The Treasures Of TEFAF: Artlyst Contributor Virginie Syn Chooses Ten Pieces

TEFAF is by far the Queen of the Art fairs. The “one and only”, “the Davos of the Art world” or “the Museum show where everything is for sale” as some call it. It is the ultimate art experience that a collector, an art lover or an art professional can enjoy. It is a treat to spend time wandering quietly and slowly along the carpeted corridors where the flowers welcome the visitor at every corner, where the gallerists are delighted to share their passion and where there is a true sense of luxury, beauty, seriousness, knowledge and connoisseurship … far from the somewhat circus feel of the contemporary fairs…

I always associate TEFAF with the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum in Madrid where the artificial boundaries between Antiquities, Old Masters, Modern or Contemporary and the diktat of time are not relevant.

My days in Maastricht were enchanting. I was like a kid in a toy store, enjoying every minute of it. I savoured tremendously my journey through art history. TEFAF with its 275 dealers offers everything that an Art lover is looking for – from tribal art to contemporary.

At TEFAF, one ventures into a treasure hunt, leaving with no other goal than to be surprised, intrigued and bewildered.

I started with Galerie Meyer (124) which is presenting works of tribal art and Oceanic art in particular. I have to admit being completely ignorant in this field, nonetheless I was seduced by the beauty, the purity and the modernity of those incredible art works. We had a very interesting discussion with Anthony Meyer about the tribal artists and the research he is doing in this fascinating field. In particular, I was drawn to the incredible Frum Hei Tiki pendant which is considered one of the largest, finest and most remarkable treasures of Maori Art.

I then visited Dickinson (stand 402), always a “must see”, where Schiele’s fragile nude “Reclining Girl on Blue Cloth” caught my eye. Dated from 1910, this was the year when Schiele violated social and aesthetic norms both in style and subject matter with his nudes.

Daniel Blau (443) is presenting an exceedingly rare set of large colour prints from the 50’s of nuclear tests which were only really circulated within military and scientific communities: there is a frightening and somehow dreadful beauty in those photographs.

There is a hidden gem at Waddington Custot (stand 452), a small, delicate Female Head by Picasso.

At Gallery Sanct Lucas (308), there is a newly-found graceful crucifixion from El Greco, one of my favourite artists. 

I loved the esquisite “Pair of bouquets in a glass vase” by Jan van Kessel at De Jonckheere Gallery (342). Their very small format offers aesthetic harmony and a delicate brush.

I also stopped at The Weiss Gallery (350) to admire a beautiful newly-discovered fragment of “Jupiter as a Satyr” by van Dyck, inspired by Rubens.

Shapero Rare Books (stand 231 see top photo) is presenting an exceptional set of John Gould’s magnificent bird books.  John Gould was one of the most distinguished ornithologists, a brilliant artist and highly skilled publisher of the nineteenth century. Over a period of fifty years he produced folio works of unrivalled beauty and scholarship: 12 folio works in 44 volumes, complete with 3,158 fine hand-coloured lithographs. The set is priced at 2 million Euros.

Across Shapero I discovered at Heribert Tenschert Antiquariat Bibermuhle AG (stand 214) the incredible Book of Hours ordered by the Duke of Berry for Louis d’Orleans and his wife Valentina Visconti, and left unfinished with 30 large drawings by one of the Limbourg Brothers. It was priced at 12 million Euros.

The work on paper section is a very cosy part of the fair, where it is good to retreat to when it becomes too crowded.  I was pleased to see again Minjung Kim at Patrick Heide (715). Kim had a very good exhibition during the last Venice biennale.

TEFAF will soon embark on a new adventure with the New York edition in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017. But before New York there are still a few days left to visit the fair at Maastricht which is open until the 20th of March.

As for me … time to go to another art fair …Art Basel Hong Kong opening on the 22nd of March, see you there!


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