The first printed map of Amsterdam for €395,000 at David Croach Rare Books, a Penitent Saint Peter by Anthony van Dyck for $2.7 million at Colnaghi, a millennial Tibetan Bodhisattva sculpture at Rossi & Rossi for $10 million -Dollar and Chagall’s “The Circus – The Rider” at Salis (5.8 million euros) – such a high quality offer can only be found at the Tefaf in Maastricht, the most beautiful festival organized by the international art trade. And not only in the traditional areas of paintings by old masters and classic antiques, but also in special areas such as Asian art, jewellery, watches or modern design – a section that has meanwhile shrunk noticeably.
Those who travel here are looking for the best and the most expensive, in carefully furnished booths, which are sometimes staged as if a stage play far in the past is being performed. This time, the floral splendor at the entrance has piled up into an imaginary mountain meadow made up of 100,000 blossoms in white and pink tones. Over 270 traders from 20 countries offer what they have carefully researched beforehand. Also taking part in the Showcase section are newcomers who have existed between three and ten years. The number of participants has increased from six to ten, including 31-year-old Parisian Maxime Flatry, who specializes in Art Deco furniture by Jean-Michel Frank and André Arbus. He appreciates the dialogue between the epochs that is typical of Tefaf: “The aesthetics of contemporary art, for example, may not really fit Art Deco at first glance, but the creative approach of the artists is similar. Art Deco is the beginning of modernism, a lot of pieces are really intellectually thought out.”
The rush to the vernissage was more impulsive, and perhaps it is not deceptive that this time, after the reluctance of an unusual last exceptional edition in June, which was shaped by the pandemic, many international museum people were seen at the usual time slot. Some might be interested in the magnificent scholarly portrait of Jacopo Robusti, better known as Tintoretto, on the stand of London’s Trinity Fine Arts. But also for the self-portrait of the rediscovered Lotte Laserstein at London’s Agnews Gallery; after all, only a few portraits of the German-Jewish exile have survived. One of many rarities that can only be found in this density in Maastricht.
The topic of vanitas is omnipresent – is it due to our time?
However, it does not change the fact that the pandemic has fundamentally changed sales channels. New, Instagram-savvy buyers have arrived, used to shelling out big bucks for works she hasn’t seen in real life. Tefaf is also investing enormously in its online presence. “The collectors who come to Tefaf still want to see the pieces, but we shouldn’t be ashamed to pick up the younger ones too,” says London sculpture expert Stuart Lochhead, who stages his stand like a cage in which a monumental bust of the French painter Eugène Delacroix by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse can be seen dimly.
Despite all the opulence and diversity, the recurring theme of vanitas caught the eye when strolling through the aisles. A reaction to the crisis of the present? “The world is changing politically and economically,” says exhibition director Hidde Van Seggelen, “there are tensions between China and America. There’s the Ukraine war, there’s inflation. Some may seek security in highly endowed art. But there are also affordable objects. However, many German collectors come because they appreciate the art historical expertise of the dealers, even if they end up spending modest sums.” With all the wealth of treasures from 7,000 years old, they were often interested in ancient Chinese art.
The Kunstkammer Laue from Munich is offering an oliphant
This is the case at the stand of the Munich Kunstkammer Georg Laue. In the very first hour, Laue sold a turned chandelier from southern Germany, around 1600, to a German museum and two German Renaissance silver goblets to an American private collector. Was that because of the bunk’s real parquet floor from the 18th century, which came from an old castle? A Rothschild Olifant by the sculptor Johann Michael Egner, who was once famous at the royal courts, even got its own room. The price was “in the high six-digit range”. But one Chinese visitor to the stand only had eyes for two 17th-century Chinese blue-and-white vases. The price of 28,000 euros each was obviously not what he had imagined, actually incomprehensible, because top pieces from the Middle Kingdom usually fetch much higher sums at the Tefaf, similar to the jewel segment.
A spectacular robbery with stolen diamonds worth 30 million euros had overshadowed the last Tefaf, which is why the increased security staff cannot be overlooked. A new fence was erected around the art fair, the public was checked at several locks and screened with sensors. The buying mood did not cloud the conditions reminiscent of airport controls. Düsseldorf-based gallery Beck & Eggeling said it had reserved several works by Berlin-based artist Leiko Ikemura, valued at between €57,000 and €78,500, and even more so with the sale of a 1903 Kandinsky painting for €400,000. Londoner David Aaron parted with a mask of a Silenus hybrid creature, dated 100 BC, for 300,000 euros. and at Ben Janssens Oriental, countless red dots adorned the showcases with Chinese jade objects and Indian Buddha heads in no time at all. In this way, the Tefaf museum time machine remains a guarantee for flourishing business, even in turbulent times.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.