London in summer has an added layer of attraction: ‘The Season’. This is a series of high society events, many of them sporting, from tennis at Wimbledon to rowing at Henley Royal Regatta. The Chelsea Flower Show in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is for the more horticulturally inclined. Also held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea is Masterpiece London Art Fair. Only established in 2010, it is a latecomer to The Season.
At this year’s Masterpiece there are 127 stands in the vast marquee with its canvas printed in the style of the original 17th century Royal Hospital building. “Masterpiece is a world class fair bringing together exceptional works encompassing all periods and cultures,” summarises Clare Jameson, Director of Potterton Books, an exhibitor at the fair. Potterton Books are international specialists in books on art, culture, design and the decorative arts. She adds, “It is a convivial meeting place for collectors and connoisseurs. We have seen a growing interest in requests for assembling book collections and personal libraries.”
The fair is more than just art. There’s the Pol Roger Champagne Preview. And yes, there are multimillion dollar Impressionist paintings for sale (La Seine à Port Marly by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at Dickinson) and contemporary collages (Stately Home by Chris Jones at Marc Straus New York) but it’s also the place to buy a vintage Ferrari (DK Engineering) or a state-of-the-art yacht (Ventura). There’s even a dinosaur skull (Triceratops Prorsus at David Aaron) on show. Offshoots of top end London restaurants – including Le Caprice which recently closed – spring up at Masterpiece.
A standout among the standout paintings is a portrait by Nelson Shanks of Diana, Princess of Wales, for sale by Philip Mould. Artist and publisher Anne Davey Orr critiques the work, “Because the brushwork is not overworked and has a fleeting quality to it, I suspect that this may have originated as a sketch or study for a larger portrait. Shanks’ technique, unlike that of his more formal portraits, has an instancy about it that conveys Diana’s fleeting, somber mood and her innate shyness.”