May 25 (Bloomberg) -- A Bentley racing car priced at $2.16 million and paintings by Picasso, Renoir and others each worth as much as $22 million will be among the highlights at two new art fairs in London in June as the city lures collectors.
A mix of luxury items is being offered at the first Masterpiece London show in Chelsea, while Art Antiques London in Kensington Gardens also aims to fill the gap created by last year’s closure of the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair. Both will compete against the 37th edition of the longstanding Olympia art and antiques fair.
London dealers are trying to keep summer sales going as billionaire collectors come to the U.K. for auctions. The 75-year-old Grosvenor House event was the most prestigious of the traditional antiques events and ended with its organizers citing declining profit, increased costs and pressure on space.
“You could say it’s a pity there are three fairs competing with each other,” said London-based modern-art dealer James Holland-Hibbert, who will be exhibiting at Masterpiece. “Or you could say it’s a good thing for London, the more events the better. It’s important there’s a high-quality fair in the city in June.”
Holland-Hibbert was one of more than 90 dealers who showed at the Grosvenor House fair.
“It had become tired and long in the tooth, and was constricted by its hotel venue,” he said.
The 4.5-liter, 120 mph Bentley, specially built in 1936 by racing engineer Walter Hassan for the driver Bill Pacey, won events on the banked track of Brooklands. It has a 1.5 million-pound formal price and is being offered on consignment by a British-based seller, said James Mitchell, business manager at the London-based classic car specialists Fiskens. It was formerly owned by the U.K.-based classic car collector and racer Julian Majzub, he said.
Masterpiece, organized by dealers and featuring more than 100 booths offering fine wine, diamonds, contemporary design as well as art and antiques, will preview on June 23 on the site of the former Chelsea Barracks, said the organizers.
“We’ve never tried anything interdisciplinary before,” Mitchell said in an interview. “It’s a new exhibition and it makes sense for us to be there because a lot of our clients buy in other fields.”
Masterpiece will be held during the week of Sotheby’s and Christie’s International’s auctions of Impressionist and modern art, timing that helped persuade London dealer Dickinson to participate, said Emma Ward, a gallery director. It will be offering “museum-quality” artworks by Renoir, Leger, Stubbs and Canaletto, individually priced as much as 15 million pounds, Ward said in an interview.
“There will be an international crowd in town,” said Ward. “The fair should attract a younger audience than Grosvenor House and the location is convenient for Belgravia and Knightsbridge.”
Other exhibitors at Masterpiece will include the Bond Street jewelers Asprey and Wartski, New York-based furniture dealer Carlton Hobbs, classic-car specialists Coys, and European sculpture traders Tomasso Brothers, from Leeds in the north of England.
Catering will be by Urban Caprice, which will provide satellites of London eateries such as The Ivy, Scott’s and Le Caprice, said the fair organizers.
Both of the new fairs, like the Frieze Art Fair in October, will be held in temporary structures. The Masterpiece venue, created by Stabilo International BV, which constructs the booths at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, will have a facade inspired by Christopher Wren’s neighboring Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
On June 9, during the second half of the Olympia event, Haughton International Fairs will debut the more traditionally styled Art Antiques London in a Kensington Gardens marquee opposite the Royal Albert Hall, with about 50 dealers. Both new events are dominated by exhibitors based in the U.K.
“It’s not ideal to have competing fairs when the market for dealers is diminishing,” said Martin Levy, director of the Mayfair-based 19th-century-furniture specialists, H. Blairman & Sons, signed up for Art Antiques London. Levy will be offering an oak armchair designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for the Argyle Tea Rooms, Glasgow, priced at 65,000 pounds.
“Fairs give people a reason to come to London,” said Levy, another former Grosvenor House exhibitor. “Connoisseur collectors still appreciate the expertise of the city’s dealers, but now they only come in for a couple of days.”
(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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