TEFAF Maastricht Bridges Old and New in Its Triumphant, Full-Scale Return

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Art Market

Osman Can Yerebakan

Interior view of TEFAF Maastricht, 2023. Photo by Alixe Lay. Courtesy of TEFAF.

While last year’s fair was marred by an armed robbery, there was no sign of drama within the aisles of TEFAF Maastricht’s 36th edition during its VIP opening on March 9th.

Displays of spectacles are commonplace in the booths of more than 250 exhibitors at the quaint Dutch city’s mega-scale convention center, the MECC. While the fair delivers on its promise of showcasing 7,000 years of art history with an emphasis on Western Old Masters and fine objects, this edition’s 13 new galleries include a noticeable presence of contemporary names, such as Parisian powerhouse Templon, Brussels’s Tim Van Laurie Gallery, and Seoul’s PKM Gallery, as well as returning blue chips such as Sean Kelly Gallery, White Cube, and Tina Kim Gallery.

“This year has a familiar feeling with a return to full scale and exhibitors reuniting with many of their collectors,” TEFAF’s head of fairs, Will Korner, told Artsy. After operating in an unfamiliar June slot at a smaller scale last year, the return to business as usual—along with enhanced security measurements—has paid off: The first day saw VIP collectors joined by the likes of Venus Williams, Raf Simons, and Aerin Lauder.

Interior view of TEFAF Maastricht, 2023. Photo by Loraine Bodewes. Courtesy of TEFAF.

And between Oestercompagnie staff shucking oysters from Brittany to mollusk-hungry collectors, and magnum-size champagne bottles refilling crystal tubes, the fair’s unveiling was once again a multi-sensory banquet for the eye and appetites.

The spacious juxtaposition with the usual floral arrangements and moody lighting allows collectors to roam the booths, which compete in their ambition for outstanding installations and showstopping artworks.

Besides expanding the breadth of younger material, this year’s TEFAF boosts its roster of galleries younger in age, too. Its Showcase initiative, which has given a platform to galleries younger than 10 years old since 2008, almost doubled its 2022 number to 10 booths. Located on the second floor, the international selection is united by the dealers’ budding programming, but also in their variation of material—from 19th-century European classics to rare books and contemporary painting.

Marcel Delmotte, Floral still life with rocky blue landscape, n.d. Courtesy of Ambrose Naumann Fine Art.

Liselotte Schramm-Heckmann, Delphinium, 1947. Courtesy of Ambrose Naumann Fine Art.

Korner pointed out the section as a rare platform for younger galleries, whose historic programs often create challenges with finding a footing in other, more contemporary-minded fairs. “Successful young galleries with contemporary rosters can find representation at fairs in five or so years, but a young dealer who sells antiques and Old Masters encounters fewer opportunities to reach established collectors,” he said.

New York–based gallery Ambrose Naumann Fine Art, for example, lures in visitors with its flamboyant exhibition of floral paintings by various 19th- and 20th-century artists intertwined with flowers covering the booth walls. Belgian painter Marcel Delmotte’s gothically botanical oil paintings on masonite recall a bird’s-eye view of otherworldly landscapes, with the artist’s illustration of bold-hued velvety blossoms adding a touch of eeriness.

Tracey Emin

A Rose, 2007

White Cube

Indeed, TEFAF’s uniqueness lies in a truly eclectic exposure to art without chronological restraint. Visitors can hop from the 17th-century Italian master Giovanni Battista Foggini’s Medici-era carved giltwood sculptures of nude warriors on pedestals at Dickinson’s booth, to a romantically erratic gouache on paper nude by Tracey Emin at White Cube. The London-headquartered gallery is positioned at the fair’s entrance, showing works including a 2015-dated Georg Baselitz watercolor and ink on paper, and a 2017 Cerith Wyn Evans neon.

Korner noted that modern and contemporary art and design makes up a third of TEFAF’s program, which he considers unique among the fair’s peers. “Contemporary is a common thread among many fairs, but the academic period between 1900 and 1960 is rarely a focus,” he said. Two Marsden Hartley works at Rosenberg & Co.’s booth, for example, feel surprisingly contemporary: the early 20th-century master’s graphite on paper Still Life, Pomegranate (1927) renders a bowl of fruits sensual, even sexually, with their resemblance to buttocks, while his oil on board Still Life with Lemons (Fruit and Tumbler) (1928) radiates with its energetic colors and play of light.

Omar Ba, Communauté de destin, 2023. Courtesy of Templon.

Galleries also find the opportunity to represent their existing rosters in a new light. Take Templon, which is known for representing contemporary artists, such as Kehinde Wiley, Omar Ba, and Jan van Imschoot, who take cues from the classics. Here, Wiley’s bronze sculpture Femme Piquée Par Un Serpent (2022) depicts a young Black woman in repose, an homage to Auguste Clésinger’s namesake marble masterpiece in the Musée d’Orsay collection. Van Imschoot’s oil on canvas L’autre temps des cerises (2022) also illustrates an ancient juxtaposition with a contemporary veil, portraying the Greco-Roman god Bacchus engaging in an enigmatic affair with a group of men.

“As first-time exhibitors, we are delighted to present our artists in a new context through the lens of TEFAF and the Old Masters,” said LeeAna Wolfman, director of Templon’s New York branch.

Eugéne Isabey, Matelots Saluant le Christ en Sortant du Port de St. Valery-en-Caux, 1867. Courtesy of Demisch Danant.

A similar medley is swiftly handled by New York–based design gallery Demisch Danant through pairings of historical paintings with top-notch modernist furniture. A lavish seascape by Eugéne Isabey from 1867, for example, is hung above Maria Pergay’s Daybed (1974), made of sleek stainless steel, wood, foam, fabric, and casters. According to gallery director Claire Laporte, the work recreates a recent trend among a new generation of France-based collectors, involving the pairing of inherited classical art with minimalist design.

Tina Kim Gallery displays another thrilling staging at its booth, where Louise Bourgeois’s corporal gouache and pencil on paper drawing Pregnant Woman (2007) and bronze hand sculpture The Inward Vision (2008) are hung alongside Kim Tschang-Yeul’s sweaty oil on canvas Waterdrops (1986). The trifecta brings elements of bodily transformation and tactility together in an alluring orchestration.

Installation view of Sean Kelly’s booth at TEFAF Maastricht, 2023. Photo by Pieter de Vries. Courtesy of Sean Kelly.

Across the aisle, Sean Kelly taps into similar themes of transience in and out of the body with Shahzia Sikander’s patinated bronze deity NOW (2023): a horned female figure with branches in lieu of arms that blossom out of a pink-hued flower with confidence. The larger-than-life sculpture is fresh from the New York–based artist’s ongoing public commission at Madison Square Park, where a similar yet larger figure is perched on the rooftop of the Courthouse of the Appellate Division, First Department of the Supreme Court of the State.

The fair wrapped up its initial day with a series of sales that include a Jonas Wood painting, Three Clippings (2018), from Christopher Bishop Fine Art, which sold in the range of €200,000–€250,000 ($213,000–$267,000); an untitled Claudine Drai sculpture at Galleria D’Art Maggiore’s booth, which sold for around €35,000 ($37,000); and Giacomo Balla’s The Four Seasons (1940), which sold for around €1 million ($1.68 million) at Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Art. A Tracey Emin painting, A Rose (2007), sold for £850,000 ($1.28 million), and a Park Seo-bo mixed-media on hanji paper on canvas also sold for $490,000 at White Cube.

TEFAF is open to visitors through March 19th, with public days starting today.

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