By Sallie Brady
“Where is the tent?” asked one fair-goer. “I thought this fair was in a tent.”
“You’re standing in it,” replied another.
It was the opening gala three year’s ago now of the inaugural edition of London’s Masterpiece Fair. Held in a stunning custom-built marquee, the facade so well replicated the red brick architecture of Chelsea, most visitors thought they were housed in bricks and mortar.
This is not your ordinary antiques affair. Founded by a handful of London’s tip-top antique furniture dealers, the idea was to combine the absolute finest of art, antiques and jewelry with luxury goods and some high-end whimsy. So, this year, you can shop for a bronze cast of Rodin’s The Kiss, never before on public view, selling with the Sladmore Gallery; or come home with a rare 1,000 B.C. Egyptian sarcophagus coffin, complete with its mummy board being sold by the Safani Gallery; or drive away in the custom Rolls-Royce that the British carmaker debuts here annually.
There is also antique furniture, 20th-century design, contemporary photography, antiquities, paintings, sculpture, vintage jewelry, ceramics, even a collection of 600 mechanical pencils from the Victorian era that is being sold as a set by John Bull Antiques. Any takers?
Of all the fairs of London’s Season, Masterpiece draws the most glam clientele with the likes of Elton John, Paul Smith, Prince Harry, Uma Thurman, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Princess Michael of Kent, Tom Ford, and Anish Kapoor wandering the airy aisles. Entry is L20; June 28 to July 4.
Where to Stay:London hotel rates can be frightful and too often I’ve booked one of those too-good-to-be-true on Travelocity and drained my bank account on taxis journeying back-and-forth to Siberia. A decent rate in a good location with value-added extras can actually be a good strategy. Jumeirah CarltonTower is a five-star in Knightsbridge within walking distance of Harrod’s,Sloane Square, and a fast taxi to Masterpiece. The Jumeirah brand, which is out of Dubai, and might not be as well known points west, is always top-notch. This hotel also offers something extraordinary for London, The Peak, a serious health club that includes a generous pool with laned swimming under an airy glass atrium, as well as Jacuzzis and steam rooms; a rooftop state-of-the-art gym, also enclosed in glass; and a golf simulator and swing coach. Jumeirah Carlton House guests are complimentary members for all sans the golf. For anyone who wants to keep consistent with a workout, shake off jet-lag, or just have a warm soak after a day of hideous English weather, it’s bliss.
Jumeirah Carlton Tower; Cadogan Place; 011.44.20.7235.1234; Pre-booked rooms starting from L180.
A Late-Night Bite in Chelsea: MostLondon restaurants don’t serve dinner after10 p.m.. Always trying to push out my day–and of course, originating from a slightly earlier time zone–it’s nice to discover an eatery that serves late. PJ’s Bar in Grill inChelsea is a convivial English take on a brasserie, where you can order anything from Loch Fyne oysters to steak frites to moules provencale. The owner’s vintage polo kit collection hangs about, as well as a massive World War I airplane propeller. Monday through Saturday PJ’s closes at12 p.m., with last order taken at11:30 p.m.; on Sunday last order taken at10:30 p.m. for11 p.m. closing.
P.J.’s Bar & Grill; 52 Fulham Road; 011.44.20.7581.0025.
Traveler’s Tip: Don’t stop for lunch before coming to Masterpiece. The fair’s pop-up restaurants are mini-mes of some of the poshest tables in the English capital. At Le Caprice you could find yourself dining next to Mick Jagger or Prince Harry, and there’s also Scott’s Seafood, Harry’s Bar, and the Mount Street Deli–Princess Alexandra–the fair patron and Queen’s cousin–fancies their brownies.