Fair and Auction Report Card: March
“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” Oscar Wilde
May might be the lusty month, but March is willfully Wilde, a smorgasbord of beauty that can be bought. So, what’s on the docket for March in terms of paddle raisers and fair prancers?
What: TEFAF Maastricht
Where: Maastricht, Holland
When: March 18-27
March marks the decorative and fine arts Oscars, also known as TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s most important and closely watched all-encompassing cross-categorical fair. With over 30,000 objects spanning 6,000 years, and ranging from sculpture to jewelry to works on paper to mixed media conceptual contemporary, it conjures an encyclopedic museum, but one where everything’s for sale. Need proof?
At this fair’s 24th edition, you can find Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo, one of the last late career works of the 17th-century Dutch master still in private hands, described by Ernst van de Wetering, Chairman of the Rembrandt Research Project as “one of Rembrandt’s masterpieces,” exhibited by Manhattan-based Otto Naumann, Ltd., and priced at $47 million.
Or the last known fragment of an Egyptian water clock, or clepsydra, in private hands commissioned by Alexander the Great, a basalt beauty that shows the legendary Macedonian man-god offering wine to the goddess Hathor? It will be at the stand of Brussels’ Galerie Harmakhis, asking price €150,000.
Or perhaps something important and plain (but not plainly) pretty, such as Pierre-August Renoir’s Woman picking flowers (Femme cueillant des Fleurs), which depicts fellow Impressionist’s Claude Monet’s wife Camille amongst blooms in a field. Previously in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, it’s offered by the international gallery Dickinson for $15 million. (Sterling Clark started collecting Renoirs in 1616, and he and his French-born wife eventually amassed one of the greatest Renoir collections in the U.S.
The museum has 32 other Renoirs in its collection, so it figures it can “deaccession” (aka, sell) this one to buy new works in other areas). Anyway, you get the idea. TEFAF Maastricht has 260 art dealers from 16 countries, with wares running a 6,000-year gamut.
As interesting as the dealers’ individual offerings, and perhaps even more significant in terms of the fair’s current dominance, is how TEFAF continually manages to capture and recapture the attention of collectors and the media. What started as a fair focused on Old Masters painting expanded first into 18th and 19th-century fine and decorative arts, areas that throughout the 1990s and early 2000s it came to dominate (it’s noteworthy that when venerable French antiques house Kraemer & Cie, the oldest of the family owned Parisian houses specializing in 18th-century French furniture and objets, chose finally to exhibit at a fair two years ago, it chose to make its debut at TEFAF). As the contemporary art market soared over the last decade, TEFAF responded with the inclusion of contemporary art dealers, particularly English, American and German galleries. Most recently, the push has been in 20th-century design – TEFAF launched a special section highlighting 20th century design and applied arts in 2009, which has since become an exhibition category at the fair, and, last year saw the birth of TEFAF Paper, which centers on drawings and limited edition prints from Old Masters to contemporary works, and includes photography, antiquarian books, Japanese prints, paintings and screens on paper, even wallpaper (it too has become a category). Additionally, in 2008 the fair launched TEFAF Showcase, a program in which young dealers are invited to exhibit on a one-time basis (Showcase has since been emulated by other well-established fairs, many of which have seen their thunder partially stolen by this Dutch juggernaut). Adapt, nurture and dominate could well be the TEFAF motto.
While the total value of pieces on the floor is well in excess of $1 billion, priceless is the people watching. As last year, I plan to document the collector’s preview, snap after iPhone snap, and post the cavalcade in a slideshow here. It’s like red carpets the way they used to be, pre the terrifying reign of the stylists and the tyranny of “good taste.” Here one can find the whimsical, wonderful, wacky and woebegone.
Overall rep: A+ (read above)
Experience: A (based on previous visits)
Website: A (comprehensive, easy to navigate, lotsa videos, excellent photos, and the entire fair catalog is online … if only it could be downloaded!)
Location: C+ (Maastricht might be a charming medieval town with a surfeit of restaus with Michelin stars, but it’s hell for Americans to get to. If you don’t have a private plane – and that’s not being snotty or snide, because during TEFAF hundreds land at the local Maastricht-Aachen Airport – you fly to Amsterdam and face a commuter jumper with so-so connecting times, an approximately three-hour drive, or an approximately three-hour train ride. Repeat visitors who have already toured Maastricht’s marvels might consider staying in Brussels, where an express train from central Brussels to Maastricht takes an hour and fifteen minutes. Why, you ask, is the fair in Maastricht? Proximity to Belgium, German, Luxembourg and France, with much of Europe’s most densely packed concentrations of moolah within easy striking distance)
Moving on to the fast-paced world of podiums and numbered paddles …
I’m a big collector – a regular would-be connoisseur – of single-owner and single-themed auctions. Their benefits are manifold. The limited scope makes them categorically understandable and approachable. Both offer depth of vision – be it personal, from that lone collector – or of a defined, specific style, period or other kind of classification.
When a sale is single owner, there’s also the frisson of getting glimpse into another person’s mind and lifestyle, a frisson that can graduate to full-on mental frottage depending on how rich and famous and interesting said collector might be. (Think about it: it’s as intimate as reading a diary of what he or she or a particular family found interesting, important, aesthetically pleasing and/or intellectually stimulating.)
When a sale is single theme, there’s the opportunity to glean a cook’s tour or deeper understanding of what’s on offer – like carefully curated CliffsNotes with annotations.
What: Design, Vienna and the Wiener Werkstätte
Where: Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 450 Park Avenue
When: March 3, 6pm
Catalog, by lot, in flip format
Hard catalog, $35, to get or not to get: Get (it’s beautiful and oversized, with full-page images of the various lots, and several archival drawings and in situ photographs)
For any aesthete or casual interloper whose feet take flight to New York’s Neue Galerie, this sale’s for you. More than 50 lots from the Wiener Werkstätte’s cavalcade of notables, among them Josef Hoffmann and Koloman Moser, as well as works by contemporary designers and manufacturers, such as Thonet, Lobmeyr and Loetz.
Who knew that Wiener Werkstätte was founded in 1903 by only six members? Not I until reading the catalog. Scottish architect and seminal Modern design deity Charles Rennie Mackintosh advised his friend, Wiener Werkstätte co-founder Fritz Waerndorger, “Every object which you release must be most definitely marked by individuality, beauty, and the utmost accuracy of execution.” Waerndorger and his fellows heeded that call, as their works in this auction verify.
Pieces range from refined quotidian – a dinner bell by Hoffmann in silver and ivory that rings loud with an estimate of $70,000-90,000; to the purely functional – two bronze picture nails by Hoffmann, each with an estimate of $3,000-5,000; to the auction’s most expensively estimated piece, an 18-karat gold pendant of seed pods, $350,000-400,000. My personal fave (pictured): a gouache and watercolor study by Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel for Paradies der Tiere, a frieze that was installed in the children’s nursery of the famous Palais Stoclet in Brussels (still privately owned by the Stoclet family and nearly inaccessible), which a kind reader could buy on my behalf, estimate $150,000-180,000. I’ll pay you back, in $20 installments.
One of the great benefits of single-themed sales is the acquaintance with artists, designers and architects with whom you weren’t previously familiar. Marcel Kammerer was news to me. A student of Otto Wagner’s at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, following graduation in 1901, Kammerer joined Wagner’s architectural practice, where he remained until 1910 – and during which he designed a fantastic beachwood, aluminum and glass side table (lot 33, pictured) as well as a pair of beachwood, burr wood and copper cabinets (lot 34), and a beechwood, aluminum, glass, mirrored glass and fabric hall stand (lot 44) for coats, umbrellas, hats, and a last look before going out.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 2 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 3 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 4 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 5 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 6 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 7 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 8 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 9 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Strartup
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook