Sunday, March 31, 2013

TEFAF from a Different Perspective

The European Art Fair ended for 2013 about a week ago.  It seems to me that more was written about it than ever before.  More importantly the TEFAF organization has done a masterful job of putting a great deal on line regarding the fair with lots of videos according to categories as well as interviews with some of the dealers.

The opening weekend is the most festive with many of the international glitterati having arrived on their private planes at the small Maastricht airport.  These include some of the heavy hitter collectors but just as important are the many museum curators, directors and trustees who come to try to fill gaps in their collections.   This year it was reported that many of these were from the U.S.   Nowhere else in the world will you find one stop shopping like this with over 250 dealers in every field you can imagine including old master paintings, European decorative arts, middle ages and renaissance art, classical antiquities, oriental and established modern.  To snare the rest of the visitors we find some unusual cars and jewelry represented by some of the finest jewelers in the world.

But if all this does not entice you to come to Maastricht next year, you would want to be there at the by-invitation-only preview which is not just a feast for the eyes but also for the stomach.  If you do not plan to go afterwards for a three-hour dinner in one of the excellent Dutch gourmet restaurants in the area, at the opening you can feast on every type of food you can imagine. It is served around the fair by waiters and waitresses or at food stands in finger-sized portions including such delicacies as filet mignon, sushi, soup, pastries and on and on.

Below is one of the many TEFAF videos where you will see the opening and interviews with the caterer, the director of the Rijksmuseum and some exhibitors. The second half of the film is devoted to two special exhibitions.  The first is a tour with the director, Peter van den Brink of the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum.  The museum is in Aachen about a 30 minute drive from the fair and there he has curated a special exhibition of sculpture from Utrecht dating before the Renaissance.  The final video is with curators from the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.  They have brought with them to TEFAF works on paper by van Gogh.  There is quite a selection including some early works which are not yet in the van Gogh style that we are used to.   This exhibition is within an oasis at TEFAF, a relatively small area on the floor above the main event.  This section is devoted to works on paper including manuscripts, old master drawings and watercolors, more modern fare and photography.  There you will also find one of the less busy sandwich coffee bars with a quieter place to sit.

VIDEO CREDIT: Chapeau Magazine

Though I am sorry not to have been there and seen it in person it is also fascinating to observe objectively from a different perspective.  The reports that I have had directly from exhibiting dealers is that they found the crowd a little thinner than usual and sales seem to have been fair and in some cases quite good.  Of course, much depends on what happens with the many museums and private collectors who have reserved works of art until after the fair.  While most dealers would like to refuse to do this, one has little choice when it is a museum or private collector who is serious and well known to buy.

So much goes on in and around TEFAF it is hard not to be breathless just reading and hearing about it.  One event that is always eagerly awaited is Dr. Clare McAndrew’s Art Market Report that is commissioned annually by TEFAF.  Clare is a cultural economist who founded Arts Economics in 2005.  This year her main observation was precisely contrary to last year’s.  The Chinese art market shrank in 2012 by 24% allowing the American market to regain its place as the largest in the world.

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