
• Thurs June 28-Fri June 29, 11am-9pm
• Saturday June 30-Sunday July 1, 11am-7pm
• Monday, July 2-Wednesday, July 4, 11am-9pm
South Grounds, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3 4LW
General admission (one day) £35
Full access (June 28-July 4) £45
How to get there
Complimentary shuttle from the fair in Chelsea to Sloane Square, Battersea Park, Victoria, Mayfair and St James’s
Tube: Sloane Square tube station is a 10-minute walk from the fair or a quick shuttle ride
Bus: Numbers 11, 137, 211, 360 and 452 stop closest to the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Taxi: Taxi drop-off point is the Bull Ring Gate entrance to the Royal Hospital Chelsea situated on the Embankment.
Parking: Onsite for disabled visitors only