By Alejandro Saralegui
If you want to know what’s going on in the art and antiques world hoof it on over to the European Fine Art Fair. Celebrating their 25th anniversary in the small Dutch city of Maastricht, TEFAF as the show is better known is an extraordinary assemblage of the world’s best dealers in all areas of art.
Given the encyclopedic nature of the show there is literally something for everyone, and all of it of unimpeachable quality. Supposedly the most vigorously vetted show in the world, 168 experts arrive two days before the vernissage to examine and re-examine all of the works presented by the dealers. If an object doesn’t meet their stringent criteria out it goes. On the second day of vetting, just prior to the show’s opening, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands visited giving TEFAF her royal stamp of approval!
There are the well-known dealers such as Axel Vervoordt with his moody booth of Chic Belgique or New York’s Carlton Hobbs, a rookie at the fair, showing among other treasures a massive, mid-18th century gilt wood carved frame (pictured above) made for Fredrick, Prince of Wales by Paul Petit, the leading cabinetmaker of the day. Even more interesting though are the smaller dealers one doesn’t see too often. Flore de Brantes from Brussels brought her terrific selection of contemporary painting, 18th century gilded furniture and Herve van der Stratten lighting. London’s Rupert Wace Ancient Art can always be counted on to show a remarkably personal collection of artifacts such as the small sculptural shard featuring an owl’s face to an extremely important limestone relief of Egypt’s only female Pharoh, Queen Hatsheptshut.
In the decorative arts world Sebastian + Barquet showed a rare pair of 1969 Paul Evans sideboards (pictured above) from his Sculpture Front collection. And the always wonderful Carolle Thibault Pomerantz exhibited the “English Garden” a pristine quartet of Joseph Dufour wallpaper panels, one of three known precursors of the scenique panoramic.
Changes and Challenges, a scholarly examination of the art world market was presented on the second day of the fair. Already making headlines was speaker, Dr. Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist who specializes in the fine and decorative art market and the founder of Arts Economics, presenting her findings that China had overtaken the US as the biggest market for art and antiques. Not surprisingly, while the art and antiques markets continue to recover after the Great Recession it is the Chinese art and antiques market that is surging. Interestingly, the recovery of the art market in general has been spurred by the increasingly global nature of the market. Whereas in the last recession of the early ‘90s the recovery took a decade we are almost at 2007 pre-recession levels.
The feeling of recovery was palpable as word spread that designer Calvin Klein was at the vernissage, the Rubens Crucifixion at Bernheimer Fine Old Masters (asking 3.5 million Euros) sold and that perhaps in excess of 100,000 flowers were used to tart up the scene for some of art market’s most beautiful works currently available.
Photographs by Alejandro Saralegui