The European Fine Art Fair

Editorial Staff Exhibitions

  • Covered wine ewer, Chinese for the Portuguese market, Yongzheng/Qianlong, c. 1730–1740. Earthenware, height 9 ½ inches. Photograph by courtesy of Cohen and Cohen, London.
  • Still Life with Red and Yellow Flowers by Emil Nolde (1867–1956), c. 1930–1935. Signed “Nolde” at lower right.  Watercolor on paper, 13 ⅜ by 18 ⅜ inches. Photograph by courtesy of Wienrroither and Kohlbacher, Vienna.
  • Secretary cabinet, English, c. 1680–1690. Walnut with floral marquetry; height 65 ½, width 45 ½, depth 20 ½ inches. Photograph by courtesy of Richard Courtney, London.

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) Maastricht features emerging dealers in a special section of their own.

TEFAF Maastricht has a notorious-ly long waiting list of dealers hoping to exhibit there. Upon becoming chairman of the executive committee in 2007, the Asian art dealer Ben Janssens listened to a number of young dealers who bemoaned the fact that getting a booth at TEFAF seemed unattainable in their lifetimes. As a response, he initiated Showcase three years ago—a special area of the fair for those with businesses established no less than three years and no more than ten prior to the date of the fair.  Showcase dealers must have international standing and quality standards as impeccable as those of the fair’s regular exhibitors.

Showcase amounts to a one-time-only fast track into the spotlight, although participants may later apply for a regular booth at the fair. This year, two alumni of the first Showcase—Emanuel von Baeyer, a German-born, London-based dealer in old master drawings, prints, and paintings, will join the new “works on paper” section (another  Janssens innovation), and contemporary jeweler Otto Jakob of Karls-ruhe, Germany—return with booths in the main part of the show.

Von Baeyer says that the Showcase “is a testing ground for both parties. The organizers can invite a younger generation of participants, who can see if the fair is for them,” al-though, he admits, he has not yet met a participant who would not jump at the chance to come back. Fellow 2008 Show–case exhibitor, European sculpture and works of art dealer Bernard Deschee-maeker of Antwerp, confesses that “if the fair organizers called me up and told me a spot had opened up at the last minute, even a small stand in a corner, I would do it without question.”

Others concur. Rob Winter, a Kyoto-based specialist in Japanese arms and armor, who also exhibited in Show-case’s debut season, has now eschewed all other fairs to concentrate on getting a permanent booth at TEFAF. Michel Thieme, an Amsterdam-based tribal arts dealer who exhibited in 2009’s Show-case, initially balked at the prospect of applying for a booth at the main fair because of the financial commitment and the pressure of finding enough important new objects. But he has now set his sight on taking a stand in 2013. Fair organizers have advised him that it’s not too soon to start applying.

What is it about the experience that elec—–trifies participants about the Show—case program despite the small booths and the relative isolation from the main part of the fair? Their reasons invariably include great sales, new clients, increased prestige with old clients, unprecedented press coverage, and the unexpected and welcome sense of camaraderie with fellow Showcase exhibitors. Winter, for instance, was nervous about how his arms and armor would be received at a show where virtually no one was dealing in Japanese things. And yet to the very last his sales never stopped. He reports that “it was constantly buzzing.” Paris-based Alexis Renard, who deals in Islamic and Indian art, and who took part in last year’s Showcase, was also apprehensive at first.  But he found that unlike other fairs, collectors seem to welcome new and unfamiliar arenas and do not hesitate to make a purchase. The large number of museum curators in attendance also impressed him strongly.

Alistair Crawford, a New York–based dealer in Georg Jensen and contemporary silver and gold is also an alumnus of Showcase 2009. He describes TEFAF’s organizational prowess as “superb.” He does caution that “you’ve got to get it right because you’ve only got one shot at it.” Janssens explains that his aims in establishing the program were twofold:  “One goal is to give young dealers a chance,” and the other is simply “to show just how many young dealers there are…to fight against the pessimism of some in the profession,” he says, referring to a widespread sense on the part of older, more established dealers that they are the last of a dying tribe in a world that lacks interest in history and connoisseurship. He seems to be succeeding on both counts.

TEFAF · Maastricht Exhibition and Conference Center, the Netherlands  · March 12–21 ·

BADA’s fine arts

The British Antiques Dealers’ Association Antiques and Fine Art Fair gets a fresh new look under the helm of incoming chairman Jonathan Coulborn. As the fair enters its eighteenth year, Coulborn emphasizes the stability and security that it offers, particularly in the context of the present London fair scene. He, along with Anthony Woodburn, clock dealer and executive committee member, point to the fair’s long waiting list of would-be exhibitors as a sign of its increasing importance. Even though the exhibitors are all British, Coulborn contends that BADA should not be perceived as a national show, because the broad spectrum of objects displayed there reflects London’s place as an international city.

While aiming to present the fair as a “traditional and beloved friend,” Coulborn is giving it a fresh design and increasing its outreach and exhibitor support. However, in spite of augmented press, tours, lectures, and events, as well as a loan exhibition of celebrity memorabilia (Heroes or Villains) that aims at widespread popular appeal, he knows that success will depend on the quality of the objects. He will be showing a “fabulously rare” George II secretary cabinet attributed to Giles Grendey and has initiated an “object of the year” prize to encourage others to bring similarly important pieces.

BADA · Duke of York’s Square, London · March 17–23 ·

Secretary cabinet, English, c. 1680–1690. Walnut with floral marquetry; height 65 ½, width 45 ½, depth 20 ½ inches. Photograph by courtesy of Richard Courtney, London.