London. Italian luxury car maker Maserati is showcasing its hand-crafted Quattroporte S in an unlikely setting: at the Masterpiece London art and antiques fair, which opened on Thursday in a plush tent on the grounds of Chelsea's Royal Hospital.
Featuring among such fair highlights as a newly discovered pastel by Claude Monet and a pair of pearls once owned by France's last empress is a metallic black version of the racy sedan.
The brand-new version of a model originally designed in 1963, it has a shiny, bulbous bonnet and ranges in price from 81,555 to 97,783 pounds ($128,300-153,800) -- depending on whether you opt for such extras as a 15-speaker surround-sound system or a Poltrona Frau fine-grain leather interior.
The fair, which runs through July 1, caught Maserati’s attention in 2012, and its first booth opened there in 2013, James Cowan, Maserati marketing manager for Britain, said. The luxury car maker has been back ever since, he added.
“Having a presence at an event such as Masterpiece allows us to build awareness and start relationships with an audience potentially in the market for a luxury car,” he said, noting that Maserati every year received inquiries at Masterpiece which led to "a number of sales."
So far in 2015, sales at the company's British unit have been strong, Cowan said: In the first five months of the year, 645 Maseratis were registered in the United Kingdom, a 50 percent rise from the same period last year.
To fair visitors, the Maserati stand comes as a surprise, nestled as it is among others with contents far removed from designer cars.
Immediately beside it, Brun Fine Art is offering a pair of late 18th-century Roman marble lions. The Rolleston booth across the aisle has on prominent display a George II mahogany side table from around 1745.
Why did Masterpiece decide to have a Maserati stand in the first place?
“Maserati is one exhibitor out of 150-odd,” Masterpiece Chairman Philip Hewat-Jaboor said. “It adds an element that’s a bit different -- a sort of 'frisson'.”
Hewat-Jaboor said having the luxury car brand there, like having watch dealers, was “a really good way of bringing in a group of people who may not otherwise be all that interested,” and giving them “the opportunity to discover other fields."
“The collector these days will buy a fabulous car, a wonderful piece of 18th-century furniture, and a great Roman antiquity,” he added. “The parameters have moved.”