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What not to miss during London’s summer art season

3 June 2016

London is the place to be this summer as fair season descends on the city. Now in its seventh edition, Masterpiece London remains the premier event for fine art, antiques, and decorative arts (30 June–6 July). Also in its seventh year, Art Antiques London returns to Kensington Gardens with 60 international dealers offering a range of works including furniture, jewellery, and rare books (24–30 June). The event’s associated lecture programme is mainly focused on ceramics – from botanical porcelain to ceramic treasures in the Colonial Williamsburg collection. This year marks the 44th staging of the Art & Antiques Fair, Olympia, which brings together 160 dealers offering works from £100 to £1m. This edition of the fair includes a version of the Chicago-based SOFA (Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design), as well as, for the first time, a section dedicated to new and emerging galleries (27 June–3 July).

September Afternoon (c. 1939), Alfred Munnings. Richard Green Gallery at London Art Week

September Afternoon (c. 1939), Alfred Munnings. Richard Green Gallery at London Art Week

It’s four years since London Art Week established itself in the capital, becoming one of the most anticipated events of the season – representatives from over 50 museums are reported to have visited last year. This is down to both the standard of the dealers and the high quality of works on show. It is held in galleries around Mayfair and St James’s – the heart of London’s historic art trade – and 50 participants (including three auction houses) once again present a selection of paintings, sculptures and drawings from antiquity to the present day (1–8 July). This year sees a number of new participants, among them Arcadia Cerri Fine Art, Charles Ede, Peter Finer, and Kallos Gallery. The latter is showcasing a variety of unusual antiquities, including a gold stater that stands as one of the first Greek gold coins ever minted in 561–546 BC. Arcadia Cerri Fine Art, meanwhile, presents the exhibition ‘Early European Sculpture’, which features works sculpted in alabaster, stone, and wood dating from the 12th–16th centuries. Among the highlights is a rare 13th-century carved limestone head of a man frowning, from Reims. Alongside this, Colnaghi is exhibiting for the first time at the event since it merged with Spanish art dealers Coll & Cortés.

Among the paintings worth seeking out are the 30 portraits by Cornelius Johnson on display at the Weiss Gallery. Despite being a painter at Charles I’s court, Johnson was overshadowed by Van Dyck. This is the first large-scale exhibition of the artist’s work and is staged to celebrate the gallery’s 30th anniversary. Following the renewed interest in Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun (see Apollo, March 2016), don’t miss the opportunity to see one of her portraits – a charming depiction of Yekaterina Vassilievna Skavronskaia – at Stair Sainty. An ambitious still life by Flemish artist Jacob van Hulsdonck steals the show at Johnny Van Haeften. This is one of the artist’s larger works and has only recently come to light; it’s typical of his meticulous hand. Sunnier scenes can be found at Stoppenbach & Delestre, which shows Henry Moret’s La baie de Lampaul, Île de Ouessant (1897), and at Richard Green Gallery, whose ‘Aspects of British Impressionism’ includes Alfred Munnings’ September Afternoon (c. 1939).

The Hope Roma (before 1808), Vincenzo Pacetti. Lowell Libson at London Art Week

The Hope Roma (before 1808), Vincenzo Pacetti. Lowell Libson at London Art Week

Sculpture is always well represented, and this year is no exception. Benjamin Proust Fine Art shows Benedetto Briosco’s marble relief of the Holy Family (c. 1500), while Lowell Libson presents an impressive colossal bust of Roma, almost certainly produced in Rome by Vincenzo Pacetti. Made for the collector and connoisseur Thomas Hope, this neoclassical sculpture is based upon an antique bust originally in the Borghese collection. Another notable work, and one previously unpublished, is a terracotta Bacchus at Trinity Fine Art. The work belongs to a group of sculptures attributed to the Master of the Unruly Children, an unknown artist active in Florence during the early 1500s who drew inspiration from Michelangelo. Other highlights include an Etruscan suit of armour of around 500–450 BC, part of the exhibition ‘Art and Adornment: Treasures of Combat’ at Ariadne Galleries, which features early cross-cultural examples of arms and armour.

It comes as no surprise that many galleries in London at this time of year pull out all the stops. ‘Pop Art Heroes: Pop, Pin-Ups & Politics’ at Whitford Fine Art continues the recently renewed interest in Pop, but keeps it decidedly local by focusing on British Pop Art during the 1950s and ’60s (until 1 July). Among the ‘heroes’ of the movement are Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Clive Barker, and Patrick Caulfield. Staged to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the Fine Art Society, the exhibition ‘The Fine Art Society: A Celebration’ takes over all five floors of the Mayfair townhouse in a show that reveals the past and present tastes of the gallery (6 June–7 July). Alongside archival photographs, it presents works by 40 artists, including James McNeill Whistler, Walter Sickert, Prunella Clough, and Eric Ravilious.

Girl on a Terrace (1971), Patrick Caulfield. Whitford Fine Art, London

Girl on a Terrace (1971), Patrick Caulfield. Whitford Fine Art, London

Pangolin London stages an ambitious show that transforms its space into a formal garden. ‘Sculpture in the Garden’ follows the gallery’s 2014 exhibition ‘Sculpture in the Home’, part of a series of shows based on touring exhibitions of the same name curated by the Arts Council of England in the 1940s and ’50s (until 9 July). Catto Gallery presents an exhibition of the Russian painters Elena and Michel Gran, who have been painting together – on the same canvas – for 50 years. Twenty-five new works by the couple are on show here (16 June–5 July). Finally, don’t miss ‘Encounters’ at Dutko Gallery, a survey of Japanese art and decorative arts from the 1930s to the present day (22 June–5 August). It includes works by contemporary ceramist Koike Shoko and Gutai artist Takesada Matsutani.

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