The big stakes, high-dollar international art world is booming beyond belief. The money is flowing as freely with the volume of the masterpieces that are being sold at the most prestigious gathering of valuable art and discerning buyers. Join our globe-trotting Lance Avery Morgan as we jet to The European Fine Art Fair in The Netherlands.



We all know how the very rich own and appreciate art. A tremendous amount of art, in fact. According to Wealth X, a wealth intelligence firm, the average billionaire holds $31 million dollars, or .5% of their net worth, in art. Very familiar to the collector is to value an object of beauty, and to competitively pay for what they love. Those people and those who aspire to be like them are at the grandest art fair on the planet, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF).


If it is Thursday on a crisp and cool day in Maastricht, Holland, about two hours from Amsterdam, then it must be opening day at the wildly prestigious 32nd annual The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) where both aristocracy and well-heeled art lovers gather under one large roof to scout one-of-a-kind pieces…to either complement, or begin, a world-class art collection.


TEFAF is often referred to as a museum in which everything is for sale. Really, it could be called hoarding for billionaires. Susan Lynch, Chair of the Board of Directors and Patrons of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut mused, “TEFAF is inspiring, educational and a delight.” So much so that last year the Fair was loaned a significant collection display of Old Masters from the Amsterdam Museum.


Consider this a primer on your visit to the Fair, whether you are attending for the first time, or you are a veteran of the exquisite Fair that has 280 exhibitors from 20 different countries. Between them they exhibited more than 30,000 works of art, antiques and design objects from pre-history to the present day with an aggregate value of more than 3 billion Euros. “At TEFAF you get spoiled forever,” shared American collector Jean Doyen de Montaillou, about the 7000 years of art history on display and for sale. In fact, the Fair is so important that is has borne an offspring that now occurs in May and November in New York.



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How does this prestigious fair offer something not easily found at other fairs? Houstonian art collector Sir Mark Haukohl, with whom we dined at a castle near the Fair, is an avid Old Masters collector and always attends the gathering to see how he can add to his collection in some way. He confided, “In comparison, the Venice Biennale, Art Basel Switzerland and TEFAF are all horses of a different color. The Venice Bienalle offers no art work for sale, so you are looking at a curated and solely contemporary exhibition, reflecting the taste or lack thereof of selected curators. If you want to buy edgy contemporary modern and contemporary work, Art Basel Switzerland is for you. With important dealers from all over the world, it is the largest fair for today’s contemporary collector. I visit opening day every year and always find something for my contemporary photography collection, The European Woman of the 21st Century.

Robert Labadie, a Dutch private equity kingpin and collector agrees, and told me over another dinner with he and his wife, Ingrid Labadie who is in charge of corporate events for the Fair, “This fair has everything under one big roof. The fair sets trends and therefore collectors, as well as dealers, have to be present to take advantage.”


And, take advantage is what visitors do in this highly fueled world of art procuring. After having traveled luxuriously on KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines, when the doors open on the first day of the Fair, VIP day, it feels like the race gun firing the start of the Kentucky Derby, with anticipation at a similar fever pitch. The thrill of the hunt fills the air. The metaphoric scent of money and ambition, both wildly sexy, permeates the large hall of the Fair in very hushed tones.


With dozens of corridors and hundreds of stands (exhibits), the other 70,000 attendees likely felt a surge of energy about the art they were encountering once the action starts. In fact, during the preview and the run of the Fair, visitors consumed 15,000 glasses of champagne; 31, 000 glasses of wine; 75,000 cups of coffee; 10,000 pastries; 50,000 sandwiches and 11,000 oysters, which were served by 2300 waiters having been prepared by 515 cooks. Plus, the array of literally hundreds of thousands of tulips, a nod to the Dutch presence, captured the Fair’s essence at every turn.

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Representatives of well over 200 museums, also came to see, mingle and buy. Did they feel the impact of the sensory overload of a reasonable sampling of the most beautiful art to be found anywhere on this planet like I did? Likely. Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam shared, “Even the most indulged museum director will see things at TEFAF that are so unique that surprising purchases can be made.’’ Some of the museums that were well represented included those as prestigious as the Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore, the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Louvre in Paris. Dr Ulrich Guntram, AXA Art’s Global CEO stated, “Once again TEFAF outperformed in engaging art lovers and connoisseurs with best-in-class offerings in fine art, antiques and historical objects.”


Just what did I discover at the Fair? What didn’t I see is more like it. I observed  that the standard of art was particularly high, quelling the oft-reported notion that the Old Master market is in its throes of death. It was apparent that dealers went out of their way to bring fresh, privately sourced stock to the Fair. Works bought at auction where exhibitors added value through research, restoration and sometimes reattribution also had no difficulty finding buyers. It was a sellers’ market and also, a buyer’s market. So much so that I saw masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum that it felt somewhat usual to encounter such masterpieces.  



World famous streets known for their artistic inclinations like Place de la Concorde, Fifth Avenue, Trafalgar Square, Place Vendome and others mark the territory that is the Fair. The art patrons who stroll the rarified avenues know that they are buying with confidence.  According to sources at TEFAF, the Fair is unrivalled in its standard of quality and in the methods it uses to establish the authenticity of every painting and object on sale. Participating dealers are admitted only after a strict selection process. The Fair’s groundbreaking vetting system involves no fewer than 175 international experts in 29 different categories, who examine every work of art for quality, authenticity and condition. It means that a piece of work is bought with the greatest possible confidence.

Interestingly, even though it is not centuries old, modern and contemporary art is also vetted, a procedure that is uncommon at other art fairs. Before the Fair opened over 175 international experts on 29 separate specialist committees examined each object for quality, authenticity and condition.  TEFAF Antiques is the biggest section in the Fair with 102 exhibitors. This is followed by the TEFAF Paintings and TEFAF Modern sections that were packed with artful seekers.

How was the vetting done? The highly sophisticated technical equipment, such as the advanced Hirox digital microscope and the portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer supports the vetting members’ personal expertise. The Fair was also the first to introduce The Art Loss Register (ALR) in 2000, which is the largest private database of stolen art, provides information about registered stolen art. It goes without saying that any stolen objects are removed from the Fair immediately and although I haven’t heard any stories about that at recent Fairs, no doubt it has occurred, but the high trust factor is something on which visitors can count. For the prices that the art and objects are selling, that peace of mind is warranted.



Who is the typical buyer and visitor to the Fair? There isn’t an archetype individual, as such. Von Bartha, a gallery in London, reported meeting a number of high net worth and ultra high net worth individuals at the Fair and reported healthy sales including one of the most well-known paintings. Jewelry also performed well at TEFAF, with works by René Lalique proving exceptionally popular again for collectors. TEFAF Antiques is not only the largest section of the Fair, but regarded by many as its treasure house. 


Dr. Clare McAndrew, author of TEFAF Art Market Report, presented the report at a prior TEFAF Art Symposium themed Rising Stars of the Art World.  The report, which examined the global art market with a focus on China, referred to a highly polarized market with the heaviest buying and best performance concentrated at the high end of the market for the best-known artists. Early sales at TEFAF confirmed this trend with a number of important objects being sold at the Private View and on the first public day.


Whatever the masterpiece, be it classical, an antiquity or a contemporary treasure, The European Fine Art Fair is the place to be to either start or add to a collection in grand style, ahead of the pack, and sometimes for a financial deal not expected. Really, it is a gathering spot for any collector these days. As Sir Mark Haukohl sums it up best, “By attending TEFAF, as well as the other fairs and biennales, I better my personal collecting eye. How does a collector improve their taste and the intellectual depth of their collection today?  Get on the plane and go. Look, listen…and then look again.”

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Texas Independence Day Dinner Honors Prominent Texans At The Bullock Museum

By Rob Giardinelli   Photography by Chris Caselli

THE SETTING: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin was the venue for the 15 th Annual Texas Independence Day Dinner. The event, hosted by the Texas State History Museum Foundation, featured over 400 of the state’s most notable sociables and politicos for an evening of fun and tributes to two Texans who have made an indelible mark on the states culture and independent spirit: Charles Butt and Flaco Jimenez who were each honored with the History-Making Texan Award.

THE STYLE: The black-tie crowd kicked off the festivities in style before with a one-of-a-kind red carpet located at main entrance where attendees posed for photos with the iconic Texas star located outside of the museum as a backdrop while listening to ambient music courtesy of Austin Soundwaves Orchestra. Once inside, guests ascended the staircase in the main foyer of the Bullock to the second floor for cocktails where VIP’s had the opportunity mingle with the guests of honor.

The fun continued as partygoers gathered in the main foyer of the Bullock for the event program. The space, beautifully transformed in a sea of whites and metallics, with red floral décor that offered the space an extra pop of color, was where patrons dined on a delicious meal catered by The Four Seasons Hotel. Next came the tributes to the honorees, each of whom were the spotlight of a video showcasing the impact they have had on the state. After the program, the gracious honorees stayed well into the night to further mingle with VIP’s, capping off a magical evening that will be the talk of the Texas social scene for some time to come.

THE PURPOSE: The event, chaired by Carla Moran with Jan Bullock serving as honorary chair, raised over $1 million dollars for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum educational programs and special projects.

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Haukohl Family Medici Art Collection Kicks Off Tour Through Europe

By Rob Giardinelli Photography by John Frassanito

THE SETTING: The historic town of Augsburg, Germany was the recent setting for the debut of a one-of-a-kind collection that showcased the art from one of history’s most historic Italian families. The events to toast Beyond the Medici: The Haukohl Family Collection featured many prominent art patrons, collectors from around the world jetted-in from locales ranging from Texas to Paris to Singapore for an incredible weekend of events including walking tours, concerts and five-star cuisine. The gathering was hosted by Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl of Houston, whose family has been collecting Medici art for six generations.

THE VIBE: The well-heeled art aficionados kicked off the weekend in style at the northern baroque Schaezlerpalais Palace, which featured southern Italian works of art owned by Haukohl. The weekend only became more dazzling from there. Meghan Gregonis, United States General Counsel in Munich, officiated the opening at the Grand Goldener Saal. Prominent museum directors from both sides of the pond, were treated to an awe-inspiring display of 17 th century paintings, sculptures, textiles and drawings also owned by Sir Haukohl.

The fun continued as art enthusiasts were treated to a five-star luncheon at Schloss Wellenberg Castle. Sir Haukohl brought the Texan largesse with him by offering Lone Star-blue aprons and Bucee’s barbecue sauce as gifts for attendees. The festivities were capped with a Vivaldi concert hosted by Haukohl and featured VIP’s including Mary Mochary, retired Chair of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and Dr. Eric Motley of the Aspen Institute. If the success of this weekend is any indication, the Beyond the Medici: The Haukohl Family Collection tour which will include stops in Brussels, Munich and Luxembourg among others, will be the upcoming talk of the European and American art scenes.

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Stages Repertory Theatre Hosts The Night Garden Gala

By Jennifer Roosth     Photography by Priscilla Dickson and Daniel Ortiz

THE SETTING: Attended by a record breaking 464 guests, the 2019 Stages Repertory Theatre hosted its most successful gala to date. The Revaire’s ballroom décor, designed by Bergner and Johnson, was inspired by the theme, The Night Garden, with a hint of the theatre’s upcoming show, Little Shop of Horrors. Garden vines, blooming branches, trailing greenery and carnivorous plants filled the space, along with touches of rich red and hot pink, adding a sensuous layer to the evening. Following dinner with cuisine by A Fare Extraordinaire, attendees crowded the dance floor and danced the night away to the sounds of Georgia Bridgwater Orchestra.

THE STYLE: It was a night charmed with a big surprise. Glenda and Russell Gordy’s longtime friends, Sue Smith and the late Lester Smith, had informed them that they would not be able to attend this year’s gala. However, unbeknownst to the Gordys, the Smiths had reserved a table and planned to make a special announcement at the event. Following dinner, a messenger presented the Gordys with a giant red gift box containing a check revealing a $2.5M gift, enabling Stages Repertory Theatre to fully fund their new campus, The Gordy, nearly a year ahead of opening. The Smiths deliberately chose to bestow their first significant performing arts donation in honor of their close friends, the Gordys.

THE PURPOSE: The gala chairs were Judy and Jim Nicklos and Brenda and Bradley Jones served as the underwriting chairs, The evening raised over $630,000 including auction proceeds. The Gordys made a leadership $5M gift to the capital campaign, Staging Our Future in 2017, making their gift one of the largest individual gifts in the history of Houston’s performing arts community. The campaign supports the construction of its new 66,850-square-foot three-theatre campus, The Gordy, which will open in January of 2020. Stages surprised both the Gordys and the Smiths by announcing that the new campus’s 223-seat arena stage will be named the “Lester and Sue Smith Stage”.

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Dell Children’s Medical Center Gala Shatters Fundraising Records.

By Rob Giardinelli Photography | by Ben Porter

THE SETTING: A beautiful evening at Austin’s JW Marriott hotel was the setting recently for the annual Dell Children’s Medical Center gala. In total, over 1,000 of Austin’s most notable sociables, community leaders and philanthropists were on hand to support one of Capital City’s most venerable organizations for a night of hope, fun and fundraising.

THE STYLE: The fun began even before the impeccably dressed crowd in their finest black-tie attire ascended the escalator to the main ballroom. Here guests had the opportunity to pose for photos on a one-of-a-kind step and repeat, set as a living room, designed by Autumn Rich and Lisa Hickey. Dapper in gowns and tuxedos, the partygoers then made their way to their seats in an impeccably designed ballroom full of orchids courtesy of David Kurio. The program included heart-warming testimonials from families positively impacted by Dell Children’s Medical Center and a spirited live auction. The festivities were capped off in the foyer-turned-disco of the JW Marriott for the after party where guests danced the night away in style.

THE PURPOSE: The event, chaired by Pat and Katherine Jones, raised a
record-setting $1.7 million dollars for Dell Children’s Medical Center. Since 1996, the gala has raised over $18.5 million dollars to provide valuable resources and programs for children and their families.

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San Antonio’s Epitacio R. Resendez Jet-Setting Forever Fiftieth Birthday Party In Budapest

By Rob Giardinelli Photography by Ati Boldog

THE SETTING: Budapest, Hungary was the setting for a recent epic birthday weekend celebrating Epitacio R. Resendez. Titled, Forever Fifty, the fifty-five people from around the world who made their way to the Pearl of the Danube were treated to a series of five-star festivities throughout the enchanting city. 

THE STYLE: The weekend began at the Budapest apartment of Resendez, who purchased the residence after falling in love with the city on a trip to Europe eight years ago. The guests, donned in their finest cocktail attire, were greeted by the guest of honor, who stood atop a candle lit staircase where partygoers sipped champagne and sampled morsels by Nobu while pianist Csaba Novak performed for the adoring crowd.

The next evening the festivities moved to The Queen Elisabeth & Andrássy ballroom at the Gundel Etterem, a world-renowned restaurant which has hosted Pope John Paul II and Queen Elizabeth over the years. The black-tie clad revelers were treated to a lavish dinner while being serenaded by musician Gyula Horváth.

Once dinner was completed, the doors of the salon were opened to reveal a dance floor and DJ where revelers partied the night away. The weekend concluded at the residence of Mexico’s Ambassador to Hungary Hon. David Nájera for a brunch and farewell toast to Resendez, perfectly capping off a weekend that those on hand will long remember.

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