Champagne and celebrities hit Masterpiece London luxury fair

LONDON Thu Jun 27, 2013 6:01pm BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Millionaires and celebrities crammed into the launch of London luxury fair Masterpiece, an annual shopping extravaganza for the rarest art, jewellery and antiques.

Standout items on show on Tuesday night included a huge Roy Lichtenstein painting called "Puzzle Portrait", a large pearl that once belonged to Mary Tudor, and a 1925 first edition "Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Upmarket London clock emporium Raffety showcased a long case clock believed to have graced the rooms of a Medici palazzo in Florence, and an unusual George II period walnut bureau bookcase with a clock above the glass doors.

Wartski offered vintage jewels from Faberge. Exquisite Art Deco pieces from Paris jewellers Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels were on show at various booths at the fair.

Celebrities, including "Made in Chelsea" UK reality TV stars, milled around the crowded stands at the Royal Hospital Chelsea venue, sipping champagne and admiring the treasures.

"We have seen lots of interest. We definitely want to come back next year," said Marwan Chatila of Chatila, a first-time exhibitor at Masterpiece who showcased magnificent one-off diamond jewellery pieces from his Bond Street collection.

Art dealers said privately they believed the bright Lichtenstein painting, exhibited by the Washington-based Geoffrey Diner Gallery, could fetch as much as 20 million pounds as the market for post-war art boomed.

Simon Shore, a dealer whose paintings at the fair included a seascape by Claude Monet and a surreal timepiece by Salvador Dali, said he believed that Chinese investors would develop an appetite for Western art.

He said the ultra-wealthy in emerging economies where currencies had slid against the dollar, would look to high-quality Western art as a safe-haven investment for their cash.

"I think we will continue to see more interest from Chinese investors who are beginning to appreciate the universal appeal of art from the likes of Andy Warhol, whose paintings featured dollar notes," Shore said.

In fine jewellery, standout items included a pearl once owned by Mary Tudor, which at 64.5 carats is believed to be the third largest well-formed natural seawater pearl in the world, available for a seven-figure sum.

London retailer Hancocks displayed an Art Deco bangle with a striking geometric design by Fouquet for 875,000 pounds.

Peter Harrington, a purveyor of rare books, showcased a first edition of the novel "The Great Gatsby" for 120,000 pounds, taking a cue from the hit Hollywood movie starring Leonardo Di Caprio released earlier this year.

Masterpiece runs until July 3.

(Reporting by David Brough; Editing by Paul Casciato)

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