Art and antique fairs are in full swing in London right now. On successive days I went to the VIP opening of Masterpiece, located near Chelsea barracks, in a vast temporary building that looks as if it is made of solid brick but isn’t, and also to the Olympia Art & Antiques Fair on a distinctly non-VIP afternoon.
Olympia was pretty much same-old, same-old – perhaps less emphasis on furniture than formerly. A huge and bewildering array of what can only be described as tchotchkes, a term that www.urbandictionary.com defines as ‘a decorative knick knack with little or no purpose’.
Masterpiece was more interesting. One of the things it tended to show was the way that grand antique furniture as we once knew it – veneers ready to go pop in rich people’s central heating – is going out, and more amenable Mid Century Modern is coming in. There were even some ventures into truly contemporary furnishings. A sprawling coffee-table designed by the late Zaha Hadid, anyone?
In art terms, Masterpiece chiefly seemed to demonstrate two things. First that people with money remain resistant to supposedly ‘cutting edge’ stuff that’s going to be inconvenient to live with: Tate Modern can give it house-room, not them. Secondly, linked to this, there is the rise in Antiquity collecting. Small under-the-lamp sculptures by major modern masters are hard to find, though Henry Moore made more than a few. So why not have something mysterious and guaranteed to be extremely ancient instead? Less banal, darlings, doesn’t take up much room, and still shows one has advanced taste.
The booth I liked best was that of the London-based firm Didier Ltd. This featured jewellery made by often major Modernist artists. Picasso, Dali, de Chirico – you name it. Art you can actually carry around with you somehow makes perfect sense in a society where people are ever more mobile. Quite apart from this, it makes a splendid way to flash the cash. Those in the know, know. And prowling troglodytes are less likely to mug you, if you aren’t covered in diamonds.
Words: Edward Lucie-Smith Photos: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2016