March 13, 2016

It's TEFAF Time Again!

The most anticipated event of the art and antiques season is undoubtedly the opening of The European Fine Arts Fair, or TEFAF as it is more commonly known.  Now in its 29th year, this is the gold standard by which all other art and antiques fairs are judged - an extravaganza of the finest and rarest the market has to offer.

I had the very good fortune to receive an invitation to the opening last Thursday and took the early train from Paris to Li├Ęge and then on to Maastricht and walked through the doors with thousands of other fair-goers shortly after noon.  As this was not my first time, I was prepared to be amazed at the magnificent floral displays for which TEFAF is famous, and once again they did not disappoint.  Hundreds of test tubes, suspended from the ceiling, each with a white flower and/or a green flower, gave the impression of stars twinkling above the fairyland that waited beyond.

TEFAF has earned its reputation for "Excellence, Expertise and Elegance" by accepting only top ranked exhibitors and subjecting every single item offered for sale to a stringent vetting process.  This careful selection assures the 75,000 collectors, curators and merely curious who pass through the fair each year, that they can buy (or at least window shop) with confidence.

This year, 273 dealers from 21 countries are exhibiting paintings, furniture, decorations, coins, rugs, jewelry, books, porcelains, clocks, armor, sculpture, marine instruments, and anything else you can possibly imagine, covering over 7,000 years of history.  Here are a few pieces that caught my eye:

On the stand of Dickinson, London, is this beautiful oil painting by Renoir entitled "Au Bord de l'eau", 1885.  This Impressionist masterpiece had a firm reserve at $12 million by the end of the opening day.

Georg Laue, Munich, is known for his "cabinet of curiosities" presentation.  This year was no exception with this 17th century carved alabaster plaque depicting "Adam and Eve in Paradise" by Leonhard Kern...

and this gorgeous amber chess set made in Germany in 1700.

This very rare complete set of Russian icons depicting The Annunciation and the Four Evangelists came from a Royal Door made in the second half of the 19th century.  It was on the stand of Jan Morsink Ikonen, Amsterdam.

One new exhibitor, Jean-Michel Renard, France, presented an entire booth of historic musical instruments.

While Portuguese dealer Luis Alegria created this clever display mixing an 18th century rosewood commode with a South American Colonial polychrome sculpture of the Holy Family.

This enormous Roman marble foot dominated the stand of Cahn International, Switzerland.  Amazingly, despite its vast size it sold almost immediately!

One can almost imagine oneself wearing these gorgeous 18th century turban ornaments from Dehli, displayed at Van Gelder Indian Folk Jewellery...

...while ensconced on this Anglo-Indian solid ivory armchair made in Murshidabad circa 1800 across the aisle on the stand of A. Mohtasheme, London.
One of the more curious pieces was this 18th century Bavarian walnut wood and ivory sculpture of card players shown by Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel, Germany.

This charming little carved and painted ivory apple is called an "Okimono".  It is from the Meiji period in Japan (1868-1912) and was already marked "sold" on the stand of London dealer Ben Janssens Oriental Art.

As you can probably imagine, it is nearly impossible to choose a single favorite piece at a fair like this.  But in a "burning building" scenario, I would have to pick this incredible Swiss clock, made for a Turkish collector, shown by Galerie J. Kugel, Paris.  This heavily decorated ormolu birdcage featured two enameled automaton birds that chirped and fluttered their wings while a column of crystal in the center simulated a cascading waterfall.  The actual clock face is on the bottom and can be viewed when looking up at this marvelous example of craftsmanship and fantasy.

What better way to end such a delightful day than with a glass, or two, of champagne!  I can hardly wait for next year!!!

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