How is the greatest art and antiques fair in Maastricht, just outside of Amsterdam, one of the world’s greatest insider secrets? Consider it a very limited edition for the very special. Join Lance Avery Morgan as he investigates the insider’s phenomenon with a VIP jaunt to the fair where everyone seems to know everyone in this rarified circle. Here, there is no staying too long at the fair.
There are several ways to truly understand the scope of the rarified world of The European Fine Art Fair, known as TEFAF. In a word, it is sublime. In several words, consider it hoarding for billionaires. Or rather, think of it as walking into the Met and saying, while earnestly pointing, I’ll take that Van Gogh, that Rueben, and oh, yes, the Ming Dynasty jade statue over there is lovely and would do fine, too. Or, how about considering it a State Fair for the planet’s richest and most celebrated, including a few select Texan attendees? Getting the picture? And, it happens every March, usually coinciding with most Spring Breaks.
Anyone who knows the art world well is not surprised that investing in art is the new real estate for those who want to put money in potentially high-return profit growth. According to the scenes facts and figure, global sales of art exceeded $64 billion in 2011, about triple of what the 2002 total was. Art has even outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 10 years. Remarkable. And as with any investment, diversifying the genre of art collected casts a wider net for future earnings. Dive in now and hold tight is what the experts recommend when consulting art collectors both new and those of a decades-long provenance.
TEFAF celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with some of the most noted collectors and dealers on the planet. In fact, at the Jubilee, Calvin Klein attended and bought Warhol’s Drag Queen for a cool million five. He sat by us at lunch and wondered if the fact that Klein at his jeans-designing height was also part of Warhol’s 54 circle lost on everyone but me? Surely Andy could have cut Klein a deal back in the day. Compared to the Russian and Middle Eastern billionaires in attendance, Klein’s purchase was small potatoes.
The designer had nothing on the other visitors. Whatever your personal interests in art may lay. All it takes is money, taste and quite frankly, very much of both. Guests who attend are more than well-heeled. They have a life well-lived. To them, clad in sleek Saville Row suits and likely, more Berkin bags gathered per capita than anywhere else on that planet that very moment, nubby buclee’ Chanel suits are donned for the serious business of buying serious art. Vertu’s ring off the hook with dealers romancing potential clients who “stopped in the shop in Antwerp and should some interest” are amongst the thousands of unique scenarios that create a synergistic relationship between dealer and patron. Even Graff jewels, themselves a work of art, have a makeshift store hoping a few of their visitors might be caught up in the fair’s moment and procure a bauble or two along with a Vermeer. More than a few attendees of the Fair are also museum honchos looking for an acquisition that they might not have otherwise been privy to if not for this gathering.
Privy indeed. TEFAF hosted 265 specialists from 19 different countries. Between them, more than 30,000 works of art, antiques and design objects from pre-history to the present day were exhibited. With an aggregate value of over 3 billion Euros. “At TEFAF you get spoiled forever,” commented Jean Doyen de Montaillou, American collector. It’s enough to make one’s head spin at some point during the Fair.
The gallery installations, all temporary for the two weeks of artful dodging and finagling, cost a tremendous amount of money to mount. Custom parquet floors, toile wallpapered structures, ornate fixtures and lighting to best portray the works of art to their best selling advantage are thoughtfully executed.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Walking into the entrance hall of auditorium, seeing the one story circular installation packed solidly with white Avalanche roses that fragrant the air, 11,000, in fact. As if it rarified enough already, sets the tone. Over 148,000 tulips were everywhere one looked, trucked in (keep in mind that tulip season doesn’t officially begin until a month later, and you’ll get the idea of the heft of this fair) as well as amongst the corridors, squares and cafés were 13,500 of the most exclusive multi colored French tulips with long stalks. In the Place de la Concorde were 8,000 multi colored Dutch tulips with short stalks as well as 1,500 pink magnolia branches or cherry blossoms dotting the pathways between galleries, each gallery seemingly more impressive than the prior one visited. Approximately 170 kinds of food and wine were served during the fair to keep up the buying appetite. Throughout the day, the clam shuckers, a tradition, cause a stir with the shuckers, all bombshells, clad in body hugging jumpsuits.
It’s a certainty to state that over the years TEFAF has become recognized as the world’s leading art and antiques fair. Why? As a visitor the Fair, simply put, gives you a unique chance to view and to buy paintings as well as objects reflecting 7,000 years of the best in the decorative arts. Displayed as elegantly as any Chagall on the rue Bonaparte in Paris would be, the masterpieces are offered by more than 260 of the world’s most prestigious art and antiques dealers from 18 countries. Think that’s enough variety? The cacophony of international languages would thwart even the most ardent of linguists. As an example, early to arrive, we encountered a coterie of Chinese customers, fresh scrubbed and smelling of newly minted industrial fortunes, being beckoned with primarily pristine British dealer accents offering them a top spot in the world in which they inhabit if only they’ll buy this Klimpt, that Rothko, or perhaps, madame, that Rubens over there.
The Chinese, Russians and residents from almost every country needn’t worry that they are being sold a bill of goods, or gasp, a forgery. I learned quickly, while discussing the fair with a few of its key leaders, that TEFAF has led the way in establishing proper vetting procedures, and they are still considered the most exacting. In fact, 29 vetting committees, made up of over 170 international experts in every field of art represented at the Fair, verify each and every object for quality, authenticity and condition, so visitors can always buy with confidence. Talk about knowing what you are getting, if you find anything you can’t live without.
This year, according to the Fair’s experts, over 72.000 people visited TEFAF over the course of the event. Those numbers are staggering, with 44% came from outside the Netherlands with a marked increase in buyers from Russia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore. About 85% of visitors describe themselves as private buyers, of which more than 21% were visiting for the first time. “Having participated in the Fair from the outset in 1988, I have been astounded by the number of new clients I have met and sold to this year,” said Ben Janssens, Chairman of the Executive Committee.
One of the key elements of the Fair is that for directors and curators of major museums, as well as private collectors from around the world, a visit to TEFAF offers an opportunity to acquire some of the finest works still in private hands. The collecting interests of visitors, it seems based on casual observation, were spread almost equally between the three biggest areas of the Fair: Old Master paintings weighed in with 30%, antiques added up to 36, while modern and contemporary works rounded out at 34%. People come to buy and their pockets are full of money to acquire some of the most remarkable objects’ d’art found in a public forum such as this.
An Art Market Symposium discusses the developments of the art market over the past 25 years and its expected tendencies in the near future. It’s open to any of the fair’s attendees, yet remains a rarified look at the business behind the business of the art world. Collecting for Love or for Money. In that gathering, the astounding financial art facts quickly rose to the top of the conversation. The global art market continued to recover in 2011, increasing by 7% to €46.1 billion, an increase of 63% since the market crisis of 2009.
The volume of transactions also increased by 5% to 36.8 million. It seems that the driving forces behind the recovery were strong sales in the Chinese auction market and the rise of fine art sales (over decorative art). The Modern and Contemporary sectors combined to account for nearly 70% of the fine art market and thankfully, both continued a strong recovery in 2011, leading them to levels in excess of the boom of 2007-2008.
The art market took nearly a decade to recover from the recession of the 1990s, whereas the contraction in 2009 has been relatively short-lived. This is due, in part, to its increasingly global nature and has more than doubled in size in the 25 years since TEFAF Maastricht was founded and grew over 575% from its lowest point in 1991 (just under $10 billion) to its highest in 2007 ($66 billion/€48.1 billion).
“Apart from its rapid increase in size, the last decade has witnessed significant changes in the art market’s geographical distribution of sales,” states Dr. Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist specializing in the fine and decorative art market and founder of Arts Economics. She called the development “perhaps one of the most fundamental and important changes in the last 50 years” and goes on to say, “The next decade will be the first period when emerging market countries contribute more to global economic growth than developed ones.”
Also of note, TEFAF will also launch an Art Restoration Fund that will annually fund the restoration of work of art owned by a museum. It’s a Fair that continues to give back.
Not familiar with Maastricht, which is near the Belgium border, about two hours from Amsterdam? Neither was I before I was invited to experience this extraordinary opportunity. Getting there was quite easy. KLM, the Royal Dutch Airlines with its first class point of view toward flight travel, is the best and most convenient way to get there. Simply hop on a direct flight to San Antonio, Dallas or Houston and it’s a non-stop flight that will have you there in less than half a day.
Maastricht is city with a genuine past. A Roman city, founded in the 1st century B.C., the historic town has picturesque medieval streets, charming squares and fine architecture, as well as many cultural attractions including concerts, museums, churches, archaeological sites, and historic city walks. It is also renowned for its super stylish shops, chic boutiques, fine cuisine and lively atmosphere, and provides a perfect complement to the attractions of the Fair. One bookstore we went into was actually a cathedral before it was transformed into a bibliophilic haven. Soaring ceilings provided the perfect backdrop for a plethora of books waiting to be taken home by a chic buyer.
One thing you’ll notice, as at the Fair, is that all the city’s residents are fit and trim. They walk and ride bikes as the preferred mode of transportation and their healthy physiques reflect that. Of course they are. The region is impressive for both its art and art lovers. Run, don’t walk to Maastricht for a one-of-a-kind artful endeavor you’ll always remember. Art is, to many, the fruit of life’s best cultural pursuits, as well as a platinum financial opportunity.
ART FOR ART’S SAKE
A selection of some of TEFAF’s sales that range a spectrum of all art’s mediums
Koopman Rare Art
pair of George II candelabra’s
20th Earl of Kildare
Kunsthandel Peter Mühlbauer Germany
Ormulu and lapis lazuli tripod gueridon with caryatids
Russian Imperial Workshop after a design by Vincenzo Brenna
Height 74.9 cm, Diameter 55.8 cm
Saint Petersburg, circa 1790
Sold to an American collector
Asking price € 580.000
Jorge Welsh Porcelana Oriental e Obras de Arte, Lda. Portugal
Chinese porcelain ‘Tabacco-leaf’ dinner service
Qianlong period circa 1750
Sold to a European collector for a six figure sum.
TEFAF Classical Antiquities
Charles Ede Ltd
Greek vase with black figures
6th century BC
Rupert Wace Ancient Art
Etruscan Etruscan gold diadem 4th century
Kunsthandel Mieke Zilverberg
Villanova/italic, 2 wheeled charriot model
bronze, length 26 cm
Allard Pierson museum, Amsterdam
Substantial six figure sum
The Fine Art Society
Rob and Nick Carter
Transforming Still Life Painting (after Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s Vase with Flowers in a Window), three hour looped film, frame and Apple mac, 73.7×86.4 cm
Kukje Gallery Korea
Nickel plated bronze, 44.5 x 63.5 x 45.7 cm. Editiom 3/6 + 1 AP
Galerie Thomas Germany
Marino Marini (1901-1980)
Mixed media on canvas, 62 x 43 cm
Sold to a German collector
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964)
Bronze, 55.2 x 17.1 x 8.25 cm
Signed and dated ‘1915 AF’
Sold to a German collector
Bernheimer Fine Old Masters
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
Asking price € 3.5 million
Johnny van Haeften Ltd UK
Frans Francken (1581 – 1642)
Mankind’s eternal dilemma – the choice between vice and vertu
oil on panel, 142 x 210.8cm
Signed and dated 1633
Asking price € 14 million
The Weiss Gallery
The Ditchley Henry VIII
Oil on canvas, 90.75×58.5 cm
Asking price £2.5 million