The European Fine Arts Fair, known as the TEFAFhas a base of passionately dedicated collectors.
With the latest edition of the event in Maastricht, the Netherlands, scheduled for June 25-30, buyers are eagerly awaiting to see items they won’t find anywhere else. The anticipation can be heightened by the fact that the last in-person edition of the Dutch fair took place in March 2020.
“It stands out for its quality and for the verification process – having this authenticity gives an institution peace of mind,” said Augustín Arteaga, director of the Dallas Museum of Art and a frequent visitor to the fair.
He referred to the rigorous evaluation of material by the fair’s expert panels, which sometimes results in last-minute changes to planned presentations when an object is refused due to questions about authenticity or attribution.
This process gives confidence to museum directors, usually a distrustful group.
“We made some fantastic acquisitions from there,” Mr. Arteaga said. He recalled one such work, a late 15th-century work by German painter Derick Baegert, “The descent from the cross.” He saw it at the 2018 edition of the Maastricht fair, and the Dallas museum subsequently acquired it.
He added: “Galleries bring their best objects, and they often hold back to show them to be exhibited at the fair. It is a unique opportunity.
Around 240 galleries will exhibit works at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Center for the event, organized by the non-profit European Fine Arts Foundation. The list is strongly European and largely focused on pre-20th century work. The The number of dealers is down slightly from the more than 280 that had become the norm, partly due to a change in the fair’s schedule.
It normally takes place in March and TEFAF plans to return to that month next year, said Hidde van Seggelen, fair president and contemporary art dealer based in Hamburg, Germany. (A New York edition takes place in the spring.)
There are a few changes this year, including a modified floor plan and a shortening of the three-day event. It will take place over a single weekend.
A series of live lectures featuring collectors and experts will be among the most important new features, Mr van Seggelen said. “It will take place every day during the show, and it partly came out of our online activities during Covid,” he said. “I want to continue next year too.”
The concurrent online version of the fair will feature the same merchants showing one to three items each. Viewers who do not make the trip to Maastricht can, for example, still watch an illuminated manuscript, “Ancient History up to Caesar and Facts of the Romans” (ca. 1370-1380) by the Swiss merchant Rare books by Dr. Jörn Güntheramong other objects.
Massimiliano Caretto, from the Milan gallery Caretto & Occhinegrohighlighted an object that he will be exhibiting in the exhibition centre: the portrait of an architect by Jacopo de’ Barbari made around 1505.
“He’s a very rare artist, and there are only 20 works that we’re sure are by him,” Mr. Caretto said, adding, “We spend the whole year looking for a painting like this one.”
The gallery specializes in Flemish, Dutch and German art from Northern Revivaland will show other paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Caretto & Occhinegro participated in the Showcase section for young dealers in 2020. In this round, he moved on to the main section – the culmination of a long-standing desire for Mr. Caretto.
“The first time I was at TEFAF I was around 13 and I was just stunned by the beauty,” he said. “That’s when I decided to be in the fair.”
The Dutch Gallery A.Aardewerk, located in The Hague, will be making its 28th appearance at the show. It specializes in 17th and 18th century Dutch silverware, as well as antique jewelry.
Emiel Aardewerk runs the family business with his sister, Esther, and they are the fourth generation to deal in antiques. Mr. Aardewerk said they would show about 150 objects.
One of the highlights will be an elaborate sterling silver cup made in 1688 by Jan Diamant in Haarlem. Made specifically for wine, it is topped with a Dutch symbol, a windmill.
The piece was part of a drinking game from the Dutch Golden Age. “At that time, without the internet or TV, you had to think of something to entertain yourself, and alcohol was a given,” Mr Aardewerk said.
The game involved blowing into a pipe attached to the cup to move the windmill blade.
“The first person under the table did not win the game,” added Mr Aardewerk.
Stéphane Danant, from the New York gallery Demisch Danant, is one of the seven resellers present in the Design section. The gallery focuses on 20th century French design, particularly from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Of the nearly two dozen items he plans to display, one of the most notable is a rosewood dining table designed by Joseph-André Motte circa 1965. Mr. Danant will also have other items designed by Mr. Clod.
“It wasn’t about being decorative, it was about functional furniture with a simple design and good craftsmanship,” Mr. Danant said of Mr. Motte’s work, noting that he will be on site to talk to collectors about the work.
But, he added, “When my blah-blah is longer than five minutes, it’s not good in terms of sales.”
In-depth knowledge of makers like Mr Motte isn’t necessary to enjoy a walk through the pits, Mr Danant said: “They can just see a nice table, and that’s okay.”
Among the loyal collectors who have honed their skills over decades at TEFAF is Ugo Pierucci, who has visited the fair since its second edition in 1989 and now sits on its board of directors.
Based in Rome, Mr. Pierucci is a property developer who has the distinction of having purchased works from more than 70 dealers at the Maastricht fair. (If it’s not a record, it must be close, Mr. van Seggelen said.)
Mr. Pierucci’s quest began out of necessity, as he furnished a house in the 1980s. “It was completely empty,” he said.
The advent of TEFAF falls well for him. “My passions grew and grew, and I bought silver, paintings, ivory and furniture,” Pierucci said. “TEFAF was interesting because you could find everything.”
Although he has developed various side interests – including Dutch money, spurred by his interactions with TEFAF dealers – Mr Pierucci has a clear focus.
“What I really collect is a century, the 18th century,” he said, particularly Italian items from that era, but also items from other parts of Europe. Its treasury includes paintings by Canaletto and Meissen porcelain.
Coming back to the fair again and again, “I learned to see with a different eye,” Pierucci said.
He remembered one particular coup, when he acquired Pompeo Batoni’s ‘Portrait of Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, later 1st Marquess of Downshire’ (1766) from the London dealer. Simon Dickinsonwhich also operates in New York as Dickinson Roundell.
This year, the gallery will present, among others, the painting by Giorgio de Chirico from 1924 “Il Ritorno del figliol prodigo (The return of the prodigal son)”.
Mr. Pierucci will be on hand to take a look at them, not forgetting to take a look at other works among the thousands at TEFAF, for one simple reason. As he said, “My collection needs to grow.”