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.
ART FOR ART’S SAKE
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.”