Take it slow

There is much to savour at this year’s Mas­ter­piece fair if you take your time, says Huon Mal­lalieu

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

FOR all the mil­lions of pounds of art on of­fer at this year’s Mas­ter­piece fair and the Lon­don Art Week, per­haps the most im­por­tant thing is free. Slow Art Work­shops (SAW) will take place at the fair at 6pm each evening from June 29 to July 7, as well as at nu­mer­ous Lon­don gal­leries from June 20, es­pe­cially dur­ing the week from June 30 to July 7.

SAW is the brain­child of my col­league Su­san Moore, an alumna of COUN­TRY LIFE who now writes au­thor­i­ta­tively on art, col­lect­ing and the mar­ket for The Spec­ta­tor and Apollo.

In con­ver­sa­tion at Maas­tricht in March, where we were sur­rounded not only by so much great art, but also by so much of the world’s ex­per­tise, she lamented how lit­tle is done to teach peo­ple how to look at art, and re­ally see what they are look­ing at, and that they are ac­tively dis­cour­aged from han­dling it. How good it would be, she pro­posed, to have a cor­ner in ev­ery art and an­tiques fair where, un­der the di­rec­tion of a spe­cial­ist, peo­ple could learn to use their eyes and hands prop­erly to en­joy works of art.

A sen­si­tive ‘hand’ is as im­por­tant to a con­nois­seur as an ‘eye’. Ob­vi­ously, the tex­ture and heft of ce­ramic, bronze or wood can tell one much and the feel of­ten thrills, but, with ex­pe­ri­ence, hands can even help in as­sess­ing a draw­ing or paint­ing. Some­thing that feels dead in the hand should be treated with cau­tion.

As we dis­cussed her idea, the name Slow Art emerged, chim­ing with the ad­mirable Slow Food move­ment, and, by chance, in syn­chronic­ity with the launch of Slow Art Day vis­its to Amer­i­can and Ger­man pub­lic gal­leries and artists’ stu­dios, in which peo­ple spend up to 15 min­utes re­ally look­ing at just one or two works. Now, less than four months later, she has brought her idea to fruition with the en­thu­si­as­tic co­op­er­a­tion not just of fairs and gal­leries, but also of cu­ra­tors at the Bri­tish Mu­seum, the Fitzwilliam and other in­sti­tu­tions tra­di­tion­ally averse to al­low­ing the pub­lic to ap­proach their trea­sures.

It is in­tended to stage th­ese pop-up events in­ter­na­tion­ally and, in terms of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and hap­pi­ness, this sim­ple, free (ex­cept for mu­seum charges where ap­pli­ca­ble) and bril­liant idea is worth all the prom­ises of po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The 20-minute SAW ses­sions at Mas­ter­piece will take place on the JLT Spe­cial­ity stand op­po­site the Mount Street Deli and sub­jects will in­clude a Chi­nese scholar’s rock, with Mar­cus Flacks; Rus­tic pot­tery v Court porce­lain, with Er­rol Man­ners; Re­gency sil­ver with Lewis Smith; and a Pu­gin chair with Martin Levy. Others are yet to be fi­nalised.

Th­ese Mas­ter­piece ses­sions will be on a first come, first served ba­sis, but those at gal­leries will have to be pre-booked ei­ther at slowart­work­shop@gmail. com or mail@lon­donartweek. co.uk as num­bers are lim­ited. Lon­don Art Week will be pre­viewed here on June 28.

Not be­ing nat­u­rally aus­tere, I pre­fer the quiet emo­tion of Sir Wil­liam Ni­chol­son to the rigour of his cere­bral son Ben. Par­tic­u­larly when look­ing at his land­scapes and still-lifes, one so of­ten ex­pe­ri­ences a lit­tle lift­ing of the heart. Patrick Bourne, the up­stairs neigh­bour of Agnew’s in St James’s Place, has four paint­ings that cer­tainly do this. The 13in by 16in Land­scape near Har­lech was painted in 1918 or 1919, a dif­fi­cult time for him with the deaths of his first wife, a son and daugh­ter and his meet­ing with his sec­ond wife, so emo­tion is an in­gre­di­ent. There is also strength, as the stone wall writhes up the hill like a myth­i­cal Worm

Maz­zoleni of Turin and Lon­don has a lovely work by one of Italy’s most im­por­tant ab­stract painters, Piero Do­razio (1927–2005). Best known for his vi­brant use of colour, Do­razio was in­flu­enced by Ab­stract Ex­pres­sion­ism and colour-field paint­ing and be­friended painters Jack­son Pol­lock, Franz Kline and Willem de Koon­ing as well as the art critic Cle­ment Green­berg. The gallery will present a par­tic­u­larly large and strik­ing ex­am­ple in Do­razio’s 161 ∕3in by 68in Vis a Vis I from 1988

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