One of Fernardo Botero’s curvaceous women welcomes visitors to the classical Georgian building which is of course an illusion – a temporary façade erected every year in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea for the annual art and antique fair Masterpiece. If there is a colour that subtlety predominates here it is red: – red for the carpet on which visitors walk across the green lawn to the fair (despite the often-repeated phrase that ‘red and green should never be seen’), red for the brick walls on the outside, burgundy red for galleries creating historic settings for their paintings, mirrors, sculpture and rich exuberant antique furniture, red for the rubies in the jewellery, burgundy for the Rolls Royce and, most importantly, red dots to announce sales. Red too makes a strong appearance in the bold contemporary art by artists such as Chicaru Shiota and Larry Bell.
In the wide range of masterpieces from Roman antiquities to modern art on show by galleries from around the world, showing, for example, stunning works by Pablo Picasso, Jean Miro, Ferdnand Leger, Henry Moore and a celebration of Chippendale’s work by Ronald Phillips (which won the Masterpiece Outstanding Display Award), it is contemporary art that wins the day, with artists on display on the individual stands including Chrisophe Charbonnel (Periin Fine Art), Francesca Pasquali’s (tornabuoniArt) and Mario Dilitz (Sladmore Gallery) and the central avenue showing a parade of sculptures by Emily Young and Richard Hudson (Bowman Sculpture), Anthony Caro (Piano Nobile), Larry Bell (Hauser & Wirth) and Chicaru Shiota (Blain|Southern).
Shiota’s work continues into Blain|Southern’s stand with, as far as I could see, the only single artist installation that any gallery had dared to do – but if you represent as many artists as Blain|Southern does, what do you do at Masterpiece? So, well done! Berlin-based Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota has her sculpture ‘State of Being’ in the main avenue, filled with around 2000 keys that are perhaps a counterpoint to the padlocks (love-locks) that are hung on bridges in Paris.
In her gallery installation, the viewer dives and weaves through a web of red thread, connecting, yet encasing, items such as maps and suitcases which raise questions about travelling through life, about journeys, about fate and about belonging. Where is home to the traveller?
Best saved until last are Marina Abromovic’s beautiful alabaster sculptures ‘Five Stages of Maya Dance’. It is a little worrying that Abromovic, now a young 71 years old, having built a reputation as a performance artist, feels that she has reached an age that she wants to leave something permanent for future generations. She does so with gusto with her gently-lit alabaster sculptures which move from the abstract to the real, as part of a collaboration with Factum Arte and a taster for her show at the Royal Academy in 2020, where she will be the first woman artist to have a show in the main galleries there.
Well done to Masterpiece for support contemporary art as much as the antique and, given that the primary sponsor was the Royal Bank of Canada, it was good to see Landau Fine Art from Montreal as one of the exhibitors with an excellent display of top modern artists.