David Moss

Masterpiece reaffirms its top people’s top fair status but also reaffirms the resilience of the UK art market


From the 29th June preview to the close on July 6 Masterpiece in the South Grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea not only impressed visitors with the quality and presentation of the work on offer but generated enough business to impress the roster of 154 top international dealers.

Last year Masterpiece was on track to cement its position as the UK’s top fair to the extent that in the summer season at least it has no rivals. Last year the fair did much serious business and got exactly the right balance between the undoubted substance of the stock on offer and the hitherto overblown emphasis on glamour. This year all agreed the event had further proved its mettle as both an upmarket international marketplace and a starry day out.

Sales have still to be confirmed but praise for the fair seemed universal around the stands, even if not everyone enjoyed bumper sales on the day.

There was talk of this seventh edition being the strongest to date but I am not sure yet if it surpassed last year’s breakthrough airing. It drew 37,000 visitors, slightly down on last year, and the preview alone pulled in 8000.

There were notable newcomers and they all reported a unique atmosphere and new collector audience.

Frederic Gille-Nocard of Dutko Gallery, Paris commented “we were delighted to participate in Masterpiece for the first time. The fair has been extremely successful for us and the whole atmosphere was fantastic.” Boris Vervoordt, a director of Axel Vervoordt said “what’s fantastic about Masterpiece is it attracts the most amazing people internationally, it has become a real destination.”

Museum interest continued to be high and has already engendered a significant number of acquisitions.

Early sales were buoyant for many with M&L Fine Art of Bond Street selling their 1961 Enrico Castellani to a European collector for €700,000 while Mayfair’s Tornabuoni Art sold two works by Paolo Scheggi to a new Brazilian collector for “close to a million pounds” and Symbolic & Chase of Bond Street sold a sapphire and diamond brooch for the familiar “seven figure sum.”

Antiquities again proved strong with London’s Rupert Wace selling a Romano-Egyptian black porphyry head (pictured) of a King from the Ist century AD to an American museum for £250,000 and Ariadne Galleries of New York and London taking $500,000 for an Egyptian mummy mask from Western Thebes, c.664-525 BC.

And did Brexit do any damage? Gregory Demirjian, co-president of Ariadne Galleries’ observation was : “We have seen notable international sales, which I believe indicates that the global market shows no signs of slowing. This year’s Masterpiece shows the resilience of the art market in the UK, demonstrating that London continues to remain the capital of the art market.”

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July 2016
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