Work of Anish Kapoor at the stand of Kukje - TEFAF 2013. Photo: Harry Heuts.


MAASTRICHT - 'A quality of true beauty is that it gives deep satisfaction to the mind without arousing lust for possession.'

Most visitors at TEFAF's opening reception do not agree at all with Umberto Eco's idea of a beautiful thing; thank God, and the Mammon. TEFAF is not a museum - although it looks like one - it is a place where serious business has to be done.

When entering the world of TEFAF one is overwhelmed by the plenitude of top-notch art, champagne and the fragrance of 150,000 flowers adorning the corridors. One should be warned about the Stendhal syndrome: an overkill of beauty one cannot contain and which causes physical illness. Outside, ambulances stand by just in case, but today at the opening the guests are experienced viewers: private collectors, museum directors and curators, cultural institutions, curators of corporate collections, sponsors, dealers and art valuers, like me.

Beauty in all its forms can be found here: classic and provocative, mystical and sensual, serene and sublime.



The stand of Sperone Westwater at TEFAF 2013. Monumental butterfly circle takes centre stage on the stand of Sperone Westwater.


The level seems to be higher every year, if at all possible.
In the contemporary section there are hot artists like Koons, Hirst, Richter and Kapoor, and works by important Italians like Pistoletto, Manzoni and Fontana. More modern artists like Gauguin, Schiele, Klimt, Picasso, Chagall and Magritte are represented by several dealers. In the Old Masters section there are impressive still lifes by Heda and De Heem, and one is dazzled by the jewellery at Graff, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier.

But also a subtler beauty is to be found at TEFAF, beauty that is titillating rather than overwhelming: a delicate book of hours made in 1600 for the Queen of France, bound in gold and enamel covers set with diamonds, a Crucifixion on copper by Jan Breughel the Elder, small but incredibly detailed, a Hellenistic sculpture of a satyr from the 2nd century BC, a Renaissance vanitas cabinet with intarsia of ruins and skulls, and a distinguished table by Charlotte Perriand from the 1960's.

TEFAF is an important measure to see whether art is still considered to be the ideal investment these days. Possessing it or not, art is in any case the ideal escape out of the material world - through matter.