A parade of carefully curated delights, with some stand-out pieces.
Royal Hospital Chelsea, London
26th June – 3rd July 2019
SET IN THE picturesque grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital, in Chelsea, Masterpiece London has become the capital’s premiere summer art fair. Hosting over 150 international exhibitors, it displays everything from antique furniture and Greek sculpture, to Old Master paintings and contemporary ceramics.
Luxury is the watch-word – the aisles are carpeted and broad, the champagne flows – but vetting is scrupulous and the lighting immaculate. Jewellery, Modern British Fine Art, Scandinavian mid-century design, eighteenth century silver and fine antique carpets – on the blustery opening day it was a pleasure to drift from one thoughtful collection of beautiful things to another, while all around reservations and purchases were discreetly negotiated.
Contemporary collectible design has a significant presence this year. Sarah Myerscough Gallery offers a beautifully presented arrangement of superbly crafted objects and furniture, and David Gill is showing some stunning examples from his stable of makers, including Zaha Hadid, Mattia Bonetti and Fredrikson Stallard.
R & Company has put together a showcase of pieces by Wendell Castle, The Haas Brothers, Johnny Swing and Sebastian ErraZuriz, among others. But the real point of Masterpiece London is perhaps, to hone your eye by comparison, finding immediately next door to contemporary design some fine contemporary sculpture, a Chippendale sofa, or an ancient ceramic vessel.
The Design Edit’s five top picks:
Ben Hunter Gallery
This anthropomorphic ceramic vessel of Clementine Keith-Roach comes complete with arms. Keith-Roach works with found vessels, building them into expressive sculptural objects using plaster, paint and, in this case, copper coins. Clay becomes flesh.
This beautiful and intriguing ‘Skytrap’ chair is designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind, creator of the new World Trade Centre master plan in New York and the Jewish Museum in Berlin. It was first shown in his 2018 exhibition, ‘Fundamental Elements’, and looks – with its stripped back angular structure – as if Libeskind were inventing a chair from first principles.
Here, amidst gorgeous ceramics, fine gold jewellery, metalwork and glass sculpture by contemporary makers, there is this remarkable bamboo basket by Japanese master Chikuunsai IV Tanabe. Born into a long line of bamboo craftsmen, Chikuunsai IV Tanabe is a master of traditional baskets, but he has become increasingly known, also, for his highly original installations and organic sculptures. This basket ripples with the beautifully controlled energy of his expert making.
R & Company
This unique, comically animate ‘Malcolm Hex’ Coffee Table, is designed by that creatively fertile sibling partnership, Simon and Nikolai Haas. It is part of their well-known ‘Hex’ series, in which they create a geometric pattern by using hexagonal brass pieces to cover a sculpted form.
Sarah Myerscough Gallery
Eleanor Lakelin uses a full panoply of technologies – from chiselling and gouging, to sandblasting – to create these beautiful turned and carved burr-wood vessels. Her aim is to excavate the past – in her words, to “peel back bark to reveal the organic chaos that can exist in the material.” These three-dimensional monochrome objects hold time in suspense, even as they foreground the drama of natural growth and decay.