The Joys of Infinite Variety: Masterpiece London 2022


Despite the feverish desire for democratization, the marketplaces that define their purpose because affordability ends up accomplishing nothing but making fun of what they share to pursue with the world. Such was the disease that afflicted the affordable art fair in Hampstead that I visited last term. For the benefit of readers who may not have read my previous article on this topic, I will summarize my findings here. At the AFA, the cheap and the (relatively) expensive seemed to have been shaped by charlatans: the assurance that everything on sale had been presented to get as low as possible turned the whole affair into an operation gargantuan money-grabbing. . The lowest-priced pieces (around £50) looked thoughtless and simplistic, giving the impression that they were being whipped by the public simply because they were labeled as works of art by their immediate surroundings. On the other hand, the more expensive pieces (reaching up to £3000) rarely seemed to deserve such a price and seemed to have been given such values ​​simply to present themselves as ‘finer’ works of art than their lesser brethren. Dear.


A Room with a View, by He Xi (2021)Original photography by Zoe Zhang: illustrations provided by Jonathan Cooper

Whether or not such an analysis is ultimately representative of the true intentions of the artists present will forever remain unknowable: even questioned, one doubts that a careless admission of greed ever flows freely from human lips. However, I could and I wondered whether horror or pleasure would strike my heart in an environment at the opposite extreme. This environment was that of Masterpiece London 2022. Masterpiece describes itself on its website as a receptacle for “exceptional works for sale, from international exhibitors covering all major market disciplines”. As such, it is not surprising that the target audience is not hoi polloi, but “new and established collectors”. Here, then, stood shamelessly Unaffordable Art Fair, freely admitting its own determination to whip only the most cherished treasures to the most discerning public.



The White Bear, by Alfred Stevens (19th century)Original photography by Zoe Zhang: illustrations provided by John Mitchell

The £45 entry fee only served to underscore this point, drawing an unfavorable comparison to the £11-14 price tag attached to AFA entry (not that I paid either, having had the chance to follow a family friend in the former case, and my own mother in the latter case). Considering that the British Museum, which retains a hold on the world’s finest artifacts despite recent controversies over its very legitimacy, is free to enter, Masterpiece’s demands seemed downright criminal for a struggling student like me. .

“For a few blissful hours, Masterpiece truly became my reality”

Still, I can’t deny that I thoroughly enjoyed what I found on display at Masterpiece, despite the sky-high prices running into the millions. In fact, I loved just about everything I saw, except for the private dining room tucked away at the back which was done up by Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu. Which I found a bit chaotic and inconsiderate, and certainly not representative of his best work. But everything else, from the gogottes of Fontainebleau (breathtaking rock formations dating back 30 million years before present) to the famous upside-down paintings of Georg Baselitz, caught my attention so successfully that I spent seven whole hours from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. wandering around the fair, even neglecting to eat lunch. To be fair, the food prices inside were extortionate, and I couldn’t get back in after I left, having been dropped by my ticket giver – but the simple wonder of Masterpiece filled me up better than any what physical nourishment could have done, pumping my veins full of undiluted fear.



Watercolor n°2, by László Moholy-Nagy (1946)Original photography by Zoe Zhang: illustration provided by Vertes

Hiroshi Senju’s majestic waterfall paintings imposed a menacing presence in a New York gallery space, hugging me tightly before them with the bindings of their masterful brushstroke. An array of thirteen characterful and daring ‘Devil’s Marbles’ from Pippin Drysdale tensed all my muscles as I stood on my tiptoes and craned my neck to stare at them constantly, as these small but imposing shapes were beginning to convincingly bleed something of the ocher of the Australian outback. in Sloane Square, of all places. László Moholy-Nagy’s playful abstractions kept my soles firmly planted in the ground as my senses sought some sort of fixity to keep me from dissolving entirely into their embryonic form and hue. Maybe saying I really enjoyed what Masterpiece had to offer doesn’t cut it entirely – for a few blissful hours, it really did become my reality, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

“Here, in the most shamelessly elite spaces, I found a real democratization of art”

This total immersion is, unfortunately, something you simply don’t get in public galleries like the British Museum or the National Gallery, despite the comparable quality of the artifacts on display. The difference lies in one crucial factor. A Swiss gallery had procured a dazzling array of Kirchner, bubbling up the peculiar excitement that accompanies what I can only legitimately describe as fangirling within me: but what ultimately gave me the strength to fully indulge my emotions was not the works of art themselves, but the conversation I was able to have with the gallery owners. There I was, a 19-year-old with no professional or academic experience in the art world, finding a sudden kinship with people who had dedicated their lives to the memories and legacy of artists past and present. They generously bridged the gap between the visiting layman and the industry professional with a genuine outpouring of scholarly sentiment, making art that previously seemed oddly aloof and other (as brilliant as I found it) seem suddenly so painfully familiar and intimate.



19th century Japanese bladesOriginal photography by Zoe Zhang: illustrations provided by Steve Sly

I guess I didn’t look like a collector, or someone who could give them anything in the way of tens of thousands of pounds and more that they were clearly looking for, having set up shop hundreds of miles away from their home in Sloane Square. But I had come with an insatiable appetite for art. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of money to be made in the art world, but if big money is your only concern, I guess you’re much more likely to end up in the bank or the consultancy. To me at least, it seemed clear that the love of art itself abounded and even prevailed over other earthly concerns at Masterpiece, with every new conversation that arose. I would even go so far as to suggest that it was perhaps there, in the most elite and shameless space, that I found a real democratization of art. After all, £45 is only about the price of three cocktails in London. Discover the joys of entertaining at your home, I would say, and invest in a truly unparalleled experience: the sublimity of art presented by those for whom it is purpose.

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