The lazy amongst us took the buggy the vast distance between Burton Court and the Embankment (300 yards at a stretch). We smugly passed the more enthusiastic pedestrians, knowing that we could save the extra energy for the Masterpiece exhibition’s wide and expansive aisles.  

Now in its third year, this superbly presented show pulls together some of the most beautiful objects in the world. Whether you are after a 4th Millennium (yes Millennium, not Century – I had to double check too) Egyptian vase (I didn’t ask the price, by the way) or the latest Maserati Quattroporte, there is “something for everyone”. 

When I say “everyone”, of course that implies that money is simply no object.  This aside, the exhibition is exactly what the soul needs in such dire economic times. Painting, sculpture, speed boats, Faberge cufflinks - every area of what is not needed but truly desired is here.

While it seems ludicrous to most to spend £8,000,000 on a very lovely John Singer Sargent landscape, we marvel both at its intrinsic artistic value, but probably are wondering  who will really pay this for oil on canvas.

But this is what is so exhilarating. Beauty lifts the soul and to be surrounded by objects that are actually for sale allows us to vicariously live amongst the super rich. What would our TV room look like with the Monet, could we keep the cat off the George II library chair and wouldn’t it be a giggle to potter to work from Chelsea Harbour to Victoria Embankment in the Riva.  I’m always fascinated by the way prices are delivered to potential customers with an insouciance and aplomb that verge on the ridiculous. “It is lovely – and only £63,000”.

That’s why I never ask. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but only if he’s got an extremely fat wallet.  For the rest of us, best we enjoy and make for the bar.

We stretched to two glasses of Ruinard and a Peroni.  


- Martin Betts