I’m really not sure what could have prepared me for the sheer breadth of interests that are catered to at Masterpiece London. Whether your particular collecting bug covers art, jewellery, rare books, watches, manuscripts, objets d’art, motorcycles, furniture or cartography I can guarantee there will be something to attract you.
From a lenticular portrait of Kate Moss by Chris Levine (The Fine Art Society) to a 17th century model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Peter Petrou), you will find something to covet under the vast temporary roof of the fair, open until Wednesday evening in the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.
The most appealing thing to me about Masterpiece London is that it is open to the public, not just those with deep pockets. Here is an opportunity to view some of the world’s most extraordinary things, more usually to be found tucked away in a dealer’s vault, or in a millionaire’s retreat. It’s almost impossible to realise once inside that you are inside what is essentially a tent: each dealer and exhibitor has a room set that looks as though it is a permanent fixture.
I have hugely catholic tastes, so spent much of my guided tour which, technically, was supposed to be covering the jewellery side – the Americans are out in force from Verdura to Fred Leighton, with some of the most beautiful jewellery I have ever seen, along with most of Burlington Arcade and Bond Street – hellooo Hancocks and SJ Phillips *purrs* – zig zagging down the aisles like an ADD magpie towards shiny things that caught my attention, be they rosewood dining tables or a 4000 hour restoration E-Type Jaguar.
One of my particular passions is maps, and there are two excellent dealers at the fair. Daniel Crouch Rare Books, whose antiquarian maps of London had me in a trance,
especially with their Londinium Feracissmi Angliae Regni Metropolis, the earliest extant plan of London by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenburg, Cologne, .
And then, I was as a moth to a flame when I came across The Map House‘s stand. In particular their 1933 first print of Harry Beck’s London Underground Map. And imagine by delight when I discovered that it had been printed by Waterlow & Sons: my godfather’s family firm. (And where my father started his career.)
If I had to pick just one piece from the Fair, I would find it impossible. But if asked to pick a favourite stand well, everyone mentioned on here would qualify. But maybe the American Les Enluminures would just edge out. I was always a historian, and I have a degree in Theology and Religious Studies so, a stand packed with exceptional medieval illuminations, and ravishing well thumbed Books Of Hours belonging to long-forgotten nuns was always going to have a strong appeal, but a selection of gold Renaissance posy rings (the posy is the hidden inscription inside the band),
and Roman and Byzantine rings sealed the deal for me.
Being a petrolhead, Eagle E-Types were always going to be a stand of love. Their cars range from original un-restored gems to ‘better than new’ restorations and an extensive catalogue of upgrades is exclusively offered to buyers of E-Types from Eagle. On the stand was this immaculate E Type
and their ‘Speedster’
Based Upon installed their grand piano – with pianist.
and their beautiful Cracked Coffee table
I very much liked this small Henry Moore at Trinity House Paintings.
And yes, that it is a Degas ballet dancer sketch. Yours for £160,000, also at Trinity House.
There were beautiful antiquarian sculptures at Cahn International.
I got sucked into London based rare book dealers Peter Harrington, and could happily have spent much of the day here. They have first editions of some of the world’s most iconic books, from CS Lewis’ The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe (£7 500) and The Cocktail Party by T.S Eliot (£65 000), through to a bound first edition set of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books (£17 500). There is also a second folio Shakespeare (£350 000), and a first edition Pride & Prejudice (1£5 000).
oh and there is furniture too. My especial weakness is Danish mid-century and even that is catered for, with some exceptional pieces on the stand of Galerie Dansk Møbelkunst, The gallery is a leading authority in rare, original works of 20th Century Danish furniture.
I tried on this Cartier New York Japanoise Art Deco bracelet from circa 1925, which is exhibited by Hancocks. It’s designed as a pavé diamond articulated strap and decorated throughout with onyx branches, and ruby and emerald cherry blossom, with a buckle design clasp. I discovered that it’s only when you wear a piece like this that you can really understand the quality of the workmanship.
And if you need somewhere to keep your smaller new purchase(s), may I direct you to bespoke safe manufacturers, Stockinger?
Monday 1 July 2013 11.00–21.00
Tuesday 2 July 2013 11.00–18.00
Wednesday 3 July 2013 11.00–21.00
South Grounds of The Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3. Entrance tickets are £20 www.masterpiecefair.com
(There is a very thoughtful golf buggy shuttle service from the North Entrance on Royal Hospttal Road if you are walking from Sloane Square.)
(Apologies to anyone who read this first in the LLG Daily Email – we had some technical difficulties and an unedited version was mailed out.)
Photo credits: Fair photos by LLG. Still lives & paintings via PR/dealers.