blurred paintings on the wall

“Escalating costs” leads to the cancellation of London’s Masterpiece Fair

The parent company of Masterpiece London, an annual multi-disciplinary art fair held at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, has announced that the fair is cancelled. Masterpiece London was founded in 2010 and had come to be considered one of the highlights of the summer art calendar in London. However, the company that owns it – MCH Group – has released a statement saying that due to “escalating costs and a decline in the number of international exhibitors” the event is “not commercially viable this year.”

MCH Group also runs Art Basel and the company had a successful 2022 with the inaugural edition of Paris+ par Art Basel in October at the Grand Palais Éphémère. In its aftermath Bloomberg commented on Paris’s “ascendance as a contemporary art capital” with Paris+ being a symbol of the city’s success. Almost pre-empting the decision made to cancel Masterpiece London, French dealer Jérôme Poggi said in October “I think it’s a banality to say that Paris is the true place to be nowadays due to Brexit, even though it’s true”, and that “I’ve received many messages from collectors around the world saying they’d be coming to Paris [for Paris+], and usually they don’t, they go to Frieze [in London].”

In stark contrast, Lucie Kitchener, chief executive of Masterpiece London, commented upon the “harsh commercial reality” of the UK’s inflationary and post-Brexit financial situation. She also said that since Brexit the number of European exhibitors at the fair has dropped. Kitchener and fair director Craig Brown wrote an email to galleries and dealers already signed up to exhibit this year at the fair, saying, “I appreciate this may come as a surprise to you but hope that by communicating with you over six months before the event we are able to minimize any impact.”

Kitchener told The Art Newspaper that Brexit had led to a considerable decline in European dealers, who faced extra costs in shipping and other restrictions. It appears this decision is final, with Kitchener saying that “no future editions of Masterpiece in its current format are planned. MCH group is working with the Masterpiece team to consider future brand developments.”

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