Masterpiece slowly breaks the mould
Reaching new audiences remains a priority for the high-end
By Gareth Harris. Web only
Published online: 02 July 2012
When Masterpiece launched in 2010, following the sudden demise of the old-fashioned Grosvenor House fair, its organisers aimed to establish a new type of fair by bringing together art, antiques and antiquities with other sectors of the luxury market. Now in its third edition (28 June-4 July), co-founder Harry Apter of the London-based dealer Apter-Fredericks is just as evangelical about redefining the traditional art fair concept. “You have to try and reach new audiences,” he says. “The antiques fair format is tired.” The jury is still out, however, on whether Masterpiece is finding its niche in the crowded international fair landscape.
The organisers of Masterpiece hope to draw in potential collectors by creating an all-round de luxe experience, comprising classic cars, boats, wines, a plush restaurant run by Le Caprice and a trove of high-end art and antiques. The timing of the fair, held during the Wimbledon tennis championships and framed by the post-war and contemporary auctions just before and Old Master sales after, is fundamental in enticing “cultural tourists” in the capital, and to an extent established collectors, to the purpose-built pavilion at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. On Friday afternoon (29 June), the plan seemed to be working; the fair was full of affluent thirty- and fortysomethings keen to part with their cash.
“There are definitely people here with plenty of money,” said Clovis Whitfield of the London-based gallery Whitfield Fine Art. The gallery, a first-time participant, hopes that in these straitened economic times, a moneyed individual or organisation will dig deep for its £60m authenticated Caravaggio made around 1600 for Cardinal Benedetto Giustiniani; at the time of writing, the painting had not sold (the fair is still ongoing). A lithograph of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, 1895, available with Kaare Berntsen of
£1.7m, and Damien Hirst’s High Windows (Happy Life), 2006, priced at £1.5m with
Robilant + Voena of Milan, had also failed to find buyers. Oslo
For now, core European connoisseurs still seem to be making their way to Masterpiece. But the question of whether the fair is an heir apparent to Tefaf Maastricht, the grand-dame of fairs which celebrated its silver jubilee in March, was a point of debate on the floor, especially as the heavyweight London old master dealers Johnny Van Haeften and Richard Green are notable absentees among the 154 exhibitors; Chinese antiques dealers are also under represented on the floor.