Masterpiece London’s Fifth Edition Opens With $20 Million Sale

LONDON — Preview Day of the fifth edition of Masterpiece London ended on June 25 with reports of strong sales and the highest visitor number to date. Collectors, curators and designers were drawn to the event, which ran June 26–July 2, for the diversity of material, with more than 7,000 visitors crossing the threshold of the fair in the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, an increase of more than 17 percent from last year.

The caliber of work this year showed evidence that the exhibitors saved their best treasures for the eight-day extravaganza. Within the first hour of the fair, Apter Fredericks had sold a mirror, a sale that was soon eclipsed by selling a pair of chinoiserie cabinets by Vile and Cobb to an American collector for a seven-figure sum. The most valuable sale in the fair’s opening days belonged to Symbolic and Chase, who sold a 1912 Cartier corsage for more than $20 million.

The newly introduced design committee, led by Philip Hewat-Jaboor and including Sasha Wilkins (Liberty London Girl), Tamarie Dobias (RBC Wealth Management), Francis Sultana (interior designer) and Abraham Thomas (director of the Sir John Soane’s Museum), decided upon a more extensive selection of awards this year to reflect the breadth and quality of works of art at Masterpiece London. The prize for best stand went to Sladmore Contemporary, which meticulously recreated sculptor Nic Fiddian Green’s studio. As well as being an impressive feat of design, the stand paid dividends with at least ten sculptures and two drawings being sold by the artist in the first days of the fair. Sladmore sold 48 pieces in all over the course of the fair.

The prize for Object of the Year went to Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s “The Masterpiece 2014” exhibited by Blain Southern and Painting of the Year to an “en grissaile” maritime work by William van der Velde the Elder (1611–1693) offered for sale by John Mitchell Paintings.

John Mitchell Paintings, the Old Master and British picture gallery, sold a work by Sir Joshua Reynolds of Major General Alexander Dury, lieutenant colonel, 1st Guards (1704–1758). Philip Mould and Company sold a portrait by Sir Peter Lely, a portrait of female artist Mary Hill and a portrait miniature of Lady Killner, while Elle Shushan sold more than six miniatures, including a portrait of the Countess of Craven to actress Diana Rigg. Osborne Samuel sold its Lynn Chadwick “Back to Venice” sculpture for more than $425,000, while Anthony Outred Limited sold a Nineteenth Century European ivory skull at the Patron and Curator Evening.

Silver dealers Koopman had its best opening to date and Tomasso Brothers sold two eye-catching works to European private collectors, including the sculpture “Greyhound,” 1834, by Joseph Hall the Younger and made from Derbyshire alabaster and Ashford marble. According to Dino and Raffaello Tomasso, Hall was a sculptor who ran the Derby Marble Works and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1838 and the Great Exhibition of 1851. Hall was famous for using unusual locally sourced Derbyshire stone, such as Ashford Derbyshire Black Stone and Derbyshire alabaster. This likeness of the champion greyhound Squib caught the eye of a new European collector, they said.

Tomasso Brothers also sold a striking Nineteenth Century Roman écorché skull, which represents mankind’s fascination with anatomical composition, the historical desire to record it in art and also to represent it as a reminder of one’s own mortality.

Other sales highlights included an Egyptian limestone relief fragment of a religious procession to a well-known British contemporary artist for nearly $130,000. A Roman glass cameo fragment went to a UK museum for around $75,000, while an Egyptian limestone relief of Nefertari Merytmut as Ahmose-Nefertari went to a private UK collector for $300,000.

Hirschl & Adler, New York City, debuted “Script,” a new series of marble sculpture by Elizabeth Turk (b 1961).

A host of exhibitor talks and tours offered to the fair’s visitors were well received, and the museum-quality art, antiques, jewelry and design from more than 150 worldwide galleries confirmed the fair’s status as a truly international event, offering more than 3,000 years’ worth of art history from antiquity to contemporary.

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