It is impossible to review TEFAF in its entirety. I’m sure that most arts journalists will tell you the same; where do you start, when do you stop? It is, quite simply, an annual power-house of the most incredible works of art, from across the entire artistic spectrum, and from every corner of the globe (and some pieces from outer space too). With over 250 stands in the Fair, all you can do is hone in on those stands that appeal to you the most, which of course, is virtually every stand. In terms of a Fair review, it's a nightmare. Where, how, what, why, which; it’s a catch 22 Fair to write about! All I can do here is pick out a few highlights, and include the TEFAF link at the bottom of this review, so you can click through, and take a look yourself.
For the third year running, I took the Eurostar to Brussels, with a transfer onto Liege, and then the local train to Maastricht. A simple and straight forward enough trip, which takes 3-4 hours on average, and finishes up in the rather small and unassuming town of Maastricht, which, in recent times, being most notable for the signing of the Maastricht treaty, and the second world war Battle of Maastricht. One does wonder how this off-the-beaten-track Dutch town consistently manages to pull in the vast crowds year-on-year, when, realistically, there are hardly any luxury hotels, or high end restaurants available, and not much nightlife to speak of. Perhaps it’s just that; the unpretentiousness of Maastricht, and the Fair being the cause for concentration on works of art which require a patience, and connoisseurship to understand and appreciate. What ever it is that TEFAF Maastricht has, it’s great, and it’s great every year! Heres a TEFAF video bike trip around the Fair:
This year, I decided to bypass the hustle-and-bustle of opening day and its 10,000+ visitors and 17 trillion glasses of champagne, and opted to visit on the second Saturday of the Fair, the penultimate day. The prospect of a more relaxed and informative visit, and the possibility of actually speaking with a cross-section of dealers towards the end of the Fair, in order to hear how the Fair had progressed, appealed, especially in the light of Dr. Clare McAndrew’s widely reported on, and positively positive sounding 2014 TEFAF Art Market report.
For those who might be unaware of these annual reports, Dr. McAndrew’s survey has become the 'established' source of data on this increasingly important economic sector, a sector which now supports 2.5 million jobs worldwide, in over 308,000 businesses. This year the emphasis is on the USA, the world’s largest art market, and on China, its fastest growing rival in recent years. Some 5500 dealers were sent an anonymous survey, which represents 2% of the estimated 295,000 art dealers world wide. This 2% would, according to Dr. McAndrew, equate to nearly half the value of the market. A copy of that report can be purchased and downloaded from the TEFAF website, by clicking here.
OK, IT'S SHOW TIME
To start with, one has to pay obeisance to this year’s flower arrangements in the foyer, which were designed to harmonise with an extraordinary and imposing Alexander Calder Mobile - which must have been some 40 feet high - entitled Janey Waney. The entrance was stunning, the best i'd seen yet in fact, and it is almost worth visiting TEFAF Maastricht just to see these intricately themed harmonic arrangements each year.
As you hit the Show floor, visitors were immediately struck by Vincent van Gogh’s Moulin de la Galette, painted in 1887, and exhibited by Simon C. Dickinson Ltd. This painting played a key role in making Vincent van Gogh internationally famous, and was later owned by an American millionaire on whom Ian Fleming modelled his arch-villain, Goldfinger. Unsurprisingly, the Dickinson stand was literally mobbed with people taking photographs from the moment the doors opened. The van Gogh, complimented with a pair of clogs (which were presented in a custom built show case), signed by, and formerly the property of Paul Gauguin. This is the type of partnership in presentation you will never see again. Like so many of the exhibits at TEFAF, the displays can also be one-offs, unique, and simply magical.
I did wonder if anyone on the Dickinson team had perhaps tried one of the Gauguin clogs on for size. James Roundell, CEO of the London office, and bearing a somewhat rye smile on his face, took the 5th amendment when posed with this question. However, I got that gut feeling it was a yes, but I guess we’ll never know.
Then to the left; BOOM, Richard Green exhibiting a magnificent Monet, which was sold for somewhere in the region of $15m. Speaking with Jonathan Green, the CEO of the family run firm established in 1955, he said the Fair had been an astonishing success and he had noticed a marked improvement in sales of, and interest in impressionist works. During my visit to Jonathan's booth, he and his team were literally buzzing around the stand, from corner to corner, and non-stop assisting clients with enquiries. You have to let dealers get on with it when it's like that on a stand, and it was good to see team Green with their mojos fully operational, and fully switched on.
A SOUL - STIRRING EXPERIENCE
Galerie Neuse’ Stand, specialising in the most divine and exquisite European and German Silver from the 16th-19th centuries, and Kunstkammer objects, was just breathtaking, again. This year, in addition to some incredible pieces by David Roentgen - which were to die for - they had on display an Amber Games Board, of cream and translucent orange amber, with white bone amber reliefs laid on painted silver foil, mounted on a wooden core and with pierced silver mounts and a richly engraved silver lock-plate. Surely this was one of the most extraordinary pieces in the Fair. With a remarkable provenance linking the set back to King James I of England and VI of Scotland (1566-1625).
I was simply in awe, so much so, that I felt compelled to thank the directors of Galerie Neuse, just for having this item on display for us all to see. You have to remember, pieces like this just don’t surface, they can take years and years to come to market, and acquire. To be in the presence of such a historical and extraordinary object, is indeed a fortunate, unique, and soul-stirring experience.
THE TEFAF SHOWCASE
In addition to the established dealers at TEFAF Maastricht, the Fair also annually presents TEFAF Showcase. This is an exciting and aspirational one-off opportunity for six new and emerging galleries to show their businesses off to the world. And they did, with great effect. Bare in mind that there are very very strict procedures which applicants must go through to achieve a position in the TEFAF Showcase, and one has to give those new galleries much praise for making it to the top. And, of course, from TEFAF's perspective, well, let's just say, they have a large waiting list already, which no doubt increases to the tune of six dealers per year. Here's Benjamin Walker from Fitzgerald Fine Arts NY sharing his thoughts on being a 2014 Showcase exhibitor.
It's impossible to review TEFAF. Vanderven Oriental Art, Aronson Antiquaires, Perrin, S.J.Shrubsole, Robilant & Voena, Koopman Rare Art, S.J.Phillips, Jan Roelofs, Rossi & Rossi, Mallett Antiques, Lowell Libson, Amir Mohtashemi, The Weiss Gallery, Röbbig - München, Moretti, The Mayor Gallery, Bel Atage, Wolfgang Bauer, Richard Redding, Ofer Waterman, Polak Works of Art, the list just goes on and on and on and on and on, and on. I mean, it really is ludicrous to even attempt to cover this Fair in its entirety. However, it is possible to acknowledge all of the dealers in the Show, and tip your hat to each and every one of them, for pulling out all of the stops, and making TEFAF not only a privilege to visit and experience, but also, for making it possible for visitors to acquire some of the finest and rarest pieces available for sale anywhere on the market today.
What's it like being a dealer at #TEFAF2014 for the first time? Here's Benjamin Walker from Fitzgerald Fine Arts NY sharing his thoughts about being a Showcase exhibitor.Posted by TEFAF Maastricht on Saturday, March 15, 2014
LET'S CRUNCH SOME NUMBERS
One thing is for sure, the art market is truly global. Collectors from all over the world made the annual pilgrimage to TEFAF. This year, a record 375 private jets were recorded at Maastricht - Aachen airport, and museum attendance was also at record levels with many dealers recording sales to museums and institutions from across the globe, from small provincial museums, to major national institutions.
According to the press office at the Fair, from the moment that TEFAF opened its doors for the Private View, all the signs were that this would be a stellar year. The energy created at the beginning of the Fair endured throughout and this was reflected in the sales activity. The total visitor figure at TEFAF 2014 was in excess of 74,000, up from 72,000 in 2013.
Commenting on the 2014 Fair, Willem van Roijen, the new Chairman of the Executive Committee, and a delightful chap whom I happened to have a serendipitous meeting with on isle Champs-Élysées, said, ''I am delighted that 2014 has been such a good Fair for so many of our exhibitors. Dealers lie at the heart of TEFAF, they make the Fair what it is: they are our past and our future. The Fair is in good health and our structure allows us to build our brand in a considered way. We are aware of and responsive to developments in the global art market and, in particular, to the needs of our exhibitors. Our goal remains to build our brand and offer the best art that is currently for sale from 7000 years of history''.
THE CHALLENGE IS ON
To summarise, TEFAF Maastricht just seems to get better and better, year on year. Or, perhaps it’s just always the best, and it’s a different best every year? With a dealers hat on, you just want to buy it all; there was not one piece in the Fair you wouldn’t be proud to own, which is a testament to the various committees involved in the Fair, the sponsors of the Fair, to the entire team who manage and run the Fair, and to the exhibiting dealers.
In terms of other Art Fairs consisting of similar ingredients, I suppose it's all eyes on Masterpiece 2014, who, in all honesty, have been challenging TEFAF for the past few years, and perhaps based on last year's performance, they are not too far off? It will certainly be interesting to see what surprises they have in store for London this summer.
No doubt about it, the bar has just been raised; and my congratulations, and thanks, to the TEFAF team for providing the art market with yet another, superlative and world class event.
The challenge is on, but, can Masterpiece rise to it?
To visit the TEFAF website, click here.
For a full list of this year's TEFAF exhibitors, click here.