Time was, the worlds of antiques and modern design viewed each other from a suspicious distance. Indeed, in some quarters, they still do. But at more forward thinking, cross-discipline fairs, maintaining strictly delineated periods is a thing of the past. Talk of ‘cross collecting’ and ‘juxtapositions’ abounds and there’s a realisation that people are rarely so narrow minded that they surround themselves with only one thing, one style, one period.
Masterpiece London (on view until 6 July) at the Royal Hospital Chelsea is designed for the eclectic, inquisitive buyer; one who wants to discover new interests while satisfying established tastes. Now six years old, Masterpiece is built on 'the three pillars of art, antiques and design', says CEO Nazy Vassegh. Part of her 'emphasis on the experiential' is a recognition that good restaurants count. Hence the Urban Caprice restaurants; the fair contains potted versions of Le Caprice, The Ivy, Mount Street Deli and an enormous Scott’s champagne and oyster bar at its epicentre. It’s meant to be a destination in itself.
Unlike TEFAF Maastricht, where design galleries are confined to one area, the unashamedly decadent Masterpiece isn’t zoned. So, antiquities rub marble shoulders with Cartier jewellery, Calder with Constable, Chippendale with Corbusier. Arguably, such variety makes for a more interesting visitor experience.
Although Masterpiece was started by a group of antiques dealers, over the past couple of years, Vassegh and her team have rapidly expanded the modern and contemporary design, keeping pace with increasing demand from their visitors. Out of the 154 international exhibitors this year, around 15 are modern and contemporary furniture and decorative arts specialists, including Dutko Gallery, Peter Petrou, Galerie Anne Autegarden, 88 Gallery and Galerie Willy Huybrechts.
The range spans art nouveau and deco pieces from the early 20th century to the present day, right up to bespoke pieces by Based Upon. Scandinavian design from the 1950s is particularly en vogue and strongly represented by Stockholm based Modernity. Here for the first time, they sold pieces by Finn Juhl, Mogens Lassen, Børge Mogensen and others during the previews.
'Despite Brexit, there’s an optimism,' said Modernity’s Andrew Duncanson. 'The collapse of the pound against the dollar has attracted American buyers.'
Some take a more eclectic approach, like newcomer Axel Vervoordt from Antwerp, long known for his cross-discipline style. Vervoordt’s favoured setting of a collector’s library blends 1960s Gutai abstracts and antiquities with mid-century Bauhaus furniture, at once intimate and monumental.