June 7, 2013 6:29 pm

Bling and buy

London’s Masterpiece art and antiques fair is adding cultural clout to its upscale image
Francis Smith painting

Francis Smith (fl 1750-1780), ‘View Across the River Thames to Lambeth, with Westminster Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral Beyond’, at MacConnal-Mason Gallery

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The cultural cachet of Masterpiece – the most bling of London’s arts and antique fairs – continues to grow. In 2012 guests spotted in the fair’s marquee included not only the usual royal faces, such as Princess Michael of Kent, but also a set of art connoisseurs and design luminaries not to be sniffed at – Charles Saatchi, Henry Wyndham and Vivienne Westwood, to name a few.

This year’s event, which takes place between June 27 and July 3, is once again housed in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and welcomes a clutch of new big-name exhibitors. The likes of New York’s Ariadne Galleries and Paris’s Martin du Louvre and Galerie Vauclair will add to the fair’s fine-art clout, as will the organisers’ announcement that the venerable Courtauld Institute will be Masterpiece’s 2013 cultural partner. Courtauld academics will be on hand for a series of talks on the collection’s highlights, ranging from Botticelli to Kokoschka.

earrings, pharmacy jar, Coco Chanel cuffs

Earrings of jade, tsavorite garnets, silver and white gold, at Hemmerle; pharmacy jar by Emiliano Capra, at Voltaire Antiquités-Vandermeersch; Maltese cross cuffs (c. 1930) designed by Duke Fulco di Verdura for Coco Chanel, at Verdura

As for the art on offer, it’s no stretch to say that several pieces would look comfortably at home in Sotheby’s and Christie’s flagship Impressionist and Modern Art or Post War and Contemporary sales, which take place in the week before – a timing that is no coincidence.

Mme Bonnardel painting

‘Mme Bonnardel’, at Stair Sainty

One of this year’s undoubted highlights is Roy Lichtenstein’s “Puzzle Portrait” (1978), a Cubist-inspired piece of pop art presented here by the Washington-based dealer Geoffrey Diner. Given that the 6ft by 5ft painting hasn’t been seen in public for 30 years and has never been auctioned, it would be a surprise if it fetched anything less than $10m. Another prize piece is a 1963 Miró, “Personnages et Oiseaux”, at Mayoral Galeria D’Arte – price on application.

Those hoping for epicurean as well as aesthetic pleasures should also be satisfied. As well as purveying the usual range of fine wines, watches, Rolls-Royces and incunabula, this year’s fair hosts another set of high-end pop-up restaurants. Le Caprice will be offering a full à la carte menu on site, while Scott’s will lay on oysters and Ruinart champagne.

“There is a logic to choosing Caprice Holdings as the caterers,” comments the FT’s food and drink editor, Natalie Whittle. “These places are all about unfussy food in a glamorous setting. They offer classic ideas of luxury – champagne, seafood, afternoon tea – but maybe after a serious antiques purchase you want something reassuringly familiar along those lines, rather than a fiddly Michelin meal.”

www.masterpiecefair.com

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