At TEFAF Art Fair, museums make up for shrinking private sales

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Monday, June 17, 2024

At TEFAF Art Fair, museums make up for shrinking private sales
An employee of the Cleveland Museum of Art talks about a small stone statue of the prophet Isaiah attributed to the 14th-century Flemish sculptor Claus Sluter, priced at about $546,000 at the booth of the London dealer Sam Fogg, at the TEFAF Maastricht art fair, in Maastricht, the Netherlands, March 7, 2024. Curators are looking for old art that can resonate with a new audience at the venerable art fair. (Ksenia Kuleshova/The New York Times)

by Scott Reyburn

MAASTRICHT.- “This would be a bold acquisition to make,” said Frederick Ilchman, chair of European paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He and his team of curators were gazing, fascinated, at a 16th-century portrait of Antonietta Gonzales, a girl with hypertrichosis, a rare congenital condition that causes excessive facial hair growth. The elegantly dressed young lady holds an inscription stating that she is the daughter of Don Pietro, a “wild man” from the Canary Islands who lived in the court of the Duke of Parma.

This extraordinary, long-lost portrait by Lavinia Fontana was an outstanding example of the many works by women artists on show last Thursday at the bustling preview of the TEFAF Maastricht fair in the Netherlands. (The event, which opened to the public Saturday, runs through Thursday.) The Fontana portrait was priced at 4.5 million euros (about $4.92 million) at the booth of the Geneva-based dealership Rob Smeets. Across the aisle, Artemisia Gentileschi’s recently rediscovered “Penitent Magdalene” (circa 1626) was available at the booth of dealers Robilant and Voena at $7 million.

Ilchman has regularly traveled from Boston to TEFAF since 2007; in that time, the focus of his acquisitions has evolved. “Last year, we bought five paintings in one day — three of them were by women. This has been a priority in the last few years,” Ilchman said. “We do not have a lot of work by women painters or decorative artists. It seems like a useful task to amend this discrepancy,” he added, acknowledging that museums with large holdings of pre-20th-century art can seem disconnected from the 21st century’s cultural concerns.

Museums are increasingly important buyers at TEFAF Maastricht, as the number of private individuals purchasing old master pictures, sculptures and antiques has declined. Collecting tastes have changed in the digital age, and the vast majority of new art buyers are drawn to contemporary works. The acquisition funds of many institutions, particularly in the United States, encourage purchases that maintain the encyclopedic nature of museum collections. At the same time, curators are looking for old art that can resonate with a new audience.

The delegation from Boston — which also included Matthew Teitelbaum, the museum’s director, and the board of trustees director Marc Plonskier — was one of about 20 groups of curators and patrons from well-funded American institutions at the first preview day of TEFAF Maastricht, according to Magda Grigorian, the fair’s head of communications. Grigorian added that about 300 museum directors would be among the event’s 50,000 expected visitors.

“The fair has become more difficult. It isn’t like 10 or 15 years ago,” said Geneva-based old master specialist​​ Salomon Lilian, one of about 270 dealers exhibiting this year. “The museums compensate for the decline of private buying,” he added. “A1 quality paintings are still very much in demand; small Dutch cabinet paintings are much more difficult.”

TEFAF Maastricht has tried to keep up with the times. This year, galleries specializing in modern and contemporary art outnumbered dealers in more traditional pictures by 55 to 52. Although few contemporary collectors regard it as a must-attend event, the fair now has a credible roster of contemporary galleries, including White Cube, Galeria Continua, Mennour and Sean Kelly.

“We know the collectors at contemporary art fairs. Here we meet different clients,” said Kelly, whose gallery is based in New York and Los Angeles, and who was showing at TEFAF Maastricht for a second time.

Kelly was one of the few contemporary dealers to embrace the historical diversity of TEFAF Maastricht — works from his stable of artists were hung next to complementary older objects — and he also offered a desirable work by an in-demand artist of the moment: Kehinde Wiley’s imposing 2020 “Portrait of Issa Diatta,” priced at $650,000.

Discovering, discussing and pricing museum-quality works from the past 7,000 years — and sometimes even buying them on the spot — remains the primary mission for the curators at TEFAF Maastricht. During the first hours of the preview, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts acquired a touching terra cotta portrait of a boy by French Napoleonic-period sculptor Joseph Chinard, priced at $90,000 at the booth of London-based sculpture specialist Stuart Lochhead. Lochhead said an American museum, which he declined to name, had also purchased a late-16th-century Giambologna bronze of the striding war god Mars, with an asking price of $4 million.

Gerhard Lutz, a medievalist in a group of a half-dozen curators visiting from the Cleveland Museum, was impressed by a small stone statue of the prophet Isaiah attributed to 14th-century Flemish sculptor Claus Sluter, priced at 500,000 euros (about $546,000) at the booth of London dealer Sam Fogg. Lutz’s Ohio-based museum contains three characterful weeping alabaster statues by Sluter’s pupil, Claus de Werve. “Works like this can shed light on things that we own,” Lutz said.

Curators were also drawn to the hauntingly minimal 1641 canvas, “A Pear and Apples on a Pewter Plate,” by Spanish still life painter Juan de Zurbarán, priced at $2.8 million with New York dealer Nicholas Hall. Others marveled at a rare group of paintings by Nazarene artists — 19th-century Germany’s precursors to the English pre-Raphaelites — at the booth of the Texas-based Gallery 19C.

“You don’t get the historical depth or the quality at any other fair,” said Eric Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

But what did he think of the increasing number of contemporary dealers showing at the fair? “It’s a great idea. It brings in new collectors who might get interested in older art,” Lee said. “You can buy a major old master painting for the price of a third-tier Andy Warhol.”

Trying to convince today’s art fairgoers that older works are good value for money is the key challenge for the organizers and exhibitors at TEFAF Maastricht. For the museum curators who continue to buy old works, it’s convincing the public that such art is relevant.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Today's News

March 13, 2024

This 1,000-year-old smartphone just dialed in

Dreams and the Sublime: The Art of Shwetlana Mehta aims to capture the human psyche.

At TEFAF Art Fair, museums make up for shrinking private sales

Meet the artist delighting Amsterdam

Ira von Fürstenberg, jet-setting princess and actress, dies at 83

Eric Carmen, Raspberries frontman and 'All By Myself' singer, dies at 74

Doyle to auction a newly discovered painting by Diego Rivera on March 13

Indigenous Mexican artist Noé Martínez has first solo at Rose Art Museum

Opening reception today at Shari Brownfield Fine Art for 'Wyoming Women to Watch'

Wait, were those shoulder straps floating?

Royal Academician William Tucker has exhibition on view at Pangolin London

'Dove Bradshaw: Zero Space, Zero Time, Infinite Heat' now open at Arte Vallarta Museo in Puerto Vallarta

Vardaxoglou is presenting a work from each decade of Robyn Denny's oeuvre

'Nicole Coson: In Passing' marks artist's first gallery solo show in the US

New gig poster series celebrates iconic Teenage Cancer Trust gigs at the Royal Albert Hall

'Poetry in the box: A tribute to the history of the Mercato del Sale and Ugo Carrega'

How 'I'm Just Ken' won the Oscars without winning an actual Oscar

'Corruption' review: Onstage, a scandal's human drama is muffled

'Barbenheimer,' and an early start, boost Oscar ratings to 4-year high

A book celebrates James Foley and confronts a man involved in his murder

Inside the Governors Ball 2024 Oscars party

Malachy McCourt, actor, memoirist and gadabout, dies at 92

Oscar glory for 'Oppenheimer' rewards studio Chief's vision

Best and worst moments from the 2024 Oscars

'Soufiane Ababri:Their mouths were full of bumblebees but it was me who was pollinated'

The Benefits of Inline Skating for Kids' Physical and Mental Development

Art Basel reveals galleries and expanded program for its 2024 edition in Basel

The Impact of Customer Reviews on Small Businesses

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful