The Five Artworks You Shouldn’t Miss at Masterpiece London 2017
From Rossetti and Monet to Keith Haring and David Hockney, here are our top selections from the fair.
The eighth edition of Masterpiece London—considered by many as the smaller sibling of TEFAF—held its preview at the Royal Hospital Chelsea yesterday, with some 153 international galleries showcasing their offerings in art, antiquities, design, and jewellery.
The fair lasts a full week rather than the standard five-day duration of most contemporary art fairs—which brings it, again, into comparison with TEFAF, the longest fair with its 10-day run. When Masterpiece ends, on July 5, it is expected to have drawn up to 40,000 visitors perusing and purchasing the wares on offer.
There’s a lot to see, so artnet News has trawled the aisles to bring you the five artworks that you shouldn’t miss in this year’s edition:
1. David Hockney, Celia in Armchair, Lithograph (1980)
Gallery: Lyndsey Ingram
Price: £40,000 (sold during preview)
Starting with a print in a sea of precious oil paintings might seem somewhat incongruous, but this large lithograph by David Hockney is an absolute winner, attracting the viewer’s attention from across the booth despite its subtle black-and-white lines. Depicting Hockney’s muse and friend, the fashion designer Celia Birtwell (who was married to fashion legend Ossie Clark), the print was created in an edition of 74 with the Tusche technique, which allowed the artist to draw freely, creating gestural, brush-like effects. At a reasonable £40,000, the piece felt like quite a steal, so it’s no surprise that it had already sold by the time the preview began.
The print is part of a stunning and tightly curated booth showcasing black-and-white prints from some of the best artists of the 20th century, including Hockney, Ellsworth Kelly, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Bridget Riley, and Carmen Herrera. It’s Ingram’s second appearance at Masterpiece since she opened her London gallery in 2016. The dealer began her career at the print department at Sotheby’s London before directing the print-specialized gallery Sim Reed for 14 years, so she definitely knows her field.
2. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Proserpine (1878)
Price: £4.5 million
Trust Agnews to make a splash with their fair presentations. On this occasion, it is a stunningly curated booth of Pre-Raphaelite and 19th-century paintings by the likes of Lord Frederic Leighton, Edmund Blair Leighton, John William Waterhouse, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones. But if there was a painting that stole the show at the booth of the London gallery it was Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Proserpine, perhaps one of the most iconic images of the Pre-Raphaelite school.
The painting depicts the mythological goddess Proserpine, who was abducted by Pluto, King of the Underworld, and forced to remain there after having eaten one of the fruits of Hades (notice the pomegranate in her hand.) The model that Rossetti used for Proserpine was no other than Jane Morris, wife of his friend, the designer, writer, and activist William Morris. Artist and muse shared an illicit love affair, which seems to be explored in the painting in the themes of abduction and the forbidden fruit.
Rossetti returned to the motif of Proserpine time and again. (There are supposed to exist up to eight versions of this painting, including one at the Tate’s permanent collection, dating to 1874.) The one at Masterpiece—with a £4.5 million price tag and on consignment from a private collector—had been placed on reserve at the start of the preview. Fun fact: according to artnet News contributor Colin Gleadell, the painting was last sold by Agnews in 1884 for £277.
3. Claude Monet, Falaises, Temps Gris (1882)
Price: £4.5 million
For a similar price and in a nearby booth, serious collectors are being lured with a brooding Monet from 1882. Falaises, Temps Gris is one of a series of paintings that the artist created during a stay in Normandy, in the small seaside resort of Pourville-sur-Mer. Painted en plein air from the vantage point of the beach at Pourville, Falaises is remarkable for its atmospheric drama and hazy blue-gray sky.
Its provenance is remarkable too: the picture was first purchased by Monet’s Parisian dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who was key in establishing the artist’s reputation in Europe and abroad. The painting traveled around 1888 to Durand-Ruel’s New York gallery, where it was acquired by Alden Weyman Kingman, one of the first major American collectors of Impressionist art. Durand-Ruel would purchase it two more times between 1896 and his death in 1922, proof of how important (or valuable) he considered it within Monet’s oeuvre.
4. Keith Haring, Untitled, April 12, 1984
Gallery: Samuel Vanhoegaerden
Price £2.6 million
At the stand of the Belgian gallery—showcasing a number of the contemporary artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Fred Eerdekens—this 1984 painting by Keith Haring really stood out, beaming on the wall. Created with fluorescent paint (it glows in the dark), the piece depicts an anxious creature that has a computer for a head, anticipating by more than two decades the tyranny of the digital age, in which our minds seem to have been colonized by emails, social media, and other relentless online demands.
The painting, which is on consignment from a private collector, hadn’t been sold on preview morning, but was receiving “a lot of attention and interest,” according to Samuel Vanhoegaerden. It should find a new owner pretty soon, I’d say, as it is one of the finest contemporary paintings in the whole fair. This is the gallery’s debut at Masterpiece, which coincides with a rising interest of the organizers in pushing its contemporary art angle.
5. Joseph Mallord William Turner, Chatham, Kent (1831)
Gallery: Richard Green
Part of a series of four dazzling watercolors which belonged to an important (and undisclosed) English private collection, Chatham, Kent depicts a view of the English town. Chatham was one of the nation’s strategic strongholds at the time, an area which would have been passed by the troops on their way to Waterloo, where the Coalition defeated Napoleon.
The result is an astute political and social observation that reached the wide Victorian public through as high-quality print commissioned by the publishers Charles Heath. At the stand of the London-gallery, prospective buyers can acquire the original watercolor of this striking scene for £950,000.
The 2017 edition of the art fair Masterpiece London will take place at The Royal Hospital Chelsea, from June 29 – July 5, 2017.
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