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Royal Hospital Chelsea + Treasure House Fair London 2023

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A menagerie of larger than life size bronze animals from Sladmore, some standing on the David Hockney swimming pool blue entrance floor, greets visitors to this inaugural show.

“London is the city of Europe, even the city of the world. It is still the second most important global art market and it needs a great interdisciplinary art fair.” Harry Van der Hoorn should know. He and Thomas Woodham-Smith co founded Masterpiece, the world renowned fair that ran for 13 years starting in 2010. Masterpiece almost immediately became a firm fixture of The Season. But at the beginning of this year Swiss owners MCH Group, who had secured a controlling stake in 2017, determined the fair wasn’t commercially viable. That created the unimaginable scenario that The Season – while still hosting gardening, cricket, racing, rowing, tennis and opera – would be missing art.

Deep sighs of relief could be heard echoing through the gilded postcodes when the duo launched Treasure House. Like Masterpiece, it’s in a temporary pavilion in the parkland setting of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Unlike Masterpiece, its orientation and circulation correctly face the 17th century brick building rather than the Embankment. Thomas explains, “Our choice of title reflects the wide range of disciplines and masterpieces of the fair, each piece a treasure in its own right. From my perspective as a Dutchman, ‘Treasure’ is a word that is understood throughout the world and ‘House’ is a mark of respect to the Grosvenor House Fair, a fair that inspired so many of us over the years.”

Out of the 55 exhibitors occupying 2,500 square metres of floorspace, 43 previously appeared at Masterpiece. There are 10 overseas dealers plus four that are only partly based in London. Comfortingly familiar sights include the Ventura Riva yacht this year fitted out by Gucci. The Ballyfin style transport of golf buggies through the hospital grounds has gone but the more direct pedestrian route is easy on the Louboutins. Timing has been pulled forward to the penultimate week in June which does mean the preview clashes with Glyndebourne and Ascot Ladies’ Day. Petertide is a busy time for everyone. Next year, Treasure House is programmed to go back to the last week of June.

In place of Le Caprice restaurant and two Scott’s bars is Table and Candle restaurant, Robuchon Deli and Oysters and Champagne Bar. Different operators, equally good offer, same buzzy guests. Everyone is fabulously sociable, nobody is sartorially challenged. To quote the 20th century photographer Slim Aarons, it’s all about “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places”. Life is rosé at the Whispering Angel Bar. The restaurant overlooks the courtyard. The bar (Irish Ostra Regal, Jersey and Madlon oysters; Laurent-Perrier Champagne) is half indoors half in the courtyard to accommodate both the alabaster and sallow skinned.Oil on canvas is represented from Post Impressionism (Sir Stanley Cursiter at Richard Green) to Expressionistic figurative art (Frank Auerbach at Osborne Samuel). A masterpiece from the Emerald Isle is the silver gilt sideboard dish for sale by Koopman. Made by James Fray of Dublin in 1828, it was presented to Thomas 1st Baron Manners, Lord Chancellor of Ireland, by the Officers of the Court of Chancery. At 69 centimetres diameter, the sideboard dish has plenty of space for canapés.

Fine art dealer Charles Plante has been involved in the fair world for over three decades, from stalls at Chelsea Town Hall to full room displays at Grosvenor House and Olympia Fairs. He has mounted exhibitions at Stair and Co in London and Mallett’s in London and New York. Last year he held a major sale at Dreweatts featuring many items from his townhouse and country house. Star pieces included architectural drawings by Henry Holland and Thomas Sandby. Charles’ bestselling publications are Inside Out: Interiors and Exteriors 1770 to 1870 (2000), Gilt Bronze Objects 1814 to 1830 (2002) and Tools of the Trade (2006). He has since relocated his business to the US concentrating on San Francisco, selling to “upper class Americans” who buy half a dozen of his drawings or paintings at a time to create French style salons.

“I am astonished how my friend Thomas along with Harry put this fair together in four months,” comments Charles. “They have really pulled if off! I like how the pavilion faces the most famous Wren building after St Paul’s Cathedral. There’s such attention to detail: the walls suspended to a few centimetres off the floor to give the illusion of skirting boards, space age canted ceilings and uplighting set in columns. The decorative approach is avant garde and progressive. There are dealers I love here like Wartski the royal jewellers.”

Treasure House may be smaller than Masterpiece but it is a refined version with a more curatorial vision, and like its forerunner is still larger than life.


Temple + Promenade Bexhill-on-Sea East Sussex

Knots Landing

Temple and Promenade Bexhill-on-Sea Sussex © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

In a fleeting moment between The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni we find ourselves in Glyndebourne country.

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The Summer House Hampshire + Winter

Off Season

The Summer House Hampshire Drive © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

So it’s Royal Circle seats at the Glyndebourne performance of Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella). The French composer’s comic opera celebrating the power of fantasy is a blend of colourful characters, generous melodies and sumptuous orchestral textures in bewitchingly heady arrangements. Director Fiona Shaw adds contemporary twists – and laughs. Poor Cinderella really is in for a rocky ride with her selfie loving halfsisters, bottom enhanced stepmother and gender fluid prince! It’s kooky, frothy, rococo and full of familial folly all at once. And a lot more entertaining than the Kardashians. Who said the countryside is boring? Next stop The Summer House. Sometimes one season is better than Four Seasons.

The Summer House Hampshire Bridge © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire River © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Lawn © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Orchard © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Mist © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Plants © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Landscape © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Party © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Bay © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Hostess Mirror © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

The Summer House Hampshire Detail © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“There are two types of folly. One… is spread through the world by the cruel furies who sow serpents in the hearts of men. But there is another type, very different from the first, which brings delight. It is a certain fond delusion that takes over the soul, makes it forget all the troubles, all the worries, all the disappointments of life and plunges it into a torrent of pleasure.” Desiderius Erasmus, Praise of Folly, 1509

The Summer House Hampshire Stonework © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“England – southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world.” George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, 1938

The Summer House Hampshire Interior © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

“The folly, particularly in Britain, is an attitude, a statement, a style, a fashion, a passion, a different world.” Gwyn Headley + Wim Meulenkamp, Follies, Grottoes + Garden Buildings, 1999

The Summer House Chapel Hampshire © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

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Lavender’s Blue Opera + Selfridges London

Postcode Lottery 

Opera on the Terrace © Lavender's Blue Stuart Blakley

It’s our anniversary. Time to celebrate. Christmas – with a little help from Selfridges’ luxury handmade Celebration Crackers – came early to Lavender’s Blue. We’re looking fresh for our 100th and not worn out at all by 1,000,000 hits. After 99 articles from Serbian Royalty to British Royalty, Savannah to nirvana, Cristal to crystal, the falls to the Shankill, Royal Mint to polo minted, Edition to limited edition, Masterpiece to masterpieces, Duck + Waffle to our usual waffle, Knights at home to nights abroad, Clive Christian to Christ Church, Goodwood to New Forest, rural Darlings to society darlings, earls to pearls, supermodels to super models, Futurism to the past, we’ve left Home House for home. Party central at Lavender’s Blue.

Lavender's Blue Party Stuart Blakley

Classically trained soprano Sara Llewellyn serenaded us – and half the postcode – to a dream like performance on our courtyard terrace. After earning her Masters with Distinction from the San Fran Conservatory of Music, Sara’s many operatic lead roles include Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro at Berkeley. And yes, she has performed at the Royal Opera House. After jaw dropping renditions of Bach’s Ave Maria, O Mio Babbino Caro and Con Te Partirò, the tempo slowed down and the sun shone for an awe inspiring Summertime. Sara then proved her diversity while testing our moves with I Could Have Danced All Night. Tear jerkers followed with I Dreamed A Dream and You’ll Never Walk Alone. Finally, words and music at the ready, altogether now: the full Team Lavender Cupcake impromptu choir belted out That’s Amore. The whole postcode was entertained to our new take on Dean Martin’s classic. Glyndebourne SW4 had competition.

Morning Opera on the Terrace Lavender's Blue © Stuart Blakley