Wednesday 8 March is officially the VIP preview day at the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht. But scrolling through Instagram it seemed that some collectors had even earlier access to the world’s most prestigious art fair. With its recently launched New York edition gaining traction, the fair in its home city maintains a particular prestige and sense of sophistication that is not easy to replicate. Masses of tulips transform the convention center into a luxury event that draws 75,000 visitors who come to see art and objects spanning some 7,000 years. It takes days to see each of the 275 exhibitors, but in the opening hours, a few things caught Sotheby’s eye.
Among the sixteen new exhibitors this year are Massimo De Carlo and Emmanuel Perrotin, gallerists who have neighboring stands in the Modern section. Getting their artists in front of new collectors aligns their mutual expansion efforts. Both have opened spaces in Hong Kong, and Perrotin has just launched an outpost in Tokyo, the home base of Takashi Murakami, his star artist. Perrotin has brought to TEFAF Murakami’s shimmering Buddha painting flecked with gold leaf – a Pop counterpoint to the Edo-period Buddha at Ben Janssens across the fair. De Carlo’s offerings are similarly complementary, notably Yan Pei-Ming’s blood-red homage to Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting of Jean Marat assassinated in his bathtub.
Cabinet of Curiosities
The vogue for Wunderkammer continues, and TEFAF is a reliably rich resource for collectors of rare and unusual objects. One such treasure seeker snapped up a gilt-edged Gothic spoon at Senger Bamberg Kunsthandel in the fair’s opening hours. The king of the Kunstkammer is Georg Lau, whose many offerings include a set of six Renaissance cups made with ibex horn, a coconut shell and narwhal tusk, among other exotic materials.
As a must-attend event for many curators and a venue for special loan exhibitions, TEFAF has strong ties to international museums and institutions. This year, the fair is hosting a fascinating presentation of large-scale 17th-century group portraits from the Amsterdam Museum. Four have been recently restored and a fifth is mid-restoration. Also on view are two Anatomy Lessons, one by Aert Pietersz, the other by Adriaen Backer. These are especially satisfying viewing for anyone familiar with Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp, which is in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, three hours north of Maastricht.
Late Picassos – and One (Very) Early Work
Maybe it’s because of the recent £16.5 million sale of a Picasso Matador painting from 1970 that the master’s late works are especially eye-catching at TEFAF. Still, in the first hours of the fair I counted nearly ten late Picasso works, several of which are at Christophe Van de Weghe. One of these, a painter with a seated model, is thrilling in its economy: with the stroke of a brush, Picasso nests compositions within compositions. Picassos from the 1960s and 1970s were also spied at Helly Nahmad, W&K, Mazzoleni and Connaught Brown. Rewinding to the artist’s origins, Jaime Eguiguren, Arte y Antigüedades gives pride of place to a small portrait of a man painted in 1895 by a 14-year-old Picasso.
TEFAF Maastricht is open to the public 10–18 March.
Lead Image: Entrance TEFAF Maastricht 2018. Photograph by Mark Niedermann.