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Asian Art Takes a Front Seat at Highly Selective Maastricht Fair

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), held from March 9-18 in the Dutch city of Maastricht and now in its 20th year, drew 71,000 visitors, a 15 percent decrease from last year’s record attendance of 84,000 (ANL, 4/11/06).

MAASTRICHT—The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), held from March 9-18 in the Dutch city of Maastricht and now in its 20th year, drew 71,000 visitors, a 15 percent decrease from last year’s record attendance of 84,000 (ANL, 4/11/06).

The drop in visitors was a consequence of the fair organizers’ efforts to attract a more concentrated group of collectors. This year the entry price, with the catalogue, climbed to €55 ($72) from x40 ($52) last year, and group excursions were not allowed. The private viewing, on March 8, drew 8,500 visitors, including collectors and museum curators.

More than 200 dealers offered works ranging from antiquities, illuminated manuscripts, silver and textiles to sculpture, paintings, prints and drawings. Overall the exhibitors expressed satisfaction with their sales.

This year’s fair featured a strong showing of Asian art—signaling the influence of its new chairman, Asian art dealer Ben Janssens, London. He succeeds Dave Aronson, who passed away in January. In all, 17 participating galleries showed Asian art this year. And, after a gap of ten years, John Eskenazi, London, a prominent dealer of Indian, Gandharan, Himalayan and southeast Asian art, returned to TEFAF.

Littleton and Hennessy Asian Art, London and New York, sold a 2,200-year-old bronze tapir inlaid with gold and turquoise—with an asking price of $12 million—to a Chinese collector.

The modern and contemporary art section, which accounted for about 25 percent of participating galleries, strengthened the success of the previous year. Wildenstein & Company, New York, sold a 1936 oil on canvas by Pablo Picasso, femme à la coiffé d’ Arlesienne sur fond vert, for $15 million to a private collector. “My father [Daniel Wildenstein] was against the participation in art fairs,” gallerist Guy Wildenstein told ARTnewsletter. “However, times have changed, and if he were alive today, he would approve our decision to exhibit at TEFAF.”

Despite the increasing importance of modern and contemporary art, Old Master paintings and antiques still play the leading roles at TEFAF. “More contemporary art collectors are now taking on 16th- and 17th-century paintings” London dealer Johnny Van Haeften told ARTnewsletter.

Van Haeften, who specializes in Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings, reports the sale of several major works the first night of the fair: An Italianate Landscape with Travelers on a Path, by 17th-century Utrecht painter Jan Both, was acquired by an American collector for $5.4 million, he notes.

Among the sales at Bernheimer-Colnaghi, Munich and London, was Ill Matched Couple, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553). The painting, which had an asking price of €1.2 million ($1.6 million), fell to a German private collector of, mainly, modern and contemporary art, says director Konrad Bernheimer.

Antiques were also in demand. Galerie J. Kugel, Paris, sold a parcel-gilt-mounted Nautilus cup, 1620, by Augsburg master Ulrich Ment, for an undisclosed price. An Austrian private collector bought a 17th-century traveling chess set from Austria, exhibited by Kunstkammer Georg Laue, Munich. Jan Roelofs Antiguairs, Amsterdam, sold a rare, 17th-century rosewood-and-ebony Portuguese collector’s cabinet to a French collector.

GRIGORY KOZLOV

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