The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) is universally regarded as the world’s leading art fair, with old master, antique, and contemporary dealers from around the world convening annually in Maastricht since 1988. This is another showstopper year, with 276 exhibitors from 21 countries emphasizing historic and decorative art—but a growing section of modern and contemporary works as well. Among the various categories, there are paintings, antiques, modern, classical antiquities, jewellery, design, and works on paper.
Robert Landau of Montreal’s Landau Fine Art is the only Canadian dealer at the fair who will see the curious and the collectors set foot in his space, which features pieces by Joan Mirò, Pablo Picasso, Henri Laurens, Marc Chagall, Gino Severini, and more. “Everyone that is interested in our field comes here,” says Landau who, in the first three hours of the fair, sold three works. Galleries lobby long and hard for entry to TEFAF; Landau has been a part of this elite group for over 20 years. You will find Amedeo Modigliani’s Bride and Groom (1915-16), with a list price of $25-million (U.S.) here, as well as Paul Devaux’s spectacular Le Miroir, (1936).
Dealers deliberately hold back works—the super rare and the super special—to show in Maastricht. They want to show a picture that’s never been shown before to meet high expectations and to encourage attendance (the fair draws 75,000 visitors to this small Dutch town). A recently identified, “lost” Rembrandt painting is now on display at TEFAF: Smell was discovered in New Jersey last year when a private collector brought it to an auction. The painting was originally listed with a maximum guide price of $800. But after a frantic bidding war by art collectors who suspected the painting’s true origins it was snapped up by Paris-based art trader Talabardon & Gautier for nearly $1-million and later sold to American billionaire Thomas Kaplan. Rembrandt painted Smell when he was 17 or 18 years old and is amongst one of the Dutch master’s earliest works. Also known as The Unconscious Patient, the panel belongs to a series by Rembrandt depicting the five senses. Sight, Hearing, and Touch were discovered in the 1930s. The whereabouts of Taste is still unknown.
The fair’s umbrella organization, the European Art Foundation, released its annual Art Market Report at TEFAF. Global sales of art totalled $63.8 billion in 2015, falling seven per cent year-on-year from its previous high of $68.2 billion in 2014. Although figures fell in 2015, sales in the United States rose by 4 per cent to their highest ever total, confirming its position as the global market leader. In response to the growing dominance of American collectors, TEFAF is set for a North American premiere this year with a show at the Park Avenue Armory in October. “TEFAF is meant to be the blue-chip fair,” says Michel Cox Witmer, TEFAF board member and ambassador for the USA. “We are coming to you [New York] but this [Maastricht] is where it really is.”