A cascading wall of succulents and roses inspired by Monet and designed by art fair architect Tom Postma provided a delightful greeting for visitors to TEFAF (“The European Fine Art Fair”), which opened in Maastricht, the Netherlands, for VIP previews on Thursday. “We felt the succulents were a bit more environmental,” Postma told ARTnews, noting that this year’s floral display—which has become a signature of the event—will need little care no matter how brooding the weather remains over the southern Netherlands in the days to come. For this, the 32nd edition of the tightly vetted fair, which continues through March 24, a total of 279 dealers are offering a range of works spanning some 7,000 years, with 40 exhibitors participating for the first time.
Among the highly anticipated newcomers is the New York dealer Fergus McCaffrey, who has devoted his stand to a solo show of works by Barry X Ball, a New York–based sculptor and recent roster addition whose work merges new technology and Old World craftsmanship. “Given the time span of the objects on offer at the fair, it seemed only natural that we would present an artist inspired by the past for our first outing,” said McCaffrey. Taking cues from art from antiquity through the Renaissance, Ball produced six pieces, including a towering Pietà (2011–18) carved in white Iranian onyx and inspired by Michelangelo’s last sculpture; a medusa-like Envy (2008–19) priced at €425,000 (about $482,000), which is part of a suite modeled after a 17th-century work by Giusto Le Court and hewn from rich lapis lazuli and iron-infused Bolivian sodalite; and Sleeping Hermaphrodite (2008–17), made with translucent pink Iranian onyx. The last of those is a paean of sorts to an ancient Roman copy of a Greek original now in the collection of the Louvre.
Five dealers making their debut this year are doing so in the Showcase section, which highlights emerging galleries less than a decade old. Standouts include a presentation of works accompanied by brief biographies of the collectors who originally collected them, at the stand of London-based ArtAncient. Pieces on offer include a Punic silver tetradrachm from Sicily in the 4th century B.C. once owned by Sir Arthur Evans, the legendary excavator of the Bronze Age site of Knossos on Crete, and a South Arabian abecedary from the holdings of Wendell Phillips, hailed as the American Lawrence of Arabia. Also notable is a jewel box of a stand by Parisian gallerist Samantha Sellema, who is showing 20th-century female titans such as Hannah Höch, Ella Bergmann, and Louise Bourgeois, whose late mixed-media work The Endless Loop (2008) sold within moments of the fair’s opening.
Among the class of Old Master paintings with which TEFAF has built its reputation over the years is Stories of the Passion, a diminutive 15th-century oil-on-panel triptych by Gian Francesco Maineri being tendered by fourth-generation dealer Filippo Benappi of London-based Benappi Fine Art for €380,000 (about $430,000). For its second outing in the main section of the fair (after a debut in the emerging section in 2017), London-based Lullo Pampoulides is offering Melancholia (ca. 1615), a newly rediscovered oil-on-canvas by the Venetian painter Dominico Fetti, for €1.8 million (around $2 million), as well as an extraordinary €850,000 ($964,000) terracotta Hercules on the Pyre (1702–03) by Guillaume I Coustou that was snapped up by a private collector early in the day.
TEFAF veteran Carlo Orsi of London-based Trinity Fine Art is offering a recent rediscovery: Susanna and the Elders (1548), a handsomely scaled oil-on-panel by the Flemish Renaissance painter Franz Floris, who worked largely in Antwerp. It is tagged at €850,000 ($964,000). Among the more familiar Old Master works at the fair is a 1561 portrait of a 16-year-old Alessandro Farnese in Armor by Anthonis Mor and Alonso Sánchez Coello at the stand of Robilant+Voena, of London and St. Moritz, Switzerland. The painting, which sold for $2.6 million at Christie’s New York last April is now pegged at €3 million ($3.4 million).
Efforts to enhance TEFAF’s offerings of modern and contemporary art in recent years made for a surfeit of work by a handful of artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Lucio Fontana, whose first major American survey is currently on view at the Met Breuer in New York. There were several notable presentations in the contemporary art sector, including a single-artist offering of 16 canvases and 16 bronze portrait heads by George Condo at the booth for Galerie Andrea Caratsch of St. Moritz. The canvases are priced at €200,000 ($227,000) each or as a group for €3.2 million ($3.62 million); the heads are collectively available for €1.76 million ($1.99 million).
In addition to works by Zero group artists Heinz Mack and Günther Uecker, Dusseldorf-based Beck & Eggeling gallery is presenting two standout pieces: Jakobs Traum (2008), a large-scale mixed-media work in a shadow box by Anselm Kiefer on offer for €440,000 ($499,000), and Aggregation 16-NV096, (2016), a mixed-media work on Korean mulberry paper by South Korean artist Kwang Young Chun priced at €140,000 ($159,000).
The Works on Paper section, presented in a glass-enclosed mezzanine overlooking MECC Maastricht’s main floor, has a quartet of Yves Kline works in his signature rich blue—two pigmented sponge sculptures and two works in dry pigment on paper—at the booth for Paris-based Galerie Zlotowski. The sculptures are available for €135,000–€450,000 ($153,000-$510,000), and the works on paper are €350,000 ($397,000) each.
Word of notable first-day sales included Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s striking 1903 oil-on-canvas Femme nue couchée (Gabrielle), for which Dickinson gallery, of London and New York, purportedly found a buyer for €11 million ($12.5 million). The work, which had passed through the holdings of the Galerie Durand-Ruel, commanded $10.2 million when it sold at Christie’s New York in 2010.
According to TEFAF organizers, the first VIP preview drew 5,000 visitors, with many more expected in the nine days to come.