How to Master the Arts Nazy Vassegh, CEO of London’s renowned Masterpiece art fair, tells MARK HEDLEY a few things about bringing the capital some of the world’s best museum-quality fine art, antiques and design HOW HAVE YOU SEEN MASTERPIECE CHANGE SINCE YOU JOINED?
IF YOU HAD THE MONEY, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BOUGHT FROM 2014’S FAIR?
I joined the fair in January 2013, a few months before its fourth edition. When I joined, it was still in the early years of its development, so there was an opportunity to really shape the trajectory of Masterpiece and establish its place among the finest art fairs in the world. Over the past few years we have ensured that the fair has developed a growing appeal for collectors, curators and art enthusiasts alike. One of the biggest changes, in my opinion, has been the perception of the fair and how significant it has become in the annual art world calendar.
Collisart exhibited an extraordinarily beautiful painting named Miss Bentham (Early Standing Nude) by George Bellows [pictured overleaf]. The piece has recently been sold to the Barber Institute in Birmingham, where it will be on display for visitors and students at Birmingham University, but I would have loved to own it. I also think Hemmerle has such exquisite designs; its use of intriguing and unusual materials is at the forefront of jewellery design and I would love to own a piece.
IN WHAT AREAS HAVE YOU SEEN THE GREATEST GROWTH?
Our visitor numbers have gone from 18,000 in 2010 to more than 35,000 in 2014; last year, our exhibitors sold more than £100m worth of art as a result of the fair, and our annual charity gala, which has been held in aid of various charity partners, went from generating proceeds of £100,000 in 2010 to almost £1m last year.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO EXHIBITS?
Every item for sale at the fair must be a masterpiece – by this we mean that it is an original work with superb provenance that represents the very best of its kind in its particular artistic category. Cross-collecting is at the very heart of what we present to the public, so we aim to work with dealers from a diverse range of disciplines who are leaders in the field. We ensure that, through our extremely stringent vetting process, the fair presents only the finest items. We have 26 vetting committees with almost 150 experts in all different categories. We start the vetting process several months in advance of the fair, and then, just before the opening, a day is dedicated to inspecting every single object. WHAT ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT SEEING IN THIS YEAR’S SHOW?
I am excited to welcome a selection of new dealers to the fair this year – Richard Green (London), Kraemer Gallery (Paris), Jacques de la Béraudière (Switzerland), David Gill (London), Van Cleef & Arpels (Paris),
Nukaga (Japan) and Nilufar (Italy). It is always a pleasure to welcome new galleries to the fair but it is also exciting to see all our returning exhibitors, many of whom have exhibited at Masterpiece since the very beginning. First-time exhibitor Nukaga Gallery is bringing an exceptional work by one of my favourite artists Marc Chagall, which has been in a private collection since 1985. The work is called Les fleurs sur le toit, and it was painted in 1925. I am very excited to see this at the fair. WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER AT SOTHEBY’S?
I had the privilege of working with some extraordinary and dynamic people during my time at Sotheby’s and it was both an enriching and rewarding period of career development. In terms of the objects and pieces I saw day to day it is extremely hard to pick one highlight, but I do remember visiting one client who lived in a very unassuming semi-detached house and being confronted with a work by Claude Monet. You never know what you will come across and that was a highlight in itself. WHAT TREASURE ASSETS ARE YOU MOST INTERESTED IN PERSONALLY?
My husband [Simon Baker, marketing director at Gieves & Hawkes] and I are always looking for pieces that bring colour to our home, whether it is a painting or a piece of furniture. I like to invest in pieces which resonate with me on an aesthetic, historical and cultural level. The piece most important to me is by Farhad Moshiri, an Iranian artist who uses pop art imagery to discuss Western and Iranian cultures. HOW DID YOU START INVESTING IN ART?
◀ THE ONE AND ONLY: An ebony bangle with detailing in amber, copper and white gold by Hemmerle. The design house treats its jewellery as works of art, making one-of-a-kind pieces only.
Having worked in the auction world for many years I wanted to forge a path of my own, which led to me setting up my own advisory firm, focused primarily on 20th- ▶
Hedge Magazine - Issue 34 - The Treasure Assets Issue