Through its variety of works and imaginative juxtapositions, both aesthetic and intellectual, Masterpiece London has played a vital role in reinvigorating and informing the 21st-century collector. Once again, the fair encourages us to look with an intuitive eye and to question what makes an object relevant today, and once again McCaslin Art Advisory visited the fair to see what was new this year.
Masterpiece London takes place each summer on the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, this year from 27 June–3 July.
When the fair launched in 2010, replacing the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair, much was made of its focus on luxury but, as the years have passed, Masterpiece has grown in size and confidence, maturing into a leading destination for international collectors looking to buy across disciplines.
In 2018, 51,000 people attended Masterpiece London. This year, the fair presented 155 exhibitors – six fewer than last year, but with 22 new galleries in attendance covering a wide range of specialities.
Major artworks abound but there was also space for the less showy disciplines, such as works on paper, clocks, ceramics, books and objets d’art.
During his tenure as chairman, Hewat-Jaboor asked exhibitors to display prices on their stands. ‘This is a serious place to showcase wonderful works of art, but you have to make it easy and fun if you are going to engage with new and younger groups of collectors,’ he said.
Once inside the vast, Christopher Wren-inspired marquee, visitors walked through an installation of suspended multi-coloured pom-poms by Phyllida Barlow. Meanwhile, Jo Baring, director of the Ingram Collection, curated a display of sculpture both inside and outside the fair, including large-scale works and those on a more domestic scale. The Royal Academy of Arts also hosted three talks, including one on the subject of the ‘Artist as Collector’, featuring the artists Tom Hammick, Remi Rough, and Humphrey Ocean.
This year, Berlin-based Bastian gallery celebrated its 30th anniversary by opening a London outpost. 2019 will also mark the gallery’s first showing at Masterpiece, with a presentation of works by Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol built around the themes of beauty and horror. ‘We would like to show how three eminent American artists went back and forth between these two extreme points,’ says gallery director Aeneas Bastian.
Contemporary art continues to be well represented. Hauser & Wirth returns for a second year and Blain Southern is presenting a series of new works by the Mexican-born artist Bosco Sodi. ‘Sodi has a tremendous international outlook and footprint,’ explains Adrian Sutton, one of the gallery’s directors, who curated the booth. ‘His work is the perfect reflection of London as a true international city, both for visitors and residents alike.’