ARTnewsletter Archive

Upbeat Mood, Mixed Sales at Maastricht Fair

After the success of the Yves Saint Laurent sale in Paris last month (ANL, 3/3/09), the hopes and attention of the art and antique market shifted to Maastricht for the The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), held March 13–22.

MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS—After the success of the Yves Saint Laurent sale in Paris last month (ANL, 3/3/09), the hopes and attention of the art and antique market shifted to Maastricht for the The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), held March 13–22. Visitors to this year’s fair totaled 67,755, down 7.7 percent from last year. Representatives of many institutions attended, including several from France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as such U.S. museums as the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

This year, one of the highest-priced artworks on offer was Vincent van Gogh’s landscape The Park at the Hospital Saint-Paul, 1889, from a Geneva collection, at the booth of Dickinson, London, valued at around $32 million. It had not sold by the end of the fair.

It is not yet possible to gauge the strength of the market accurately because so many deals are finalized after the fair has closed, but one thing is sure: The mood at Maastricht was much more upbeat than in the United States. Dealers who had already exhibited at New York’s recent Winter Antiques Show and The Armory Show (ANL, 3/17/09) all testified to this, telling ARTnewsletter that wealthy European collectors were less affected by the financial crises.

Also among the top works of Impressionist and modern art on offer was Edgar Degas’s Toilette matinale, 1894, which sold for around $13 million at Dickinson, one of the few such high-priced works to sell at the fair.

Modestly Priced Works Move Faster

Sales were made in a lower price range, however, for Max Ernst’s Figure Humaine at Hauser & Wirth, Zurich and London, for about $1 million, and for Vasily Kandinsky’s watercolor Brown Ray, 1924, priced at $1.3 million, at the booth of Galerie Thomas, Munich. At an even lower price point, several more sales were made, such as Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Hand of the Pianist, which had an asking price of $135,000 at Robert Bowman Ltd., London.

Modern photography was better represented this year than in the past, and sales were led by a vintage print of Man Ray’s classic Noir et Blanche, 1926, which sold for $760,000 at the booth of Kicken Berlin. That price, however, was still short of the record $1 million private sale of another vintage print of the photograph to singer Elton John in the 1990s.

Most of the stand first time-exhibitor Daniella Luxem­bourg shared with dealer Amalia Dayan was devoted to contemporary art, with the theme of “Disaster.” Luxembourg got off to a good start with the sale of Luciano Fabro’s Sullo Stato, 1970, a wood sculpture in the shape of Italy, which was priced at $800,000, but no other sales at their booth were reported by fair organizers.

In the contemporary section, prices for works by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Lucio Fontana were often 20 percent to 50 percent lower than last year, dealers said. Bacon’s Man at a Washbasin, 1989–90, was priced at $10 million at the stand of Marlborough Gal­lery, London. “It would have been double that a year ago,” gallery director Armin Bienger said.

One of the highest sale prices was $4.5 million, paid by London jeweller Laurence Graff for Basquiat’s Untitled (Black Athlete), 1982, at the booth of dealer Christophe Van de Weghe, New York. Another big-ticket sale was a group of recently cast Louise Bourgeois bronzes, Personnages, which sold to one collector for around $1 million each at Hauser & Wirth.

There were several gaps in the lineup of exhibitors, left by galleries who chose not to attend this year, notably Waddington, London, Acqua­vella Galleries, New York, and Richard Gray, New York and Chicago. One empty booth was more than adequately filled by London dealer Ben Brown, who literally raised the roof with the installation of the biggest work in the fair—Ambiente Spaziale con Tagli, 1964, an 8-meter-by-4-meter white painting with six vertical cuts by Lucio Fontana. Priced at $7.8 million, the work attracted a great deal of interest, but no immediate sale. Brown had more success with François-Xavier Lalanne’s bronze Mouflon de Pauline, 1993, which he sold for $495,000. Axel Vervoordt, Wijnegem, Belgium, sold a small double-sided carved marble sculpture, 2002, by Anish Kapoor for $673,000.

Old Master Buyers: ‘Selective and Slow’

Virtually every dealer in the Old Master section seized on the notion that art is the safest place to put your money. And unlike contemporary art, there was little evidence that prices for Old Master paintings—promoted by some dealers and experts as the steadiest sector of the art market—had gone down.

Buyers at the top of the market, however, were both selective and slow to commit to purchases. El Greco’s Christ Embracing the Cross, at the booth of Galería Caylus, Madrid, had last sold in an auction at Sotheby’s in Madrid in 1997, where it brought $745,450. It was offered now for $6.4 million, and sold on the last day of the fair to a European collector for a figure close to the asking price, according to TEFAF press officers.

Dutch painting sold more quickly. A small painting by Gabriel Metsu of a woman eating at a table fetched $4.6 million, more than double the auction record for the artist, at the stand of Noortman Master Paintings. Noortman also sold Jacob van Ruisdael’s A Winter Landscape with Windmill, which had an asking price of $4.7 million, to a U.S. collector. Another record price was the $1.2 million paid at the booth of London dealer Johnny Van Haeften for a 17th-century river landscape by Maerten Ryckaerts, which had been bought at Sotheby’s in New York in this year’s January sales for $733,000.

Van Haeften reported brisk business, with the sales of 12 Dutch Old Masters in the first two days—including A View of a Flemish Street with Townsfolk and Waggoners, by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Joos de Momper, for $730,000—and another eight paintings before the fair’s end.

Another major sale was that of the as-yet-unpublished Portrait of a Young Man by Peter Paul Rubens by dealer Konrad Bernheimer. Bern­heimer told ARTnews­letter he had sold the painting for less 18 months ago, and that the owner made “a good profit.” Bernheimer declined to give the exact sale price, saying it was approximately $6 million.

Perhaps the most buoyant sector of the fair was antiquities. Charles Ede, London, sold eleven works, some for six figures, on the opening day, and midway through the fair, Rupert Wace had sold 27 works.

Sales at Wace included a modern-looking Iron-Age bronze from Sardinia of a woman in a cloak and peaked hat, for around $160,000; a Hellenistic marble figure of Aphrodite, second century–first century B.C., sold to a U.S. collector for approximately $540,000; and an Egyptian bronze statue of the god Ptah, late Dynastic Period (664–332 B.C.), sold to a U.S. museum for an undisclosed six-figure sum.