There’s disruption across the entire planet. China-US relations are tense. A war has been raging for the past year on European soil, social movements shake the continent. The climate threat is closing in on all sides… But the art market seems to be keeping up appearances. This week sees the opening of one of the most prestigious commercial shows of the year: the Tefaf in Maastricht.
It’s the first time in three years that the fair, which is presenting artworks ranging from antiquity to contemporary art, has been re-established in its usual timeframe – from 11 to 19 March 2023 – in its XXL format, with 270 participants from 20 countries. And through hell and high water, this year’s offering is dazzling (See here the report about Tefaf 2022).
Hidde Van Seggelen
“It often happens that visitors stay here for several days. They visit Tefaf like a museum. And if they’re lucky enough to get hold of a ticket they also take a trip to Amsterdam to admire the Vermeer exhibition,” explains Hidde Van Seggelen, chairman of the fair (See here the report about the Vermeer exhibition).
The prices are high at Tefaf, starting with the entry ticket: 45 euros. Most likely the most expensive work at the fair, priced at 35 million dollars, is a large-scale painting from 1960 by Belgian surrealist René Magritte, displayed at the booth of the Landau gallery from Montreal. “La corde sensible” (Heartstring) is composed of a landscape presided over in the centre by a giant stemmed glass holding a cloud. It was sold in 2017 at Christie’s for 14.4 million dollars. It is a painting from Magritte’s most commercial period, when the latter wanted to captivate the American clientele of his gallerist Alexander Iolas (See here a report about a famous Magritte L’Empire des Lumières).
Marc Chagall from 1917
New York dealer David Tunick has brought an extraordinary 1917 canvas by modern painting star Marc Chagall. The painter is shown in profile, in a cubist influence, looking at his village which he depicts vertically. This “Autoportrait à la palette” (Self Portrait with Palette), presented for 25 million dollars, is priced just below the record for the artist, which stands at 28.4 million dollars, obtained in 2017. It is exceedingly rare to see a painting from this era by the Russian artist on the market.
David Tunick reveals that he worked for many years in order to obtain the work from a private collection. “It has been exhibited at the Tate in London and at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, among other places, but for a while a Russian oligarch collector who wanted to acquire it attempted to discredit the canvas by claiming it was a fake,” says the dealer. Until recently the biggest buyers of Chagall were Russian, but it is now prohibited, in this part of the world, to sell them artworks. That’s where geopolitics influences the art market…
From the entrance to Tefaf, London’s Dickinson gallery stands out by displaying the majority of their prices at their booth. They are known for presenting a wide range of artworks, from a rediscovered painting by Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), a Saint Jerome (on sale for 750,000 euros) to a stunning pencil drawing by Lucian Freud, a nude on a sofa from 1989, which evokes the drawings of contorted bodies by Degas (on sale for 900,000 euros), via a large double-portrait of a mother and her daughter dated from 1885 by the American master, once an impressionist, John Singer Sargent (1825-1925) (on sale for 6.5 million euros).
Jewel from the 16th century
Tefaf made its reputation thanks to the excellence of its offerings in the field of the old masters. The dealer from Geneva, Georges de Jonckheere, is exhibiting a little jewel from the 16th century made by a master whose identity remains unknown. The historian Max Jacob Friedlander (1867-1958) noted that his paintings can be distinguished by the intricate vegetation they feature, and has grouped together what he considers to be a corpus of his works under the name of “Master of the Embroidered Foliage”.
Half reptile, half woman
Around 1500 the artist painted Adam and Eve on a panel in the shade of an apple tree with a lush canopy of leaves, watched over by a hybrid creature, half reptile half woman (on sale for 2.5 million euros). “I bought it at Bonhams in July 2022, as part of a small sale, in a filthy condition, for close to 1 million euros. It was a bold purchase,” explains the dealer, who points out that sales for this artist can exceed 2 million euros. The Maastricht painting is remarkable for, among other things, the vividness of the colours.
One of the impressive paintings in the fair is a canvas measuring 3.8 metres long by one of the masters of the early Baroque period in Rome, known as Cavaliere d’Arpino (1568-1640), who would be memorialized for his frescoes. Here we can see a battle scene painted in black and white in a technique known as grisaille, on sale for 1.5 million euros at Nicholas Hall in London. At auction his prices are much lower, with a record price of 325,000 euros in 2014 for a more modest-sized format.
Delicate pastel portrait
Each country has its glories in terms of the old masters. For the Swiss, among the most prized is Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789), a specialist in extremely delicate pastel portraits. The London-based Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker are presenting an elegant depiction of a certain James Milliken (1742-1774), a man with blue eyes that match his embroidered jacket (on sale for 940,000 euros).
Almost abstract crucifixions
Among the stars of the contemporary art market there’s a prominent place reserved for Italian artist Lucio Fontana, best remembered for his “Concetto spaziale”, his founding gesture, which was repeated many times, consisting of slashing his monochrome paintings to transform them accordingly into three-dimensional works.
But more originally, the Karsten Greve gallery from Paris and Cologne is exhibiting ceramic sculptures by the same artist, made primarily in the 1950s, depicting crucifixions in a quasi-abstract style. We see in the moulded clay, modelled then given a polychrome glaze, the body nailed to a cross which has disappeared. Over five of these single sculptures are presented at the booth of the gallery between 400,000 and 750,000 euros.
The loving wife of Giacometti
Lastly, before leaving Tefaf don’t forget to say hello to Annette, the patient and loving wife of probably the most celebrated sculptor of the 20th century, Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). On his death she preserved the entirety of his studio, which is now on display in Paris exactly as it was, walls included, at the Giacometti Institute (See here and here reports about the Institut Giacometti). The bust of Annette IV from 1962, a 57cm-tall bronze, all texture and volume, from a private collection, is on sale at London’s Thomas Gibson for 4.6 million dollars.
Until 19 March. www.tefaf.com/fairs/tefaf-maastricht
Support independent news on art.
Your contribution : Make a monthly commitment to support JBH Reports or a one off contribution as and when you feel like it. Choose the option that suits you best.
Need to cancel a recurring donation? Please go here.
The donation is considered to be a subscription for a fee set by the donor and for a duration also set by the donor.