MASTERPIECE’S THEATRE

The big stakes, high-dollar international art world is booming beyond belief. The money is flowing as freely with the volume of the masterpieces that are being sold at the most prestigious gathering of valuable art and discerning buyers. Join Lance Avery Morgan as we jet to The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, Holland where we are a fly on a champagne glass toasting the gathering place where the privileged acquire things rarely found elsewhere.

We all know how the very rich own and appreciate art. A tremendous amount of art, in fact. According to Wealth X, a wealth intelligence firm, the average billionaire holds $31 million, or .5% of their net worth, in art. What it is like to value a object of beauty, and to competitively pay for what they love, is familiar. Those people, and those who aspire to be like them, can likely be found at the grandest art fair on the planet, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF).

If it is Thursday on a crisp and cool day in Holland, then it must be opening day at the wildly prestigious TEFAF where both aristocracy and well-heeled art lovers gather under one large roof to scout one-of-a-kind pieces . . . to either complete or begin a world-class art collection. TEFAF is often referred to as a museum in which everything is for sale. Susan Lynch, Chair of the Board of Directors and Patrons of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT. commented, “TEFAF is inspiring, educational and a delight”.

Consider this a primer on your visit to the Fair, whether you are attending for the first time, or you are a veteran of the exquisite Fair that boasts more than 265 specialists from 19 different countries. Between them they exhibited more than 30,000 works of art, antiques and design objects from pre-history to the present day with an aggregate value of more than 3 billion Euros. “At TEFAF you get spoiled forever,” shared American collector, Jean Doyen de Montaillou.

How does this prestigious fair offer something not easily found at other fairs? Houstonian art collector Sir Mark Haukohl, with whom we dined at a castle near the Fair, is an avid Old Masters collector and always attends to see how he can add to his collection in some way. He shares his perspective of the bestof the international art fairs by stating, “In comparison, the Venice Bienalle, Art Basel Switzerland and TEFAF are all horses of a different color. The Venice Bienalle offers no art work for sale, so you are looking at a curated and solely contemporary exhibition, reflecting the taste, or lack thereof, of selected curators. If you like edgy contemporary, go there in June 2015. If you want to see ,as well as buy, modern and contemporary work, Art Basel Switzerland is for you. With important dealers from all over the world, it is the largest fair for today’s contemporary collector. I visit opening day every year and always find something for my contemporary photography collection, The European Woman of the 21st Century.

Robert Labadie, a Dutch private equity kingpin and collector agrees, and told me over dinner with he and his wife, Ingrid Labadie who is in charge of corporate events for the Fair, “TEFAF is measured in quality as the most important fair of the world and we are lucky it is located in our country.” He goes on to say, “Some fairs have more to offer in a specific area like the modern art in Miami,” Between a course of duck confit, Labadie continues, “But this fair has everything under one big roof. It sets trends and therefore, collectors, as well as dealers, have to be present to take advantage.”

And, take advantage is what visitors do in this highly fueled world of art procuring. After having traveled luxuriously on KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines, when the doors open on the first day of the Fair, VIP day, it feels like the race gun firing the start of the Kentucky Derby, with anticipation at a similar fever pitch. The thrill of the hunt fills the air. The metaphoric scent of money and ambition, both wildly sexy, permeates the large hall of the Fair. With dozens of corridors and hundreds of stands (exhibits), the other 70,000 attendees likely felt a surge of energy about the art they were encountering. In fact, during the preview and the run of the Fair, visitors consumed 15.000 glasses of champagne; 31, 000 glasses of wine; 75,000 cups of coffee; 10, 000 pastries; 50, 000 sandwiches and 11,000 oysters, which were served by 2300 waiters having been prepared by 515 cooks. Plus, the hundreds of thousands of tulips that captured the Fair’s essence at every turn.

MUSEUM QUALITY

Representatives of over 220 museums also came to see, mingle and buy. Did they feel the impact of the sensory overload of a reasonable sampling of the most beautiful art to be found anywhere on this planet like I did? Likely. Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam shared, “Even the most indulged museum director will see things at TEFAF that are so unique that surprising purchases can be made.’’ Some of the museums that were well represented included those as prestigious as the Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore, the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Louvre in Paris. Dr Ulrich Guntram, AXA Art’s Global CEO stated, “Once again TEFAF outperformed in engaging art lovers and connoisseurs with best-in-class offerings in fine art, antiques and historical objects.”

Sir Mark Haukohl agrees by stating, “This year I was able to locate an important sculpture by Antonio Montauti (1683-1746). This rare discovery is always a great joy for me as a collector. My sculpture he did of Michelangelo was exhibited at the Pitti Palace in Florence and all of them also were on exhibition loan to The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for the show Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy. Seeing great exhibitions in context with your own collection selections is a marvelous reconfirmation that my collection, its purpose, and direction attain the relevant context and affirmation within the museum world.”

The business of art is finely tuned and perhaps Martin Clist, director of Rossi & Rossi, specialists in Tibetan and South East Asian Art, returning to the TEFAF after eighteen years, stated it best, “We are very pleased to be back exhibiting at TEFAF because we have seen important museums and individuals every day. The Fair also gives us the chance to meet up with our fellow dealers and peers and to knit up the threads of business relationships and friendships in a way that is not possible elsewhere.”

Just what did I discover at the Fair? What didn’t I see is more like it. I observed that the standard of pictures was particularly high in 2013, quelling the oft-reported notion that the Old Master market is in its throes of death. It was apparent that dealers went out of their way to bring fresh, privately sourced stock to the Fair. Works bought at auction where exhibitors added value through research, restoration and sometimes reattribution also had no difficulty finding buyers. It was both a seller’s and a buyer’s market.

I saw masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum which could be viewed in TEFAF Paper section of the Fair. Axel Rüger, Director of the Van Gogh Museum, said, “TEFAF is the place to see countless rare works of art, and our eighteen seldom-exhibited drawings by Vincent van Gogh fit seamlessly among them. In this unique, and for us new environment, the interest in art is abundantly clear. It is fantastic that the quality of the drawings is so appreciated by the interested and informed visitors.” Further supporting this, the Koetser Gallery from Zurich reported the sale of Alexander and Roxanna, oil on panel, by Sir Peter Paul Rubens for an undisclosed amount, so the money was there and being invested in rarely-seen, much less, rarely sold works of art.

Beyond the classics like Van Gogh and Ruebens, Otto Naumann reported the sale of a vibrant large-scale work by Carlo Marrata (1625-1713), entitled The Birth of the Virgin, which had the asking price of $4.9 million. Jack Kilgore & Co sold A Woman Tuning a Lute by the Dutch Caravaggist painter, Gerrit Hermansz. Van Honthorst (1592-1656) to a North American museum for an undisclosed amount. A beautifully fluid painting depicting Cleopatra with the asp by Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734) was sold by Jean-Luc Baroni.

MODERN ERA

TEFAF Modern also saw some lively buying. Marlborough Galleries exhibited, amongst others, the work of Manolo Valdés in the hope of further building the market for this exuberant New York-based Spanish artist in Europe and were pleased to sell three major works to separate collectors: Dama, 2012, oil on burlap; Retrato en blanco y rojo, 2012, oil on burlap and Infanta, VI, 2012 a unique sculpture in alabaster. Gagosian Gallery was there with, of course, a Jeff Koons sculpture that was a traffic-stopper amongst the “streets” of the exhibition.

World famous streets known for their artistic inclinations like Place de la Concorde, Fifth Avenue, Trafalgar Square, Place Vendome and others mark the territories that comprise the Fair. The art patrons who stroll the rarified avenues know that they are buying with confidence. According to sources at TEFAF, the Fair is unrivalled in its standard of quality and in the methods it uses to establish the authenticity of every painting and object on sale. Participating dealers are admitted only after a strict selection process. The Fair’s groundbreaking vetting system involves no fewer than 175 international experts in 29 different categories, who examine every work of art for quality, authenticity and condition. It means that a piece of work is bought with a high level of assurance.

Interestingly, even though it is not centuries old, modern and contemporary art is also vetted, a procedure that is uncommon at other art fairs. Before the Fair opened the international experts and separate specialist committees also examined each object for quality, authenticity and condition. TEFAF Antiques is the biggest section in the Fair with 102 exhibitors. This is followed by the TEFAF Paintings with 59 and TEFAF Modern with 51.

How was the vetting done? The highly sophisticated technical equipment, such as the advanced Hirox digital microscope and the portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer supports the vetting members’ personal expertise. The Fair was also the first to introduce The Art Loss Register (ALR) in 2000, which is the largest private database of stolen art, provides information about registered stolen art. It goes without saying that any stolen objects are removed from the Fair immediately and although I haven’t heard any stories about that at recent fairs, no doubt it has occurred. How substantial it is for both buyeers and sellers to feel such a high trust factor. For the prices the art and objects are selling, that peace of mind is warranted.

ART FOR ART’S SAKE

But, who is the typical buyer and visitor to the Fair? There isn’t an archetype individual, as such. Von Bartha, a gallery in London, reported meeting a number of high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals at the Fair and reported healthy sales including one of the most well-known drawings by Roberto Matta (Nerf-cerfs volants), and an iconic work by Gerhard von Graevenitz (Weisse konkave Elipse auf schwartz, 1971 and 1973), which sold to an important private Swiss collector. Kukje Gallery reported strong sales including an untitled work made from Murano glass and steel in 2011 by Jean-Michel Othoniel.

Jewelry performed well at TEFAF in 2013, with works by René Lalique proving exceptionally popular again for collectors. Wartski sold an extraordinary gold, enamel and gem-set necklace by Lalique consisting of four separate panels formed from intertwining damselflies to a new private collector: the necklace had an asking price of $1.7 million. Hancocks sold an exceptional Lalique brooch made from yellow gold, enamel and old cut diamonds in the form of two Papillon de Nuit in flight with their wings open from 1907, which had an asking price of $1 million. Époque Fine Jewels sold a plique-à-jour enamel, aquamarine and diamond pendant in the shape of four dragonflies by Lalique from 1903 to a European collector and A. Aardewerk Antiquary Jeweler also reported selling a number of pieces by the Art Nouveau master.

TEFAF Antiques is not only the largest section of the Fair but also is regarded by many as its treasure house. Paris dealer, J. Kugel sold an extraordinary silver vase representing Neptune taming the waves and the triumph of Galatea made for the Duke of Luynes by Antoine Vechte in 1843. The piece was purchased for the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam through the generosity of a Dutch private collector. A marble sculpture by Jean-Baptist Carpeaux (1817-1875), signed and dated, 1874, was sold by Daniel Katz, London to a private English collector.

First time exhibitors to the Fair, Yufuku Gallery reported that the gallery sold 90 per cent of the objects on their stand in the first four days and were hopeful of selling everything they had brought to TEFAF by the end of the Fair. A typical result of a The European Fine Art Fair well done again.

Dr. Clare McAndrew, author of TEFAF Art Market Report 2013, presented the report at the TEFAF Art Symposium themed Rising Stars of the Art World. The report, which examined the global art market with a focus on China and Brazil, referred to a highly polarized market with the heaviest buying and best performance concentrated at the high end of the market for the best-known artists. Early sales at TEFAF confirmed this trend with a number of important objects being sold at the Private View and on the first
public day.

Whatever the masterpiece, be it classical, an antiquity or a contemporary treasure, The European Fine Art Fair is the place to be to either start or add to a collection in grand style, ahead of the pack, and sometimes for a financial deal not expected. As Sir Mark Haukohl sums it up best, “By attending TEFAF, as well as the other fairs and biennales, I better my personal collecting eye. How does a collector improve their taste and the intellectual depth of their collection today? Get on the plane and go. Look, listen . . . and then look again.”

For more information on The European Fine Art Fair visit TEFAF.com and insight on The Netherlands where the Fair is held, visit Holland.com.

GLOBAL ART TRENDS 2013

The TEFAF Art Market Report 2013, commissioned by TEFAF by Dr. Clare McAndrew, a cultural economist specializing in the fine and decorative art market and founder of Arts Economics shared its principal findings at the TEFAF Art Symposium we attended…

■ Slowing economic growth and continuing uncertainty in the global economy filtered down to the art market in 2012 with global sales contracting by 7% from €46.4 to €43 billion.
■ A key factor in the decline was a slowdown in the Chinese market. Auction sales in China, the main engine of growth, dropped by 30% in 2012.
■ However, the decline in China was counterbalanced by an increase of 5% in US sales figures to €14.2 billion.
■ The global reshuffle of art market share continued in 2012 with the US regaining its premier position with 33% (up 4% on 2011) while China dropped to 25% (down 5%). The United Kingdom remained third with 23% (up 1%).
■ Economic and political uncertainties have produced volatility in many asset markets with a flight to safe blue-chip stocks and low risk assets. A similar picture has emerged for art with the strongest performances recorded by well-known artists at the top end of the market.
■ Post-War and Contemporary Art was the largest fine art sector of the market with a 43% share by value. It performed strongly, increasing auction sales by 5% to almost €4.5 billion, its highest ever recorded level.
■ The Modern Art sector was the second largest with a 30% share of the fine art auction market but, after peaking at €3.8 billion in 2011, auction sales dropped by 17% to €3.2 billion in 2012.
■ Sales in the private retail and dealer sector dropped by 4% to an estimated total of €22.2 billion. Like auctions, segments of the market fared differently with the lower end of the market recording the weakest performance.
■ The volume of transactions in the global art market in 2012 decreased by just under 4% to 35.5 million. This was down by nearly 30% on the pre-recession boom year of 2007.

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