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October 1, 2014
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Tefaf: harmony and beauty all around

Cranach’s Lucretia found its buyer for two million euros.
By Marjan Groothuis
For the Herald

Maastricht’s fair covers virtually every artistic discipline, span well over 5000 years

I have said it before, and I will say it again: Tefaf, the European Fine Arts Fair held every year in the Dutch city of Maastricht, is a fair of superlatives. Where else can you find 275 galleries, each of them among the best in their field, displaying their finest works of art? These galleries from twenty countries cover virtually every artistic discipline, while the works on display span well over 5000 years: the oldest object an Egyptian black basalt vase dating back to the first half of the fourth millennium BC. And then there is the layout of Tefaf, which deserves a special mention. Spacious corridors, beautiful plazas and seating areas, decorated with thousands of colourful tulips. There is harmony and beauty all around, a feast for the eye although some might say it is a bit too opulent. But let’s not forget that the galleries also want to sell their pieces, so achieving the right atmosphere is absolutely crucial. Therefore, an exclusive preview is always held before the opening day with lots of visitors arriving by private jet. Museum directors, curators and collectors also abound that day. But what is there to see (and to buy)? Well, basically everything your heart desires.

Who wouldn’t like to be a millionaire while visiting Tefaf? I certainly wouldn’t mind! How lovely if one could just say: “Well, I'll just get this 17th-century still life by Willem Heda instead of Cranach’s Lucretia committing suicide. The latter spoils my appetite somewhat.” Or if you are more into modern art to be able to deliberate whether to get this, that or the other Picasso. There were at least three on display during this edition of the fair. But how about Vincent van Gogh’s Moulin de la Galette, a work that hasn’t been shown in public since 1965 because it used to be in private hands. Yes, hard decisions would have to be made!

Contemporary art also abounds at Tefaf, like a gorgeous golden bowl by Anish Kapoor with an asking price of €950.000 euros. It does sound kind of a bargain compared to Damien Hirst’s orange and yellow diptych with a price tag of 1.4 million euros. And then there is photography, like vintage prints by August Sander and Edward Weston offered by Johannes Faber Gallery from Vienna. Just across, Gallery K from Oslo shows Thomas Struth’s The Prado Museum, a series consisting of five large photographs with an asking price of € 675.000 euros.

But there is a lot more to admire at Tefaflike rare books and manuscripts, works on paper, for example etchings by Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt, a wide range of silverware, notably the early 19th century Gladstone dinner service, 5th century BC Greek vases and 1st century Roman heads. Furthermore, Chinese warriors and vases, Oceanic objects and African sculptures, 20th-century furniture and design: I spotted some beautiful pieces by Koloman Moser of the Vienna Workshops. Additionally, gorgeous and valuable jewels including the world’s largest chameleon diamond weighing 31.32 carats and set as a ring. Last but not least, tapestries, glassware and even your own knight in shining armour at The Peter Finer gallery from London. Well, at least they have got the suits of armour and the accompanying medieval weapons. Shortly, you name it and you will find it at Tefaf.

Finally, you might be wondering whether such works of art are actually being sold. Yes, they are. Indeed, quite a few of the above mentioned works have found buyers by now. For example, Cranach’s Lucretia went for two million euros and the series by Struth (in an edition of six) has been sold several times over. The fair, which lasts for ten days, closes today, but for more information about exhibitors and works on display please also refer to: www.tefaf.com

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