The London Summer Art Fair is to run from June 22-26 at Royal Hospital Chelsea. It was announced last Tuesday by founders Thomas Woodham-Smith and Harry Van der Hoorn, two of the co-founders of the recently scrapped Masterpiece London (which was scheduled to run a week later than the new event).
By the close of the first day, over a third of the fair was allocated. Contracts have not yet been signed, but those committing to the event so far include Richard Green, Adrian Sassoon, Michele Beiny, Carter Marsh, Ronald Phillips and Peter Harrington.
Jonathan Green, CEO of Richard Green, said he is “very pleased” that Woodham-Smith and Van der Hoorn have “stepped up to the plate and are staging a summer fair here in London. The Richard Green Gallery is the first out of the block to say yes.”
Woodham-Smith (who worked on Masterpiece via his former role at furniture dealer Mallett) told ATG that the whole project came about in roughly three weeks: “It’s not something I’d been planning because I didn’t think that Masterpiece would disappear.”
Co-founded by five firms in 2010, Masterpiece was acquired by Art Basel owner MCH Group in 2017 after it bought a majority stake in the fair.
The decision last month by the MCH board to cancel the planned event shocked the trade, including long-term exhibitors (ATG No 2576).
At the time, Masterpiece London managing director Lucie Kitchener expressed a hope that by cancelling early dealers would have time to make other plans.
Woodham-Smith said that while the decision to go ahead was prompted by calls and requests from Masterpiece regulars, the response had been “astonishing”. He is keen not to have the new fair exist in the shadow of Masterpiece. Though he and Van der Hoorn were able to snap up a plum summer spot due to the scrapping of the older event, he said that “almost nothing will be the same”.
Van de Hoorn’s company Stabilo, stand builder for Masterpiece since the beginning, will continue to build for the new event. The total floor plan is estimated to be a little over 32,000 sq ft (3000 sq m). Masterpiece was double that at around 6000 sq m. Stands at the new fair will be priced at £1050 per sq m.
Though other details are still in the works, organisers are planning to change the layout completely, including an entrance on the opposite side of the building.
In the announcement for the event Woodham-Smith defined the new fair as “glamorous but scholarly and most of all relevant for our times”.
The launch of a new fair is a welcome moment for the trade. It follows a string of recent cancellations, including that of London’s other major summer event Art & Antiques Fair Olympia.
Separately, final confirmation over the fate of The Open Art Fair is still pending. Scheduled for April 19-23 in Duke of York Square, Chelsea, the event is also run by Woodham-Smith and Van der Hoorn. Its opening in 2020 was a tumultuous affair, running up against the first lockdown.
Woodham-Smith said: “If it’s anywhere near viable we’ll go ahead. We’ve had a good response so far.”