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Maastricht Fair Rides High Despite Volatile Economy

Despite the turbulence of the financial markets, sales were strong, if a little slower in the modern art sector than last year, at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, from March 13–22.

MAASTRICHT—Despite the turbulence of the financial markets, sales were strong, if a little slower in the modern art sector than last year, at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) held in Maastricht, the Netherlands, from March 13–22. Organizers counted 75,000 visitors—a 6 percent rise over last year, including museum curators and trustees from 18 different countries.

Oriental art dealer Ben Janssens, chairman of TEFAF’s executive committee, said “there is no evidence that the jittery financial markets have discouraged buyers. In fact, the reverse seems to be true.”

The highest reported sale at the fair came in the Old Master section of Dickinson, London and New York, which sold a work by Jan Steen (1626-79), The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, from the Jacques Goudstikker collection, for approximately €8 million ($12.5 million). The painting (not part of the series of sales from the Goudstikker collection at Christie’s last year) had hung in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, since the end of World War II until recently, when it was restituted to Goudstikker’s heir Marei von Saher in February 2006. Some sources say the painting will now be returned to the Rijksmuseum.

Another Old Master sale of note was a painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger (1601-78), Aeneais and Sybil in the Underworld, which sold for $5.8 million to a U.S. collector through London dealer Johnny van Haeften. A specialist in Dutch and Flemish works, van Haeften sold 20 pieces at the fair, including a church interior by Anthonie de Lorme (1610-73) for $3 million, and one of several versions of The Massacre of Innocents by Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638), also for $3 million. The latter, A Winter Landscape with the Massacre of the Innocents, had brought less than half of that, $1.3 million, at a Sotheby’s auction in December 2006 (ANL, 1/3/06, p. 3).

Further testimony to ongoing demand for Dutch 17th-century paintings was seen by Paris gallery De Jonckheere, which sold two works by Pieter Brueghel the Younger for up to $4 million each; and by Zurich’s Koetser Gallery, which sold a newly discovered Winter landscape by Hendrick Avercamp for €1.6 million ($2.48 million) to a U.S. collector.

Fair Draws Eclectic Mix of Buyers

The fair continues to attract modern and contemporary art dealers. London dealer Leslie Waddington, who reported sales of works by Jean Dubuffet, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, among others, said TEFAF “started slowly but picked up later. It was good, but not great.”

There were, however, strong sales at Hauser & Wirth, which took $8 million for an early Jackson Pollock, Magic Flame, 1946; $5 million for a late Willem de Kooning ribbon painting; and $4 million for a classic, 1950s Joan Mitchell abstract. The dealers also sold two new sculptures of the human body by Belinda de Bruyckere to German collector, Friedrich Christian ‘Mick’ Flick, priced at €180,000 ($279,000) each.

In its first fair since being bought by Christie’s, Haunch of Venison, of London, Berlin and Zurich, sold ten works early in the show. These included two sculptures by Zhang Huan priced at $60,000 each; Bill Viola’s video Isolde’s Ascension at $300,000; and Gerhard Richter’s 1964 Portrait Schmela at close to $2 million.

Several stands boasted paintings by Lucio Fontana in the wake of record prices at the London auctions. A single-cut, white painting at Belgian dealer Axel Vervoordt’s booth looked expensive at €6 million ($9.3 million), but more reasonable prices for similar works at Dickinson (€1.5 million, or $2.32 million) and Galerie Vedovi, Brussels ($1 million), resulted in sales.

A pristine, 16th-century illuminated book of hours, including 60 miniatures known as the Negrone Hours—estimated at about €5 million ($7.75 million)—was sold by Heribert Tenschert, Switzerland; a 13th-century bronze aquamanile of a falconer, priced at €2.2 million ($3.4 million), was sold by Blumka Gallery, New York; and a 15th-century, red-lacquer Chinese box was bought by an Asian collector from Littleton & Hennessy, London and New York, for €1.4 million ($2.2 million).

Twombly Takes a Bronze Collectible

In a lower-priced bracket, the niche collectible areas for antiquities and tribal art were strong. Royal Athena galleries, New York and London, sold four fifth-century B.C. Chalcidian bronze helmets for $60,000/$75,000 each. One was acquired by contemporary artist Cy Twombly.

London dealer Charles Ede sold more than 30 pieces at the fair, including a Cycladic marble figure for €220,000 ($341,000). And Rupert Wace, also from London, recorded multiple sales, including a Roman bronze head for €425,000 ($658,750), a Roman marble bust for €225,000 ($348,750) and an Egyptian bronze of a cat for more than €100,000 ($155,000).

Brussels dealer Bernard de Grunne experienced lively demand. On the first day of the fair he sold seven African carvings for as much as €120,000 ($186,000) apiece. Another Brussels dealer, first-time exhibitor Patric Claes, sold out his small stand of carvings for prices ranging up to $340,000 each.

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