The Economist compares London’s glut of art fairs:
LIFAF is in a huge, handsome exhibition hall in Shepherd’s Bush, a location most find difficult to reach. AAL and Masterpiece are both set in central temporary pavilions, the former in Kensington Gardens, the latter on the grounds of the Chelsea Barracks. All of the fairs look good. LIFAF boasts an airy spaciousness, with stands that can accommodate furniture and even big telescopes. Decorative arts and design dealers, such as Peter Petrou, have already reported good returns. Robilant+Volena only brought contemporary works and immediately sold a large Clarence Ross photograph of a hurricane wave, for which they asked £65,000. Greens of Cheltenham, jewellery dealers, had its best fair in years.
Nevertheless, there is considerable rancour among dealers who took part. As the opening approached and much empty space remained, some big names (among them Peter Finer, an armour dealer) were offered free stands. Not suprisingly there is talk of not taking part again next year, and not only among dealers who failed to sell well.
As for AAL, its soft light gives the ceramics on view a lovely glow. The high level of material exhibited by its 60 participants lead some to believe this fair will become one for connoisseurs (though the paintings must improve). One participant, Stephan Ongpin, rightly observed that drawings worked very well in the space. In fact the fair seemed made for small, precious objects. At Sandra Cronan, a 1906 necklace made from diamonds and Mississippi River pearls, priced at £33,000, was an eye-popping honey. Peter Szuhay’s collection of antique silver and rare art objects included a small, covetable Italian Renaissance reliquary, priced at £9,000. AAL’s bright restaurant, with windows that opened to the gilded Albert Memorial, had the best view in town.
The Masterpiece fair is eagerly awaited. Some 115 dealers, many of them big names, will show everything from antiquities to classic cars. Sinai and Sons will offer a 1915 silver carriage made for the Maharajah of Bhavnagar. Proving that masterpieces can be tiny, too, Susan Ollemans is bringing a superb circa 1300 south Indian 3cm Nandi bull, encrusted with matched Burmese rubies, priced at £35,000. The food at Masterpiece also promises to be terrific, with outposts from private clubs such as Harry’s Bar; the main restaurant is a sibling of trendy La Caprice.
Fairs to Remember (The Economist)