Published: August 2, 2011
England is a traditional destination for antiques, with the summer months in London having special appeal. Along with the likelihood of lovely weather, for decades the attraction in June was the collectors’ trifecta: The Ceramics Fair, Olympia Antiques Fair and Grosvenor House. Each a stellar event independently, and together a huge draw internationally.
Now the summer London antiques calendar still has wide appeal, but with a changed format in keeping with the general state of business flux familiar to all of us. Two of the shows have adapted, and the addition of the Masterpiece London fair, which ran June 30⁊uly 5, emanating both exclusivity and fun, has changed the landscape dramatically.
The International Ceramics Fair by Haughton Management is now incorporated into its widely acclaimed new and larger event in the first week in June, titled Art Antiques London.
Olympia, an antiques show stalwart, had been shrinking in recent years, while at the same time working through various incarnations in order to keep its reputation. This year, returning to the original auspices of Clarion Management, the consensus was that, while smaller, the recent fair looked stunning and is regaining its status with British dealers and overseas buyers.
Grosvenor House Fair, with its illustrious and prestigious history, shocked the antiques world when its demise came suddenly in 2009 after 75 successful years. However, in a deft regroup organized by five founding dealers, the show morphed into the six-day Masterpiece Fair, rising again just one year later in Chelsea in 2010, as spectacularly as the mythical phoenix.
Masterpiece London, showing the best of the best from around the world, made a sensational debut followed by a brilliant encore this year.
Ambitious, elegant and highly original, with an untried formula of showcasing classic cars and rare wines alongside art and antiques, Masterpiece is a triumph of enterprise and excellence.
Building on its inaugural success, Masterpiece 2011 has grown over the past year, adding more than 30 dealers. The design company for Masterpiece London, Tabilo International, also constructs TEFAF Maastricht. With the added element of contemporary commercial brands, the London show is modeled on its Dutch counterpart and has the same central theme of light, space and the feel of open air. Both shows appeal in particular to exceptionally high caliber and sophisticated international clients and institutions.
Aimed directly at that demographic, Masterpiece presented a “lust list.” Each week for the six weeks leading up to the show, a “lust-after” object, considered the best in the field, would be advertised discreetly with direct appeal to its target market.
Giving new meaning to the term A-list, temptations included a striking ceramic head by Takahiro Kondo at Adrian Sassoon Gallery that sold, a 1961 Aston Martin from Hexagon classics †price on request †and an oil painting by Francis Bacon, offered by Portland Gallery for $14 million.
Major six-figure sales were made every day of the fair. Ronald Phillips, owned by Simon Phillips, a founding member of Masterpiece, sold a Regency 24-arm chandelier, circa 1825, and Koopman Fine Art matched a collector with a rare George II cup and cover, circa 1745. Contemporary ceramics sold well in the $10,000 to $100,000 range, and art proved popular, with a crayon drawing by Lucien Freud (who died July 20), fetched its asking price, which exceeded $1 million.
“Masterpiece is on the map now,” reported Martin Travis, director of London-based jewelry dealers Symbolic and Chase, in an impression echoed by dealers and visitors that itself is a remarkable feat after only two years. It looks like it is a map of the world for Travis.
“All of our Middle Eastern and Russian clients flew in for the fair,” he added. Among many others, sales included an opal, diamond and enamel choker by Koch, circa 1900, and a Cartier diamond brooch from 1938, with a central yellow diamond weighing 47 carats.
Other jewelry dealers also seemed pleased. Harry Fane with Verdura, participating in an art fair for the first time, loved the experience, encouraged by consistent business and sophisticated interest. Wartski reported sales of important items to top clients.
Royalty and celebrities were among the total of 28,000 visitors who attended the show over the six-day run. The private preview, running all day on June 29, welcomed 5,000 invited guests, twice the number of last year.
Along with the multiple accolades, it can be no surprise that there were those who had a less positive response, although all dealers were generally complimentary about the show and still hopeful of follow-up sales that did not materialize during the fair.
Feedback by both dealers and visitors was mixed on the increased size over last year. Some thought the “buzz” of last year was missing, although perhaps by definition, the excitement of an inaugural show can never be matched. Everyone agreed that Masterpiece with its selection, not just of antiques, but the best of the best objects and experiences from around the world, is a welcome and watershed event for the antiques world.
Next summer’s Masterpiece London 2012 will be conducted June 28⁊uly 3.
For additional information, www.masterpiecefair.com or +44 20 7499 7470.
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