Old Master, antique and blue chip contemporary dealers around the world are gearing up for the major annual European Fine Art Fair TEFAF in Maastricht in the Netherlands next month (March 13—22). By all accounts, it is a showstopper of a fair, with a pronounced emphasis on historic and decorative art (think Old Masters, Chinese bronzes, and Delft) but a growing section of modern and contemporary art as well. This year’s edition features 275 exhibitors from 20 countries.
London dealer Johnny Van Haeften calls the fair “extraordinary” and he estimates that anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the gallery’s business is either conducted at TEFAF, or “as a direct result.” In fact, the fair is so integral to his business that the gallery closes its London doors and compared the undertaking of moving so many important works there to a military operation.
This year he is showing work by Dutch masters Willem Kalf, Jacob van Hulsdonck and Barolomeus van der Helst as well as four charming paintings by Flemish painter Jan van Kessel that were acquired at the recent historic Bunny Mellon sale at Sotheby’s.
Van Haeften is one of several dealers who deliberately hold back works to show in Maastricht. “We always keep something back, a picture that’s never been shown before—to meet high expectations and to encourage clients to come,” he said. “They know they must be here. Otherwise they might miss something.”
“TEFAF is a separate animal so to speak,” said Robert Aronson, owner of Aronson Antiquairs, Amsterdam, who serves on the fair’s executive board. “It sets the standard and it sets the tone for the international art fairs all over the globe.”
Aronson, who took over the reins of the gallery from his late father, Dave (former chairman of TEFAF), said he “literally grew up at TEFAF.” Among the works he plans to show are an extremely rare example of Delft porcelain; a brown-glazed spherical teapot and cover with a silver mount. It is one of several examples of Delft he plans to show, along with examples of polychrome, blue and white, majolica, and faience.
“We exhibitors always want to come with ‘guns blazing,'” said Aronson. Echoing Van Haeften, he said, “Most of the exhibitors keep objects purchased in the months (sometimes the year) before TEFAF separately, to be presented and unveiled there. TEFAF is also unique in that all of the objects on view are thoroughly vetted by a special committee.
Among the various categories exhibitors fall into, there are paintings, antiques, modern, classical antiquities, jewelry, design, and works on paper. New this year is a section called “Night Fishing,” curated by Sydney Picasso, that complements TEFAF Modern. It will present artists who have never been shown at the fair before but who have “a historical connection with works that are currently exhibited,” according to the website. “The exhibition evolves around the idea of sculpture which the subject of a current and on-going redefinition.”
Eric Gleason, director of second time TEFAF exhibitor Paul Kasmin Gallery, had the gallery’s booth is being designed by Paris-based artist Mattia Bonetti. The booth will also feature new editioned design objects that the gallery will debut at the fair. “Bonetti is also designing flooring, wall-skirting, cabinets, pedestals and a unique wallpaper for the booth,” said Gleason, “so it really is a complete aesthetic environment.”
Among the works that Kasmin plans to show are an important Robert Motherwell painting from 1967 that “played a role in the formation of his iconic Open series,” a major Etude painting from 1969 by Simon Hantai and a “highly saturated” 1977 Warhol portrait of Farah Diba.