Jun 29, 2012
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Glitterati flock to Masterpiece London luxury fair

Jun 29, 2012

The Masterpiece London art and luxury fair opened on Thursday showcasing jewelry, furniture and cars to throngs of the international super-rich seemingly immune to worries over a fragile global economy.

Harvey Nichols designer dresses at Masterpiece London 2011 / Photo: Masterpiece London

The glitterati moved along the stands at an exclusive preview event in Chelsea on Wednesday night, sipping champagne as they admired rare sculptures, porcelain, classic cars, paintings, fine jewels and silverware.

"There is a tremendous amount of wealth which needs somewhere to go," Philip Hewat-Jaboor, chairman of Masterpiece, told Reuters at the fair.

International dealers and galleries offered top tier goods to suit all tastes.

Standouts at the event, which runs until July 4, included a 1952 Jaguar C-Type racing sports car once owned and raced by American driver Masten Gregory, and an aquamarine and ruby belt with buckle necklace, designed by Fulco, Duke of Verdura, for jeweler Paul Flato, New York, circa 1935, priced at $2.5 million.

The Gagosian Gallery unveiled a gold plated silver statue by celebrated British artist Damien Hirst, called "Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain 2008."

Visitors also viewed a 1959 Salford Street scene by British painter L.S. Lowry with a price of 495,000 pounds ($766,918) and works by Francis Bacon and Picasso.

Antique tables and clocks, and a risqué 18th Century German Meissen porcelain figure showing a young couple with a price tag of $320,000 were also on sale, along with a chess set featuring gilded birds created by luxury jeweler Theo Fennell for 95,000 pounds ($147,186), and vintage jewels from Faberge, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels.

London's high-end art and luxury market appears to be oblivious to the recession in Britain and the weak global economy, gripped by the euro zone debt crisis and worries over Chinese growth.

Organizers reported brisk orders from the start at Masterpiece London, and a number of orange stickers signifying sales quickly dotted the stands.

Sycomore Ancient Art's large wooden statue of a high-ranking Egyptian official dating from 2570-2350 BC sold almost immediately, to a German museum for well over one million pounds ($1.54 million).

Referring to the influx of international visitors milling around the fair, Hewat-Jaboor said London had secured its position as a major international hub for luxury goods.

"London is the great melting pot," he said.

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