Now I am not talking about the Tennis at Wimbledon – afraid to say I do not have the faintest clue who won what or might win what. I do know that the Spanish won the Euro football cup – apparently this was expected. What was less easy to predict was how the Old Master Painting and Old Master Drawing exhibitions and auctions would progress.
When it comes to the auctions their enormous PR machines will work the results into headlines and fabulous reports so I am not going to dwell on them. There were some great paintings in the sales, some less great. Some great results some, some tough patches.
Where I perhaps had the most pleasant surprise was when visiting the “Carlo Labruzzi: The Grand Tour” exhibition. This was held at Simon Dickinson Ltd, in association with Bill Thomson, on Jeremyn Street.
I knew nothing about this Italian watercolour artist – but his fluid brush strokes gave all the works a great feeling of immediacy and not only that but the condition of these 18th century works is superb. Views of Rome and the surrounding areas are always desirable amongst collectors but to find the exhibition almost completely sold out is quite something.
Nearby, on Duke Street, Rafael Valls has also presented (continues until 20th July) a tightly curated exhibition. ‘Monochrome Masterworks: Grisaille and Brunaille painting from 1550 to 1800’ can however not sell out. This finely presented exhibition includes a number of works on loan from museums and private collections.
I have to confess that I did not manage to make it to all 26 exhibitions that formed part of Master Paintings Week. The task is made even harder with the Old Master Drawings week running concurrently with 17 participating galleries. This year I was myself involved in one of the paintings exhibitions which made viewing even more difficult. However, a visit to Jean-Luc Baroni quickly followed by one to Stephen Ongpin is a must. Both exhibitions were as always superb with the selection of drawings spanning the centuries with the absolute focus on quality whether the artist is Salvator Rosa or Pablo Picasso.
In summarising the July 2012 London season one thing becomes immediately clear. The large presentation of shows (one must not forget that the National Gallery also participates with special exhibitions and events) requires one to plan the visits very carefully to maximise benefit and fully appreciate the breadth of works that are available for sale (often to much better prices than one can hope to get away with inside the frenzied auction salerooms). Returning to Masterpiece, one last time, I think that the same is true of this fair – careful planning of the visit is needed.
A number of observations have been made both personally and by colleagues. Firstly, the fair is not and will never be an important art fair. It is much more about the Antiques (with a marked increase of antiquities) and Design. Those Art Galleries that do participate in Masterpiece are of course of great calibre and standing but perhaps it is the fact that the show overlaps with the Paintings and Drawings weeks that will always be the problem.
This year the fair was also one day longer than previously. I heard that the organiser’s office was very proud of this, whilst some of the exhibitors were not so keen. That being said sales were reported also on this last added day. One will expect negotiations on some works to continue long after exhibitions and fairs have closed. Now though, most participants will take a moment to catch our breath and review the past weeks. Who did we meet? Who needs what? Where do I find the next great thing? And, personally, how do I get out of London before the Olympic frenzy really grips the city?
More information on the Master weeks can be found via