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Art Market

Around the galleries – Treasure House sets out its stall in London

19 June 2023

From the June 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.

Treasure House, London

‘It was almost like a member of the family being euthanised,’ Thomas Woodham-Smith says of the shock announcement in January that this year’s Masterpiece fair was to be cancelled. He and Harry van der Hoorn were two of the co-founders of London’s premium art and antiques fair back in 2010 – but for MCH Group, the Swiss owners of the Art Basel fairs who acquired a controlling stake in Masterpiece in 2017, Masterpiece had become no longer ‘commercially viable’. London is, as Van der Hoorn points out, ‘still the number two art market in the world’ – and all of a sudden, there loomed the unnerving prospect of a summer without any kind of major art fair.

With Treasure House (22–26 June), Woodham-Smith and Van der Hoorn have stepped swiftly into the breach. This new fair is taking place at Masterpiece’s old haunt, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and in its old late June slot – or almost; Woodham-Smith tells me they’ve moved it forward a week, so that American visitors aren’t being asked to forego spending the Fourth of July at home. It’s one of many subtle bits of fine-tuning with which Woodham-Smith and Van der Hoorn are hoping to construct a vehicle that can withstand the pressures that ultimately did for the earlier model.

‘When Harry and I imagined Masterpiece, which we did around the table in 2009, we imagined the best of the best. No expense spared, everything to the nth degree of excellence and luxury,’ Woodham-Smith tells me. But times have changed, and in 2023 the priority is no longer opulence, but value – both for exhibitors, whose participation costs have been reduced, and for visitors. And so, the roster of dealers has been pared back. This is to be a more selective, disciplined fair, without (in Woodham-Smith’s words) ‘flim-flam’ or ‘smoke and mirrors’.

De neige, d’or et d’azur N° 24 (2007–08), Chu Teh-Chun.. 3812 Gallery at the Treasure House Fair

Around 40 dealers have been announced so far. They include major UK dealerships in everything from fine tapestries (S. Franses) to antique silver (Koopman Rare Art), jewellery (Wartski), paintings (Richard Green, Osborne Samuel, Piano Nobile) and more. From the United States come S.J. Shrubsole, Michele Beiny and the Geoffrey Diner Gallery; from Europe, antiquities specialists Galerie Cahn and the modern-art dealers Galerie Gmurzynska. 

Most have participated in previous editions of Masterpiece – but there are many other regulars at that fair which have not made the cut, and those that have are expected to bring goods of higher quality. ‘The art market has very much polarised over the last 20 years,’ Woodham-Smith says, ‘and the middle is struggling. We have to represent the market as it is – the very best things and the very best dealers.’ This is an event that has been pulled together in a remarkably short space of time – but the hope, as Van der Hoorn puts it, is that it is one that will ultimately ‘last longer’ than the 13 years managed by Masterpiece. 

The Treasure House Fair is at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, from 22–26 June.

Gallery highlights

To Bend the Ear of the Outer World: Conversations on Contemporary Abstract Painting
1 June–25 August
Gagosian, London

There’s been a spate of recent exhibitions extolling the contemporary resurgence of figurative painting – but as this show sets out to prove, abstraction is still going strong too. Taking its title from a line by Frank O’Hara, the exhibition includes recent works by more than 40 artists including Cecily Brown, Gerhard Richter, Amy Sillman and Richard Hoblock.

Stick Season (2022), Richard Hoblock. Photo: Robert McKeever; courtesy Richard Hoblock and Anthony Meier; © Richard Hoblock

Julian Schnabel and Italy
Until 30 June
Robilant + Voena, Milan

In 1977, Julian Schnabel spent a brief spell in Milan, which instilled a love of Italy that has informed his approach to painting ever since. This exhibition brings together a recent series of works – expressive depictions of maritime pine trees painted over maps of the Ligurian coast, where they grow in abundance – with older paintings that make reference to everyone from Caravaggio to the film director Michelangelo Antonioni.

Luciano Fabro
Until 23 June
Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

With his unabashedly baroque sensibilities, Luciano Fabro (1936–2007) described himself as the ‘heretic’ of the Arte Povera movement. This show presents sculptures ranging from the 1970s to the early 2000s; they include his Computer series (1988–96) – elegant wall reliefs of steel and other metals – as well as his witty free-standing Piedi (Feet), in which bronze and fabric combine to suggest everything from avian claws to the wrinkles of age.

Lisa Yuskavage
9 June–29 July
David Zwirner, Paris

The American painter combines a kind of brash, frequently unsettling exhibitionism with close attention to painterly detail and a deep awareness of the Old Masters. Her first Paris show with Zwirner includes a series of new large-scale canvases, each of which presents a scene of the artist’s studio. Characters from past paintings reappear, bathed in Yuskavage’s typically lurid light – as does the artist herself, weighing up her models. 

Fair in focus

London Art Week
30 June–7 July
Various venues, London

With 51 exhibitors, the capital’s leading dealer-led event has returned to its pre-pandemic size. Galleries across Mayfair and St James’s are hosting ambitious exhibitions; the event also coincides with the Old Master and Classic sales at Bonhams, Christie’s and Sotheby’s. 

The works on view span antiquity and the present and range from painting to sculpture, works on paper and, for the first time, books and maps. Daniel Crouch Rare Books, first-time participants this year, presents highlights from the Cline Collection – the largest assemblage of books, maps and prints in private hands to be devoted to the history of London. Another newcomer, Clase Fine Art, offers a dramatic vision of the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Gustave Doré – a rare large-scale canvas by an artist best known for his prints. But perhaps the highlight of the week comes courtesy of the Fine Art Society. Painted at the height of his powers in 1902, John Lavery’s Portrait of a Lady in Grey and Black caused a stir when first exhibited at the Beaux-Arts in Paris; it has never been on the market before now.  

From the June 2023 issue of Apollo. Preview and subscribe here.