Yesterday Forbes Magazine announcing its new
list of the 400 Richest also announced that they had compiled
a list of almost 1000 billionaires in the world. A new record.
946 to be exact. With fortunes ranging from 1 to 50-odd billion
(Bill Gates), the almost 1000 inidividuals
have a combined net worth of more than $3 trillion,
and that’s not counting all those poor centimillionaires
(who number in the thousands) and of course those poor plain
old millionaires who number in the hundreds of thousands
(or even millions for all I know), making up the .0001% of
the population of the planet who own a helluva lot more than
the rest of us 6 billion humans combined.
The numbers defy the imagination of most of us working stiffs
and probably even defy the imagination of some of us millionaires
and even centimillionaires.
Meanwhile when you consider these rich-as-Croesus
inhabitants of the planet Earth you might wonder how they
can spend it all. Writing this Diary from Maastricht in the
Netherlands where yesterday they opened The European Fine
Art Fair (TEFAF), you can get some pretty good ideas.
TEFAF was created (with another name) in 1975 as
a bi-annual art fair by a group of enterprising dealers,
including the very prominent Maastricht dealer in Old Masters, Robert
Noortman (who died a few months ago at age 60).
Maastricht is a popular city in Western Europe, in very close
proximity to most Western European capitals, which
is why it has been a perfect spot to set up this sort of
The city of Maastricht considers the now
annual fair to be its greatest cultural and tourist event,
of thousands of dealers, collectors and regular tourists
out for a culture klatch. Last year more than 80,000 people
came from all over the world -- a healthy number of whom
arrived in private jets-- to see what many consider the most
museum-savvy art and antiques fair in the world. More than
200 dealers from Europe, Asia and the Americas fill the vast
convention center, leaving behind a long waiting list of
dealers who would like to be part of it. Visitors pay 55
euros (approximately $75, or a total of more than $6 million,
as of last year’s tally) to visit the Fair.
-- those lucky ones who are accepted -- pay even more dearly
for the privilege of setting up shop for the week and a half
of exhibitions. And whereas other art fairs in the world
work diligently to draw sponsors to underwrite the production,
TEFAF has a waiting list of sponsors vying to write
out the big checks to be a part of this fantastic collection
of the world’s greatest, rarest, most valuable collectibles
outside of the museums.
As NYSD readers know,we follow several major art
fairs in the world -- in New York, Palm Beach, London, Paris
and Moscow -- all of which are extraordinary in their depth,
breadth and value, and all of which are well-attended by
the world’s richest and the world’s brightest
curators and art experts -- but nothing compares to TEFAF
just for sheer crowd value and museum quality merchandise.
Yesterday’s guest preview opening was
jammed --JAMMED --
with visitors from all over (including many New Yorkers).
The managers of this magnificent production are masters of
organization as well as hospitality (with dozens of waiters
passing all kinds of sandwiches and desserts for the guests
to gnosh on while they take in the treasures that are available
to those who can afford them). There is a main restaurant
set up under a metal and canvas tent annex that is built
to defy just about any kind of weather outside of a tornado.
There are bars and bars for champagne and cocktails, waiters
carrying trays of cups and pitchers of hot fresh coffee,
musicians playing jazz and classical music, investment banks
and major corporations with private booths in which to entertain
their well-heeled clients with more food, music and cameraderie.
From a sociological point of view, it is perhaps the greatest
circus with the most bread to consume in the entire world.
Furthermore, the stalls contain the most stupendous pieces
of art, artifacts and objets to amuse, intrigue and stimulate
even the most jaded and sated imagination.
New York’s Aquavella
Gallieries is featuring, among its many beautiful
paintings a $45 million Renoir; Epoque
Fine Jewels is featuring an art nouveau dog collar plaque
by Rene Lalique, yellow gold with four
entwined thistle flowers in blue enamel, the stems in
green enamel and the prickly leaves covered with diamonds
(for the dog who has everything). There is Salvador Dali’s Parto
Iberia or El Coloso, said to be the largest
known Dali (yours for 2.8 million euros; a Louise
Bourgeois “Spider” (1997), big enough
to walk under if you dare, for only $4 million.
Littleton & Hennessy of London were exhibiting, among
their treasures, an Archaic bronze tapir, made in China
as a wine pourer from the Fourth Century B.C., inlaid
with gold and turquoise and yours for only 9.23 million
euros or approximately $12 million; a Paul Klee oil
on artist board “Bewegt Landswchaft mit Kugelbaumen” (Moving
landscape with spherical trees) at Galerie Thomas
of Munich for 4.5 million euros; Bernheimer-Colnaghi
has a Jean-Francois de Troy (1670-1752)
pair of paintings -- Salmatis and Hermaphroditus and Venus
and Adonis, oil on canvas for only 1.45 million
euros. Over at the Karsten Greve galerie of Cologne there
is a John Chamberlain “Dead
Eye Dick” sculpture of painted and chromed
steel for 680,000 euros, and as you might imagine, with
more than 200 dealers exhibiting, we haven’t even
scratched the surface.
So what is it like? It’s
fantastic, and quite welcoming (because who knows what you’ve
got in your checkbook, for one thing), and fascinating, and
ultimately a trip through an arcade of bountiful creative
brilliance that has probably sustained society down through
the civilizations than all the tea in China and all the trillions
on the Forbes 400 list.
JH and the Digital was there
having a good quick look, and we’re going back today for one more
go-around to see what we missed, to see what we didn’t
get to see, and to know that there are lots among us who
have the jack, the moola and the euros to help preserve the
rare and precious works of humankind.