The Masterpiece Art Fair, a regular feature of the summer season in London, is now up online and will be available there until 28 June. What’s different this year is that it won’t be available any other way. If you don’t go to your computer to see it, you’ll miss it. No jostling with other visitors, most of them obviously much more prepared to spend real money than you are. And a lot of the time, if you happen to be curious about prices, you don’t even have to bother to ask. They are all there, spelled out for you, on the website. You can make your very own fantasy collection – no problem. And better still, you can do it stealthily, without troubling the dealers concerned.
I’ve always liked this particular fair because it offers a bit of everything – ELS
Old Masters, new contemporary artists, Greek and Roman antiquities, furniture both old and relatively new, quite a lot of posh jewellery. Plus, exotic tsotches of every sort. It has some of the big-name dealers in contemporary art, but they don’t dominate it. The title Masterpiece is, in fact, a bit of an overstatement. You won’t encounter an absolutely major artwork by an equally important name. What you will see is quite a lot of quality stuff, while at the same time getting an educational look around about how the rich choose to live, given the chance.
Paradoxically, however, what I’ve always liked about this fair has been the chance to encounter objects I don’t know much, if anything at all, about. Items that may indeed be somebody’s passion, but which in the general scheme of things, in what we call the art world, are undoubtedly marginal. I don’t go there, hungering for Rembrandt. There are opportunities to satisfy that craving – assuming I do in fact have it – elsewhere. I certainly don’t go there to inform myself about contemporary art. There are no really revolutionary artists or artworks on view. Just, in this case, some pretty nice works by well-established ‘good ole boys’. This isn’t an event that aims to rock the boat. It’s a well-organised tribute to the established order of things.
It also, even in its present entirely digital form, offers reassuring proof not only that the art world continues to exist, but that it maintains its indissoluble bond both with the established middle-class, but also inevitably with the plutocratic tier above that. No outcries for revolution here. Certainly, no declarations that “We’re doing this for the kiddies, the kiddies!” In fact, no do-gooding or moralising of any sort. And, whisper it low, it is in fact much nicer to look at this huge conglomeration of objects without being jostled. One is more likely to remember what one has seen.
Words: Edward Lucie-Smith Top Photo: PC Robinson © Artlyst
Masterpiece Art Fair Online Only HOURS Exclusively on Artsy, 24 June – 8 July 2020