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July 20, 2016updated 07 Mar 2019 6:31am

Review: Masterpiece 2016 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea

By Alec Marsh

Sophie McIntyre tours the roads of Modernism, sculpture, jewellery and astounding art that made up this year’s Masterpiece.

An afternoon at Masterpiece is an essential expedition for any serious art, design or antiques collector. Spear’s attended this year’s event and was pleased to discover a suitably mind-blowing maze of treasures.

We strolled along the Chelsea embankment and entered down a veritable rabbit warren of collectibles via the faux-country-house fronted structure temporarily occupying the river frontage.

Once inside, we took our time, wandering slowly among the sprawl of antique and art filled pathways, taking in a fascinating array of global exhibitors, stopping off at the Mount St deli pop-up and then a little bit later, Scott’s Champagne bar for a little light refreshment.

Rare and precious antiques, objects, furniture, ornaments, jewellery and artefacts filled the halls at this year’s event. As such, it was only right that the Thomas Crown Affair was our first topic of conversation upon arriving. Masterpiece would be a wonderful setting for a heist – so much beauty within easy reach. The numerous bouncers dotted around the event suggest that although such a rakish act would undoubtedly make a good after-dinner anecdote, you might well be telling it in prison.

Sadly, the pieces I admired most were far too cumbersome to sneak out in my handbag. My tastes pulled me towards the bright, loud, 20th century objects – a few large Miros and a Braque from William Weston and some of the sensational mid-century furniture on display.

Specifically, I would happily re-fit my entire home with the collection displayed by Robertaebasta Milan and then perhaps set it off with a couple of pieces of spectacular glassware from the New York-based Adrian Sassoon stand (winner of best stand 2016).

Although traditionally antique and fine-art focused, this year’s event had a strong design offering, with many of the pieces on show having a distinctly mid-century European feel.

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The 20th century was also well represented on canvas, via Richard Green’s post-war display of Henry Moore, Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon; while Christopher Kingzett Fine Art presented a deeply personal painting by Lucian Freud, c.1960, of his daughter Annie. It had remained unseen for 20 years, alongside a rare surviving study of Sir Winston Churchill by Graham Sutherland, 1954, made shortly before the artist’s painting proper of the subject went missing.

In a timely exhibit, Zaha Hadid’s longstanding gallerist, David Gill, put on a show dedicated to the architect’s legacy – featuring her first commissioned piece for the gallery, Crater Coffee Table 2007.

Another focal point this year was antiquities; there were a record nine exhibitors in this category, with the total collection of works spanning 3,000 years of ancient art history between them. Collectors were particularly excited by an unusual bronze Egyptian statue of Horus of Edfu Harpooning and Trampling Crocodiles from 664–525 B.C, featured at Galerie Harmakhis. Ariadne Galleries were also inspiring classicists: selling an Egyptian Mummy Mask from Western Thebes, circa 664 – 525 BC, for $500,000 USD to one specialist.

The list of highlights goes on: Italian post-war art was displayed by at least eight galleries, with rare English furniture offered by at least seven. On the rare book front, Peter Harrington showed the largest atlas ever published – Le Grand Atlas, 1663, consisting of 12 volumes, 593 engraved maps and plates, and 28 extra-illustrated engraved maps. And British jeweller Hancocks brought along the world’s largest cushion-cut diamond to the event.

We spent most of our afternoon accidentally strolling around the tent in tandem with a grandmotherly pair of ladies with a keen eye for jewellery. Having watched them examine diamonds, rubies, silverwork and the rest, we later looked on with glee as they emerged victorious from Verdura with a large bag of treasure, having finally picked out their prize from the legion of gilded alcoves that had inspired their pilgrimage.

Zaha Hadid Commemorative Stand at Masterpiece London, 30 June - 6 July 2016. Photo credit Andy Barnham. Courtesy Masterpiece London

Photo credit: Andy Barnham
Courtesy Masterpiece London

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