MAASTRICHT—Organizers of this year’s European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), which ran March 12–21, reported attendance of approximately 72,500, an increase of about 7 percent from the 67,755 visitors recorded last year. Boris Vervoordt, director of Axel Vervoordt, Wijnegem, Belgium, told ARTnewsletter he was “very pleased” with this year’s edition, which he said drew “curators and collectors from all over the world. We sold to more American collectors than last year.”
At last year’s fair, he pointed out, “we did very well in the beginning but it slowed down. This year it was extremely busy until the last hour.” This time the Vervoordt booth featured work by Zero artists, a Dusseldorf movement that experimented with such materials as fire, nails and papier-mâché. Works on view included Günther Uecker’s Schlachtfeld, 1966, a composition with fine sand granules, kaolin clay and sharp nails, and Heinz Mack’s Manhattan Stadtplan, 1964, in which aluminum and wood create a semblance of a street grid.
Several major sales were wrapped up within the first few days of the fair (ANL, 3/23/10), while others took longer to execute. The top asking price at the fair was $25million, which was shared by a number of artworks, including Deux femmes, 1902, a late Tahitian painting by Paul Gauguin at the booth of Dickinson, London and New York, and works by Amedeo Modigliani and Alberto Giacometti at the stand of Landau Fine Art, Montreal. The U.K. collectors offering the Gauguin for sale had acquired it for £12.4million ($21.6million) at Sotheby’s in London in February 2006. And since Sotheby’s $104million sale of Giacometti’s Walking Man I, 1960, in London last February (ANL, 2/9/10), prices for the sculptor’s work have obviously gone up.
Robert Landau also had a smaller bronze of Three Walking Men I, 1948–50, which he had bought at Christie’s in New York in November 2008 for $11.5million. Last year he had been asking $19million for it, and this year $25million. Landau showed some other blockbusters, including Il teatro delle maschere, 1956, the largest known painting by Marino Marini, priced at $7.5million. His early sales, however, were at a lower price level, such as three small sculptures by Henry Moore priced at $250,000/$400,000 each.
Among the more unusual works on view were a group of Pablo Picasso’s palette boards from the collection of the artist’s daughter Marina Picasso, displayed with pots of paint and brushes on a rustic stool, like a sculpture. These were offered at the stand of Galerie Krugier, Geneva, priced from E110,000 ($148,500) up to E2million ($2.7million) for the most elaborate. One work was sold, but a gallery spokesperson declined to give the price.
A four-foot-square Andy Warhol flower painting, bought by a U.S. collector at Christie’s in New York in May 2007 for $8million, was back on the market in Maastricht at the stand of L&M Arts, New York, with an asking price of $9.5million. A set of ten Warhol screenprints of Marilyn Monroe, 1967, at Haunch of Venison (a subsidiary of Christie’s) sold for $1.5million—on par with the auction record for examples from the edition of 250.
Haunch of Venison also displayed This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy Stayed at Home, 1996, a sculpture consisting of a sliced pig in two motorized tanks of formaldehyde by Damien Hirst. The piece is a reminder of Charles Saatchi’s famous falling-out with the artist (ANL, 12/9/03): Owned by Saatchi when it was shown in the “Sensation” exhibition in 1997, This Little Piggy was sold back to Hirst in 2003 when the artist bought 11 of his works from Saatchi for a reported £8million ($13.5million). Haunch of Venison, which subsequently acquired the work from Hirst, was asking $12 million for it.
Hirst market watchers also kept an eye on Dog Days, 2008, shown by Van de Weghe Fine Art. The vitrine with cigarette butts had been sold in Hirst’s “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever” sale at Sotheby’s London in September 2008 for £313,250 ($540,000) against a £200,000/300,000 estimate (ANL, 9/30/08). The asking price at the fair was E815,000 ($1.1million). A spokesperson at Van de Weghe Fine Art told ARTnewsletter the gallery traded the Hirst for a small Basquiat painting.
Among the dealers in modern and contemporary art making sales were Thomas Gibson Fine Art and Lefevre Fine Art, London, which shared a booth and racked up $9.2million in sales in the first few days, including a small Mark Rothko oil on paper on canvas, Untitled (Red, White, Orange), 1967, for $3.8million. Hauser & Wirth, London, Zurich and New York, sold half a dozen works by Berlinde De Bruyckere, Rodney Graham, Subodh Gupta, Eva Hesse and Dieter Roth in the first 24 hours for a total of about $2million. Van de Weghe sold four works on the first day, including Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Busted Atlas 2, 1982, for $2.2million and Duane Hanson’s Security Guard, 1990, which sold for $595,000—a relatively modest increase from the $314,000 price it fetched at Christie’s in New York in November 2001.
The notion that the market for Chinese antiques has been the strongest throughout the recession was partly born out in Maastricht, where Ben Janssens Oriental Art, London, sold more than 30 pieces during the preview. An unusually large 15th-century lacquer chest of drawers depicting a Taoist paradise also sold for E3.1million ($4million) through Littleton and Hennessy Asian Art, London. Dealers said new Chinese collectors are competing against the traditional Western collectors, who are fearful of rising prices.