The strength of TEFAF Maastricht’s past and the promise of its future were both on show this year.
Caretto & Occhinegro, in the main section of the fair, enjoyed a highlight sale with Group Portrait as Mirror of Virtue by Nicolaes Maes (1634-93).
The firm was one of 270 at the event, which ran from March 11-19.
The Maes picture is a Dutch Old Master, the sort of work that formed the bedrock of the European fair for decades. It had an asking price of €600,000 and went to a private collector.
But Italian firm Caretto & Occhinegro – run by Massimiliano Caretto and Francesco Occhinegro – is relatively new. It was previously in the Showcase section of the fair, which promotes recently established galleries, and the pair of dealers behind the business are both in their 30s.
Equally youthful buyers were in evidence at TEFAF.
“We have made new clients, millennials,” they told ATG. These days, they added, tastes are shifting, becoming more “eclectic”, which is encouraging a new appetite for historic artworks.
Younger buyers were not limited to the paintings section. Vanderven Oriental Art enjoyed a raft of deals at the event with more than 50 items selling. Though many of these went to Asian clients and private European collectors, one young British collector took home a pair of Kangxi period blue and white vases with covers which were offered for around €100,000.
Elsewhere at the fair, ancient art specialist Galerie Cahn found that many of its 60 or so sales went to younger buyers. Dealer Jean-David Cahn speculated that archaeology represents a relatively accessible collecting field for younger buyers.
Christopher Bishop, a New York dealer in the works on paper section, said: “There were quite a few younger buyers around. One of my sales was to quite a young interior decorator. Otherwise, it was American, British and German buyers plus an emerging group of Indian collectors.”
The term ‘young’ is a often a relative term at traditional fairs such as TEFAF, and dealers can be hyper-attuned to any hint that these fabled newcomers are both real and spending. The fair’s Will Korner says that it is “always looking to how we can further engage with the next generation”.
But in a year when the future seems far from secure for both fairs and dealers, there is reason to celebrate the presence of fresh clients. Caretto & Occhinegro added: “Museums are – of course – more than welcome and the key point of TEFAF, but we think it is quite important to underline a certain return of private collector to the Old Masters world into this moment: tastes are clearly changing.”
Over the past few years, TEFAF has taken steps to improve and widen its appeal while maintaining the gravitas of a seasoned, traditional art fair. Among these adjustments for this edition was its expanded Showcase section, which grew from six to 10 members.
Various recent crises led to some rapid shifts also. For its return as an in-person event last year (following pandemic closures) it was smaller, shorter and ran during the summer – not the traditional time to snap up its regular international clients, and many dealers felt their absence.
A theft last year led to enhanced security procedures at the recent event including the introduction of metal detectors at the entrance. Sobering in a different way was the reduction in trays of wine, champagne and food that once overflowed during the preview.
Managing director Bart Drenth said: “The scaling down of the catering was mainly due to the need to set budgetary priorities, also in the light of the unexpectedly high inflation this year. As every year we will make our decisions for next year based on the evaluation of this year’s result.”
Yet while many fairs have wobbled or crumbled completely in recent months, TEFAF has survived. Fewer canapés is a small price to pay.
Bishop said of the fair: “It felt good. It was 92% back to what it was before. For the dealers this is very important proof of concept. It will take a year or two to build up the confidence and habit of going again.”
He was among those hailing the return of museums to the fair. More than 250 were reported, including those from the US, some of which had not appeared since 2019 (see news, ATG No 2584).
Major sales to institutions included a 17th century turned bone chandelier which went to a German museum from Kunstkammer Georg Laue for a low six-figure sum, two paintings by Rachel Ruysch which Haboldt & Co sold for six-figure amounts to one European and one US museum, and a painting which Elliott Fine Art sold for a low six-figure sum to a US institution on opening day.
As well as sales, Bishop added, TEFAF is a key destination for meeting institutions, and knowing what is in the works for them. It was one reason he was pleased to see the fair back in its traditional timeslot.
“It’s important that it’s in the calendar and that it’s part of the fall budget meeting at the museums. But TEFAF is also how you find out about exhibitions coming up. You need that community to really understand what’s coming,” he said.
For Anthony Crichton-Stuart of long-time exhibitor Agnews, the fair was “very good” if “a little shy” on private buyers. He noted that the groups of museum buyers that came around hinted at a “changing of the guard” too. “Among the curators and conservators there are a lot more women and it is a younger, more diverse group than it has been.”
Fellow UK dealer Jonathan Coulborn of Thomas Colbourn & Sons also enjoyed the museum presence at a “fantastic” event.
He added: “I was absolutely delighted by it. We have various irons in the fire with museums and it was very reaffirming being back at a proper fair.”
Brexit the new normal
Like Agnews and other British dealerships, Coulborn now faces Brexit regulations when selling in Europe. One European client was prepared to carry his purchase off the stand there and then, but had to wait for the completion of the paperwork.
“Luckily they were happy to go around the fair for a couple of hours and come back to collect,” Coulborn sad. “There was an extremely professional approach at the fair with the UK shippers who partnered with the EU shippers and there was a customs officer on site.”
Coulborn’s standout sales included the Biedermeier globe table formerly in the collections of Walter P Chrysler and the Duchess of Kent, which had an asking price in the region of €125,000 and sold to a new client from the US.
Other significant sales from British dealers included a collection of 157 playing cards, the Frank van den Bergh Collection, to a private collector for €600,000 from the stand of Daniel Crouch Rare Books and Lion Devouring a Doe by Barthélemy Prieur (1536-1611) for about £1.4m to a private collector from Stuart Lochhead Sculpture.
Colnaghi found private buyers for its portrait of a young noblewoman by Alonso Coello and The Penitent St Jerome by Alonso Berruguete.
Trinity Fine Art parted with its highlight work Portrait of a Scholar seated, three-quarter-length, holding a book by Tintoretto, also to a private client. Joost van den Bergh, meanwhile, sold over a third of the works exhibited on the stand.