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Drawings and watercolour specialist Guy Peppiatt joins a healthy contingent of UK dealers heading to the US for Master Drawings New York (MDNY), running physically next month after an online-only hiatus last year.

There he plans to feature some of his freshest and best stock, such as a watercolour of Donati’s Comet 5th October 1858 by William Turner of Oxford (1789-1862).

Known at the time as The Great Comet, the streak of light enthralled the public and many artists – it was the first comet to be photographed – when it passed over England in 1858.

William Dyce included it in his painting Pegwell Bay, Kent – a Recollection of October 5th 1858, now in Tate Britain and James Poole’s depiction of it is in the collection of Museums Sheffield.

George Buchanan Wollaston’s view from Chislehurst Common went under the hammer at Roseberys in West Norwood, south London, earlier this year (see Art Market, ATG No 2485) and was knocked down for £3000 – a sum 15 times higher than any previous work by the artist sold at auction and suggesting interest in the subject itself was key.

Turner painted at least one other version of the scene, which is in the Yale Center for British Art.

The example in question is listed at £25,000, one of a clutch of five-figure offerings Peppiatt brings to MDNY.

Big Apple base

New York in January is the place to roll out the high-ticket items. MDNY runs from January 21-29, mostly along Manhattan’s Madison Avenue where dealers stage exhibitions in their own or borrowed spaces.

It coincides with The Winter Show (see Dealers’ Diary, ATG No 2522), making the Big Apple a destination for US buyers – who have been in relatively short supply in London since the pandemic struck.

“I’m lucky in that for the works I sell from around £2000-10,000 people are quite happy to buy without seeing them in person,” Peppiatt says. It means he has kept in touch with distant clients throughout coronavirus restrictions. But he looks forward to the chance to access the wider pool of high spenders and the fleet of US museums – both classes that are unlikely to buy without seeing first – that the event attracts.

“There are lots of buyers in the five- and six-figure level over there, more than you might find here,” he says, adding that it is often a better place to meet new buyers of British drawings and watercolours than the UK where he knows many of them already.

The UK is well represented at this year’s MDNY. Other London attendees include Sam Fogg with the exhibition The Medieval Body, Agnews with Dürer and his Time and Old Master and Modern Works on Paper (part of the recently concluded London Art Week) and Gray MCA showing Drawing on Style. Returning dealer Stuart Lochhead will reprise his recent Frieze Masters exhibition Plaster! An exhibition on the infinite possibilities of a misunderstood medium and is cautiously optimistic.


Stuart Lochhead Sculpture brings Arnold Böcklin’s 'Shield with the Head of Medusa', c.1887, a polychrome plaster and papier-mâché piece measuring (60.5cm) in diameter and available for £495,000.

“I’ve already got people saying they’re going so I hope there will be a good number,” he says. “There are a few US buyers around but nothing like we usually see. This is a chance for me to reconnect with them after two years.”

The strongest contingent of participants is formed by local and other US galleries. Among the exhibitions planned from this group are Face to Face from Mireille Mosler, Paper Unbound: The Drawn Menagerie by Christopher Bishop and The Drawings of Jean-François Millet staged by Jill Newhouse Gallery.

Taking steps

It will not quite be business as usual. Rising levels of the Omicron variant have already affected travel requirements between the US and UK. And there are events that once took place in the city around the same time that are not slated to return this year, such as the New York Antiques Ceramics Fair.

Still, the return of the event to the galleries of New York is another step on the path back to normalcy.

Crispian Riley-Smith, co-founding director of MDNY, says: “We are building on the lessons and changes we made last year to continue our well-attended schedule of events and exhibitions this coming year.

“We are all very excited about it and are looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues in front of objects again.”