Sunday, March 31, 2019

TEFAF - Maastricht, The Netherlands

I was not planning to write about The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, The Netherlands and that is one of the reasons that this blog will appear only after the fair has ended.  I did, however, find a Virtual Reality site that changed my mind.  If you wish to skip the reading you can go directly to the end of this Missive and click on the link directly.  

I have written about TEFAF many times.  In years gone past I visited the show in its original location on the border of The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium where many an international meeting has taken place including the treaty that formed the European Union in 1992.   Then the show came to New York in a smaller incarnation with   fall show being devoted predominantly to the Old Master and antique world and another in the spring for modern and contemporary. I have concentrated on the former.  If you wish to read about past shows go to the Missives of the Art World web site and put Maastricht or TEFAF in the search engine, upper left, and scroll down through them.

There are always concerns about what could upset the turnout and results of a fair.  Obviously bad weather can have an effect and I remember when the dealers blamed poor turn out on Mother’s Day. We participated in a fair in Paris where we had a novel issue: Lady Di died in an auto crash very near to where we were showing. It was early days for cell phones and attendance was so sparse that the dealers were phoning each other on their new devices to pass the time. Preliminary reports from Maastricht this year, however, were optimistic and positive.

Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at this floor plan and note how many stands there are:

To save you from counting, there were 276 exhibitors this year covering 7,000 years of art history, according to the TEFAF administration.

Fairs for older art have vetters to give confidence to the art buying public that what they buy is as it is described on the labels.  A vetting committee also has the right to throw an object off a stand completely, but this is a rare occurrence.  It is usually a question of changing a label. And sometimes it turns out to be a positive correction.  Of course, one has to rely on the expertise of the individuals who come to your stand.  To cover 7,000 years of art TEFAF  brings in 180 vetters from 14 countries to draw from.  Many are museum curators but there are scholars of all sorts.  This year TEFAF decided that dealers on these committees would no longer have voting power on rejecting works from the fair because of possible conflicts of interest.  This seems to me a perfect example of form over substance, since the fair administration agrees that they need the dealers for their expertise. Anyone, who has been on a vetting committee knows that one eloquent speaker in a group can convince the others how to vote.

The dealers have to have their booths ready to go 48 hours before the evening vernissage invitational preview, allowing the time for the expert committees to fan out and vet each booth. 

The Art Loss Register, a private entity that has the most exhaustive list of stolen works of art, has been enlisted to check and make sure that good title can be passed by the exhibitors.

Just a few examples of the thousands of objects shown: Galerie François Léage from Paris exhibited an 18th century royal coach from Spain and Haboldt & Co.’s Virgin and Child by the 14th century Italian artist Paolo Veneziano is a real stunner!

This nude by Pierre Auguste Renoir was exhibited at Dickinson Fine Art, London and New York.  It had recently gone for $10,162,500 at Christie’s and was sold within a few minutes of the opening of the fair.  I would venture a guess that it was a pre-arranged sale since dealers announce their intentions to their best clients in advance.  But, hey!, a sale is a sale and that is why the dealers spend the fortunes that it costs to rent  a booth decorate it and get themselves and their staff to Maastricht for the duration of the show.

Even for a booth, as seemingly simple as that of Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, London think beyond the stunning design and lighting to what must have been involved transporting these works of art and the cost!

As promised here is the VR Site which will truly bring TEFAF, Maastricht 2019 to you.  Work your way around these 40 galleries and enjoy the journey but know that you are only seeing 14% of what you would have seen had you been there in person. If you go next year I suggest you plan a few days in town and enjoy the sights in the area around Maastricht as well as the excellent cuisine.

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