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16th century bronze bust of Lucius Verus (130-169AD) after the antique sold by Tomasso Brothers at TEFAF.

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While some dealers judged the first days to be quiet (visitor numbers on the ‘early access’ Thursday were down by 29% on a year ago to around 4000), a well-heeled, mask-free crowd of buyers was in attendance.

Benedict Tomlinson of Old Master and Modern dealership Robilant + Voena was among those feeling confident.

“What you’ve got to remember is you don’t need a million people to sell paintings. Some regulars aren’t coming, especially American collectors, but that could open up the space for new buyers,” he told ATG.

Antiquities dealer Charles Ede made its first sale within five minutes of the opening, and followed it up with five further sales on the first day. “There was so much worry and concern but it seems like the Dutch are getting on with things,” said the gallery’s Martin Clist.

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Bernard de Grunne sold this Banda statue by the Master of Mobaye at TEFAF.

Tribal art dealer Bernard de Grunne also got off the mark quickly with the sale of two Banda statues offered for around €150,000 and €200,000, while Nicolás Cortés found a new home for The Penitent Magdalene by Roman artist Angelo Caroselli, which was offered for €150,000.

Big seller

Among the biggest transactions, Tomasso Brothers sold an early 16th century bronze bust of the young Lucius Verus (130-169AD) for a price in the region of €950,000.

The fair had 282 exhibitors after three cancelled: Wildenstein & Co, Fergus McCaffrey and Galerie Monbrison. Of greater concern for dealers was the non-attendance of representatives from major museums, especially from the US, such as the Art Institute of Chicago and The National Gallery of Art (Washington DC). The fair has historically been a feeding-ground for such major institutions and dealers noticed their absence.