Strong art sales at the fifth Masterpiece fair; Pourbus takes off in Paris; Christie's sets a Spanish record; and Phillips holds digital art auction

July 08, 2014 06:58
Frans Pourbus (1569-1622), Portrait of Elisabeth of France Frans Pourbus (1569-1622), Portrait of Elisabeth of France
Frans Pourbus (1569-1622), Portrait of Elisabeth of France
Frans Pourbus (1569-1622), Portrait of Elisabeth of France
Antoni Tapies, Large Ochre with Incisions, 1961 Antoni Tapies, Large Ochre with Incisions, 1961
Antoni Tapies, Large Ochre with Incisions, 1961
Antoni Tapies, Large Ochre with Incisions, 1961

Masterpiece, London’s most expensive art and antiques fair, has now closed and the jury is out to see how successful it has been in this, its fifth year.

Visitor numbers were strong at 35,000, but it is the level of prices achieved that will impress most. The jewellery dealers, Symbolic & Chase, sold a 1912 Cartier corsage for $20 million. Private dealer Richard Philp sold a set of Lombardy Renaissance marriage portraits to an English collector for £240,000; and Osborne Samuel sold a Lynn Chadwick sculpture for £250,000.

Antiquities dealers Charles Ede sold an Egyptian limestone ushabti for Yahu for £190,000, and modern sculpture dealer Robert Bowman sold a small bronze of Rodin’s The Kiss for £580,000.

In terms of quantity, it would be difficult to beat Adrian Sassoon, who sold more than 60 examples of modestly priced contemporary design, or Sladmore Contemporary, which meticulously recreated equine sculptor Nic Fiddian Green’s studio and reported 40 sales ranging from £8,000 to £250,000.

Coming close was the folk-art dealer Robert Young, who sold nearly 40 pieces for between £5,000 and £50,000 each. While he did not attribute this to the effects of Tate Modern’s British Folk Art exhibition, his first clients were Americans who bought a pair of felt collage pictures by George Smart, a Victorian tailor from Frant near Tunbridge Wells, for £12,500 after seeing the show.

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A previously unknown 17th-century portrait by Frans Pourbus of Elizabeth of France, the daughter of Henry IV and sister of Louis XIII, was offered by Sotheby’s in Paris with an estimate of €60,000, but it took off, selling for €529,500. The painting was bought by London dealer Mark Weiss, a specialist in early portraiture.

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The craze for young “process” painters is having a knock-on effect on the market for older-generation works. At Christie’s, a record was set for the Spanish artist Antoni Tapies, when his mixed-media painting Large Ochre Incisions (1961), resembling rough wall graffiti, sold for a record £1.65 million. Tapies was an early process painter and had been undervalued, says Christie’s.

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Phillips, in association with the website tumblr.com, held the first auction devoted to digital art in the UK last week, and sold 17 of 22 lots for £83,000, well in excess of the £55,000 pre-sale estimate.

Top lot was a holographic abstract by Michael Staniak, a 32-year-old Australian who shows with a gallery in Los Angeles, which was estimated at £3,500 and sold for £25,000.
There’s obviously more to come in the digital market.