Visiting The European Fine Art Fair at Maastricht
The most expensive painting at The 2006 European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht — A Picasso at Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie, $90,000,000. Photo: JH.
Staying at the Kruisherenhotel in the old part of the town. At about twenty minutes to nine on my first morning there I called the desk and ordered a cappuccino. The girl at the desk said fine. Five, ten minutes went by, no cappuccino.

A few minutes later, the phone rang: “Your car is waiting to take you to the Fair,” said the voice on the other end. Surprised because I had been told we would be leaving for the Fair at 10:30, I told her that I hadn’t expected to leave until ten-thirty. Okay. Five, ten, fifteen more minutes go by, still no cappuccino. So finally I call again, reminding them that I had ordered a cappuccino. “So you don’t want the car at 10:30?” she asked. What? I didn’t understand ... and then I did.

Somehow she had misunderstood and mistook my ordering a “cappuccino” for ordering a car. “No, no,” I said turning up the patience volume, “I wanted a CUP of cappuccino!” Five minutes later it arrived.

At first I was exasperated but then had to laugh. Although the girl at the desk, like her colleagues, spoke perfect English, I hadn’t considered that maybe she didn’t understand MY English. Maybe I spoke too fast. Maybe I slurred my words. Maybe she mistook me for one of the many other guests at the hotel who had come to visit the Fair. I had to remind myself that although she could speak my language, I couldn’t speak hers at all. Something that one can quickly forget.

On the evening of the first day, our host Michel Witmer,
a private art consultant/art historian and the only American on the Board of TEFAF, invited us to a dinner at the Chateau St. Gerlach (sounds like shat-tow-sin-ger-la to these American ears), another one of Camille Oostwegel’s unique hotels located several miles or kilometers from Maastricht. The chateau is a 17th century establishment that served as a center for Roman Catholic bishops who presided over the area in past centuries. It contains a large church built by the Austrians who controlled this part of the world during that part of the 17th century, as well as housing for nuns and several other buildings that served the large farm that existed. In recent times it belonged to a European count who willed it to the community on his death, having been the last of his family line. When Oostwegel purchased the property, it was in a state of ruin. In the last few years it has been completely restored and now houses a beautiful hotel, restaurant, spa and banquet facilities. President Bush and Mrs. Bush and Condoleeza Rice stayed there last year when the President visited Holland and conferred with the Dutch prime minister.
Our dinner was served in the restaurant that was once the chateau itself. Now a top rated European restaurant, our menu consisted of: Home-marinated salmon with a Gulpen mustard sorbet and celery salad. A “mustard sorbet” did I say? Yes. Cold and delicate and slightly sharp, as mustard is, with the salmon, was delicious. Then: Braised pikeperch with parsnipmousseline and sauce enriched with delicate aromatics. I cannot tell you what the delicate aromatics were nor could I have told you what the pikeperch was, never having had it before. But it too was delicious. Next on the menu was Roast duck. I am not a fan of duck and so I had lamb. Also excellent. Dessert: Orange preserve with herb syrup and served with a tea sorbet and vanilla honey mousse. Again, you had to be there; and again:delicious.

We started the dinner with a glass of champagne to which the captain added from a small carafe, a “lavender syrup” — unusual and as alluring as the fragrance itself. Each course all had its own wine: the first, an Airen Bodegas Ercavio from Toledo, La Mancha, Spain, 2004; a Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruweer, Germany, 2004; a Terrazas de los Andes, Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, also 2004; and a Chateau de Stony (Muscat a petit grains) from Langueddoc-Roussillonk, France.

By the time we finished it was a good thing there were drivers to return us to the Kruisheren because we were sated and exhausted.
Clockwise from above: The cathedral at Chateau St. Gerlach with murals painted during the Hapsburg reign; Michel Witmer, DPC, Titia Velenga, Roger Webster, Dr. Dino Rivera, and Martijn E. Aarts; A mosaic donated by Camille Oostwegel.
The nun's quarters under a full moon at the chateau
The swimming pool in the Turkish bath at the chateau
Clockwise from top left: The official guest book marking the visit of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in 2005; The private dining room where President Bush conferred with the Dutch Prime Minister; A view of the kitchen.
The Inn at the chateau (above, left) and a variety of dining rooms within.
Meanwhile Maastricht: More than 200 exhibitors from 15 countries make up this, the largest art and antiques fair of its kind in the world. Art Fairs are popular all over the West now. They have become an important tool for dealers to sell their goods. In fact, according to the Financial Times, 60% of all fine art and furniture is now sold at Art Fairs. The European Fine Art Fair, or TEFAF as it is known in the art world, is considered the ultimate. So great is its reputation with the professionals and the collectors that many dealers often won’t even offer their most precious pieces to the public except at TEFAF. Because they know its value will be recognized, respected and appreciated and that the buyer who recognize its importance and value will be attending also.

TEFAF was created more than two decades ago merging to separate fairs — one for art and one for fine furniture. The early fairs were held in the square in the older part of Maastricht, right across the street from the gallery of one of its founders, Robert Noortman, a tall, distinguished looking grey-haired man whose gallery deals principally in Old Master paintings. A number of years ago they moved to its present venue, a huge convention center across the river to the newer part of Maastricht.

I had been told beforehand that because of TEFAF’s vetting system, many collectors consider TEFAF the primary source in the world for the finest quality of art, antiques and jewelry. A dealer’s piece that has not passed the vetting can not only be exhibited by a dealer, it is removed and stored away under lock and key until the fair is over. In other words, if you bought it at TEFAF — Maastricht — you’ve bought the best there is.

As a result, this enormous art fair is like visiting a world class museum.
As a result, the world’s greatest collectors, often traveling by private jet, flock to this nine-day exposition. And what do they find? Fantastic treasures everywhere.

The morning we arrived in Maastricht, we met a European woman who’d come in on her private jet only a couple hours before from her home on the Mediterranean and had already plunked down $6 million for a Picasso and $160,000 for a Louise Nevelson before lunch. The night before, we were told an American tycoon had put a half-a-red dot, a “maybe” (strongly considering) the most expensive item at the fair — a $90 million blue period Picasso. Another dealer had sold a Rembrandt to a private collector for a price somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 million.

This was the year of Rembrandt at the Fair, marking the 500th anniversary of his birth. In the main entrance gallery was hung behind a glass wall, a Rembrandt portrait of Anna Wymer painted in 1641. Wymer was the mother of Dutch businessman Jan Six, whose own portrait — one of Rembrandt’s most famous — was painted in 1654. The portrait remains in the hands of the Six family and this was its first public viewing in more than one hundred years.

By the second night there, a dealer told me that he had sold “many” paintings already and was very enthusiastic about the large number of new buyers, who, he said, were not interested in the art for investment purposes but simply because they liked it and could afford it without worrying about tying up liquid assets. He cited one client whose income is $10 million a day (!) and so he can easily afford $10 million for a picture and not worry about its appreciation or rate of return. Although it is true that the art market has been so heated up over the past few years that everything from Contemporary to even Old Masters have been increasing in value that defies any of the world’s financial markets. This intense enthusiasm was palpable in the aisles of the TEFAF exhibition and in the crowds filling the center.
The tulip display in the entrance gallery of TEFAF
Rembrandt's portrait of Anna Wymer, 1651
The paneling of the room in which Frederic Chopin died in Paris at Albrecht Neuhaus Würzberg
Konrad Bernheimer of Bernheimer-Colnaghi and Johnny Van Haeften of Johnny Van Haeften Ltd
Early Mondrian (1905) at Wildenstein & Co/Pace Wildenstein
Mondrian evolving at Wildenstein & Co/Pace Wildenstein
Michel Witmer and Janna Bullock in front of Allegory of the Four Elements at Rob Smeets
An Alex Katz portrait catches our eyes
An Alex Katz and an Eric Fishl at Jablonka Galerie
Martin, Renata, and Henry Zimmet of French & Company, LLC
A bronze Caulder mobile at French & Company with a price tag of $5 million
Pelham Galleries Ltd.
Cabbage tulips on Champs Elysées
Annely Juda Fine Art
Gagosian Gallery
Clockwise from top left: An array of Giacomettis at Galerie Jan Krugier, Ditesheim & Cie; Tamara De Lempicka's portrait of her brother-in-law, Pierre de Montaut at Kunsthandel Frans Jacobs; Judith Bruwknegt at KFJ; A Chagall at KFJ.
Louis XIV frames at Adriano Ribolzi
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books
Karel Appel at Jaski Gallery
Gagosian Gallery
David Leiber and John Enzo Sperone of Sperone Westwater in front of a Julian Schnabel
Edgar Degas at Acquavella Galleries
Silver stirrup at Eguiguren Arte de Hispanoamérica
A Joan Miró at Galerie Hopkins Custot
Waring Hopkins of Galerie Hopkins Custot
Sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle at Galerie Delaive
Galerie Mia Joosten b.v.
A Roy Lichtenstein (left) and Jaume Plensa's Self Portrait at Richard Gray Gallery
Galerie Thomas
A Botero in the midst of the Catering Terrace
Galerie Rhéa
Axel Vervoordt
Galerie Meyer-Oceanic Art
Audience Chair made for Augustus the Strong for the Dresden Palace at Galerie Neuse
Philippe Denys
The Mayor Gallery
Martyn Gregory
Samurai armor at Vanderven & Vanderven Oriental Art
J. Kugel
A French Clock, 1785-1790, 160,000 Euros at Richard Redding Antiques Ltd.
Lawrence Steigrad of Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts poses with a portrait of Sir Joseph Duveen, 1928.
Louis XIII at Jamie-Eguiguren, Arte e Antigüedades
Armor c. 1590 at Peter Finer, 180,000 Euros (above, left)
Prince Adam Franz du Schwarzenberg, 1705-1715, at the Weiss Gallery
Ann Guité of the Richard Feigen Gallery
Graff
Jorge Welsh Porcelena Oriental e Obras de Arte, Lda.
A clock that belonged to the Kings of Hanover at Michael Nolte
J. Zeberg Antiques nv



March 14, 2006, Volume VI, Number 43
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch/NYSD.com

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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com