Thursday, March 8, 2007

TEFAF in all its glory

Entering TEFAF on the opening day preview.
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 fair.

The city of Maastricht considers the now annual fair to be its greatest cultural and tourist event, drawing tens 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.

Dealers -- 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.
Attributed to Pieter Van Aelst, Brussels
The Vision of the profet Ezequiel, c. 1529-1524
J. Kugel
Richard Green Richard Green
Ben Janssens Oriental Art Ltd.
Albrecht Neuhaus, Kunsthandel.
Johnny van Haeften Ltd.
Adriano Ribolzi.
'La Mésangèrie', Albert Vandervelden.
Jan Beekhuizen Kunst-en Antiekhandel vof.
Harris Lindsay.
Franz Bausback.
Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books.
Peter Finer.
Brimo de Laroussilhe.
Jean-Francois Heim. French & Company.
De Jonckheere.
Jack Kilgore and Otto Naumann Ltd.
Didier Aaron & Cie.
King Street Fine Art Limited.
Noortman Master Paintings.
Pace Wildenstein. Michaele Kraemer from Kraemer & Company (of Paris) at the Wildenstein stall.
Pace Wildenstein.
Whitfield Fine Art. Ltd.
Pace Wildenstein.
Fifth Avenue Brasserie and an exhibiting exhibitor.
The Matthiesen Gallery.
Moretti. Robilant-Voena (London-Milan).
Stair Sainty Gallery.
Grassi Studio.
Kunsthandel Peter Mühlbauer. Michel Witmer and Titia Velenga.
Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel.
Littleton & Hennessy (London & New York).
GalerieDOWNTOWN, Francois Laffanour.
Rudigier Alte Kunst.
Galerie Cazeau-Beraudière. Acquavella Galleries Inc.
Marlborough Galerie GmbH. Larry and Marilyn Freidland.
Marlborough Galerie GmbH.
Randy Kemper, Tony Ingrao, Bruce Bierman, and William Secord.
Jorge Welsh Porcelana Oriental e Obras de Arte, Lda.
Axel Vervoordt.
Galerie Thomas.
Hauser and Wirth. William Weston Gallery.
Food terrace.
Jaski Art Gallery.
Rob Smeets.