A rare ancien régime portrait by Nicolas Mignard, a Normandy seascape by Claude Monet, and a John Constable sketch that has long been tucked away in a private collection are among the treasures due to go on view at TEFAF New York, the prestigious Dutch import that returns this week to the Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side.
While much of the world’s art market is stubbornly focused on contemporary, the fall edition of TEFAF New York proves there are plenty of discoveries to be made by digging through the distant past as well. (Bonus: many of them can be had for a fraction of the price of a Jeff Koons.)
Highlights of this year’s edition include a recently rediscovered representation of Saint Jerome in Prayer by the Italian Baroque painter Il Guercino from Tomasso Brothers. The work, dating from the 1640s or early 1650s, is priced in the region of $1.2 million.
Antonio Canova’s Rezzonico Genio (1793). Courtesy of Galleria Orsi.
Another gem on offer is a plaster sculpture of a grieving angel by the 18th-century sculptor Antonio Canova. Believed to be the only plaster by the artist on the market, the sculpture was made as a personal gift to the Venetian Ambassador to Rome. Presented by the Milan-based Galleria Orsi, it is priced at $4 million.
New York dealer Alan Safani, meanwhile, has confidently proclaimed that he will offer “the most important Egyptian sculpture in private hands.” The limestone statue of Baket-Mut (Songstress of Amun), an elite musician-priestess, was originally painted in vivid color. Sculpted shortly after the rule of Tutankhamun, it dates from1334–1274 BC. Safani declined to disclose the asking price.
Baket-Mut, Chantress Of Amun. Courtesy Safani Gallery, New York
Famous for being one of the only shows in the world whose organizers carefully vet every single object on view, TEFAF takes place twice a year in New York. (The spring edition is focused on Modern and contemporary art.) Following a VIP preview on Friday, the fair opens to the public on October 28 and will run through Wednesday, November 1. The number of exhibitors is up slightly this year, to 95 from 93 last fall.
“Last year’s inaugural TEFAF in New York was better than anyone could have expected,” Jorge Coll, the CEO of the art dealership Colnaghi, told artnet News. “It felt like we were bringing Old Masters to a hungry audience who were ready and waiting for us to arrive.” (Doubling down on that assertion, Colnaghi is also debuting a new appointment-only space on the Upper East Side this week.)
Coll said he was particularly struck by the number of institutions in attendance last year. “We met curators and trustees from museums all around the US, many of whom don’t necessarily travel to Maastricht but found it very easy to visit New York.”
Adriaen Isenbrant’s Saint Mary Magdalene Reading. Courtesy Richard Green Gallery.
Coll and numerous others praised the TEFAF board’s ability to transport the “look and feel” of Maastricht to the Park Avenue Armory, complete with dazzling tulip displays, fabric-draped walls, and even roving oyster shuckers handing out bivalves to guests. Some dealers said they believed the New York edition had already led to a spike in visitors to the original fair in Maastricht.
For those back in Manhattan, TEFAF New York has also been paying dividends. Just last week, Alan Salz of Didier Aaron Gallery said he sold a painting to someone who first spotted the work at last year’s edition.
This year, the gallery will present works ranging in price from $5,000 to $500,000, including a pencil drawing of a Calmouk Archer by Jean-Baptiste Le Prince, a black chalk portrait of General Auguste Bertin de Veaux by Anne-Louis Girodet, and other Old Master drawings. He believes the concurrent International Fine Print Dealers Association fair at the Javits Center (October 26–29) will further boost interest.
Joseph Paelinck, Bacchus And Ariadne. Courtesy Didier Aaron, New York.
European dealers, meanwhile, said TEFAF offers a unique opportunity to connect with US clients who might not usually attend an Old Master event. “We hold back certain works especially for the fair,” said Martin Clist, managing director of Charles Ede Gallery in London. Among the objects, chosen in part because they might “appeal more to Americans and New Yorkers especially”: an Etruscan 4th century BC mirror made of bronze and bone and a mid-6th century BC terracotta model of a horse. Prices range from $800 to $350,000
Clist says TEFAF’s expansion into New York “has redefined the term art fair for the US. Coupled with New Yorkers’ appetite for new sensations and quality, the mix is intoxicating.”
Bronze statuette of Osiris with inlaid eyes. Late Dynastic Period, 26th Dynasty, circa 600 BC. Courtesy Charles Ede, London.
TEFAF has also organized a lively program of talks and a special loan exhibition of photographs by Vera Lutter from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
A highlight of the talks program is a conversation on Saturday between the LA museum’s director Michael Govan and Apollo magazine editor Thomas Marks. The pair will discuss the museum’s future and Lutter’s recent residency there. See the full line-up of events here.
Just as the preview of TEFAF New York, the swanky fall edition of the international art fair, was getting underway on Friday, a group of unlikely visitors walked in. Three police officers and two prosecutors entered the Park Avenue Armory at 2 p.m. with a search warrant for a Persian limestone bas-relief. They seized the work, worth an estimated $1.2 million, from the booth of London dealer Rupert Wace.
The eight-inch-square relief dates back to ca. 518–330 B.C.E. and depicts a bearded Persian imperial guard holding a spear. The carved limestone once adorned a building at the Persepolis ruins in Iran. According to the warrant, prosecutors seized the artifact as evidence in a possession of stolen property investigation. A representative of the New York district attorney’s office declined to comment on the charges or the investigation.
According to the New York Times, which broke the story, the artifact was first excavated by a team from the University of Chicago in 1933, three years after the Persian government passed a law making it illegal to export antiquities out of the country.
Ebrahim Shaqaqi, an Iranian cultural official, told the Tehran Timesthat efforts are underway to prove that the relic belongs to Iran and ultimately repatriate it.
A 1933 photo of the reliefs in situ in Iran. Photo: New York District Attorney.
In an email to artnet News, dealer Rupert Wace laid out the relief sculpture’s more recent history. He said the Canadian department store heir and collector Frederick Cleveland Morgan donated it to the Quebec National Museum in 1950–1951, where it was openly exhibited until it was stolen in 2011.
Following the theft, the museum received a payout from an insurance company; when the artifact was recovered in 2014, the museum’s leadership opted to let the insurer keep the artifact rather than reimburse them. Wace said he bought the relief from the insurance company.
“We are at a loss to comprehend the events which occurred last Friday at TEFAF New York,” the dealer told artnet News. “This work of art has been well known to scholars and has a history that spans almost 70 years. We are currently investigating the matter, and will form a conclusion once we have evaluated the situation.”
The relief is just one of a number of objects the district attorney’s office has seized in recent years as part of a push to recover antiquities that have been transported unlawfully out of their country of origin. On October 11, officials announced plans to return a sculpture of an ancient bull head to Lebanon that had previously been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Switzerland’s MCH Group, which owns the prestigious Art Basel, is turning to tech in its bid to stay at the top of the art-fair pyramid. Its new app, PRNCPL, is an attempt to create a “Shazam for art” specifically engineered for a fair context. Describing itself as “a new technology platform for the art industry,” it promises to let smartphone-wielding visitors to Art Basel’s partner fairs aim their phones at any artwork on view and call up all its details: title, artist, medium, gallery, and—in some but not all cases—price.
PRNCPL makes its debut this month at the first-ever Art Düsseldorf fair, part of the MCH Group’s Regional Art Fair portfolio, which is set to come to the former factory complex Areal Böhler, November 17–19.
In a press release, PRNCPL co-founder Moenen Erbuer noted that “the art fair experience hasn’t evolved much in recent years,” adding that the industry is “ripe for sweeping digital innovation.”
Ben Sledsens, Cawing Crows, (2017). Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp.
artnet News gave the beta version of the yet-to-launch app a spin in our offices. Since Art Düsseldorf remains a few weeks away, we were limited to scanning hi-res artwork images from our computer screen.
In that limited and controlled situation, at least, it worked. Fairly quickly, the app loaded up all of the aforementioned info, albeit sans pricing information, for which it instructed us to contact the gallery. (You can try out scans of the pictures embedded here after downloading the app.)
Though the technology did not strike us as particularly revolutionary feeling, it certainly will help eliminate some steps that are all too familiar to regular fairgoers, such as photographing both individual works and wall labels to keep track of potential favorites.
PRNCPL’s proponents list a variety of advantages offered by the app: its professional photo replaces “poorly framed and badly lit mobile photos”; the data within the app is easily shared; its “frictionless experience” potentially increases gallery sales; and, since the image-recognition technology works entirely offline, it allows visitors to access contact information quickly, without any pesky data roaming charges.
The app’s co-founders concede that not every artwork at a fair will be easily recognized. In particular, sculptures, videos, and the ever-popular reflective works all present challenges.
Label of Ben Sledsens’ Cawing Crows, (2017). Courtesy Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp.
As a company, PRNCPL evolved out of its sister platform Curiator, which was co-founded by Erbuer and Tobias Boonstoppel in 2014, and was acquired by MCH Group in 2016. Its core product is a database system for art fairs, promising to help them better manage and utilize their data.
Despite PRNCPL’s debut in Düsseldorf, don’t expect to use it at MCH Group’s more prominent fairs, like the upcoming Art Basel in Miami Beach—at least not just yet.
“We are mainly focused on the regional art fairs which we consider a more ‘experimental’ platform,” a representative told artnet News. “There is no plan in place to implement this for Art Basel in the near future, but this might happen later on.”
MCH Group has recently been on an ambitious acquisition streak of regional art fairs. It took a minority stake in Art Düsseldorf earlier this year, following the announcement of their majority stake in the India Art Fair in fall 2016.
What does a 1st-century bronze run you these days? What about an ancient Egyptian wood sculpture fragment? The fall edition of TEFAF New York is one of the few occasions to survey this kind of material under one roof.
Ninety-five art and antiques dealers descended on the Park Avenue Armory to present work ranging from ancient antiquities to early 20th-century paintings. Dealers reported steady sales at the second fall edition of the fair, which came to a close on Wednesday. And as with any art fair, dealers are there to schmooze, but also to sell. Over the course of the six days, we spoke to dealers to see how they fared. (Prices were self-reported by dealers and fair representatives.)
Francesco Guardi‘s Piazza San Marco sold at Adam Williams Fine Art, New York, for $2.9 million.
Theo van Rysselberghe‘s Torse de blonde (Blonde Nude) (1919), sold at Jack Kilgore & Co., New York, for $185,000.
Renato Tomassi‘s Portrait at the Front (1918) sold at Jack Kilgore & Co., for $120,000.
Clémence Roth‘s Young Girl in Black (1887) sold at Jack Kilgore & Co., for $95,000.
Allan Clarke‘s Arab (1929) sold at Taylor Graham for $45,000.
Edwin Lord Weeks‘s Across the pool to the gated temple of amritsar sold at Taylor | Graham, New York, for $38,000.
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema‘s Autumn (Scene in a Roman Garden) sold at Taylor | Graham for $32,000.
Edwin Lord Weeks‘s Polishing the Sword sold at Taylor | Graham for $25,000.
Lodovico Ferruccio Maria Pogliaghi’s Neptune and Venus & Cupid (ca. 1910-15). Photo: courtesy of Tomasso Brothers Fine Art.
Anthony Canova‘s Plaster Copy of Anthony Canova’s Rezzonico Genio (1793) sold at Carlo Orsi – Trinity Fine Art, London, for $4 million.
Elie Nadelman‘s Female Head (ca. 1915) sold atBernard Goldberg Fine Arts, New York, for $200,000.
Lodovico Pogliaghi‘s Pair of bronze oval medallions portraying Neptune, and Venus with Cupid at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, London, sold in the region of $175,000.
Pietro Cipriani‘s Bronze Farnese Hercules by sold at Tomasso Brothers Fine Art for in the region of $200,000.
Roman bronze, Statuette of Mercury, from Gaul (1st century CE) sold at Charles Ede for $120,000.
Erastus Dow Palmer‘s Bust of Elizabeth Street Plumb (1851) sold at Taylor | Graham for $32,000.
Ancient Egyptian wood sculpture fragment (ca. 1960-1900 B.C.). Photo: courtesy of Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London.
Ancient Egyptian wood sculpture fragment (ca. 1960-1900 B.C.) sold at Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London, for $380,000.
Naophoros statue, Egyptian, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty (c. 1400 BCE) sold at Charles Ede for $350,000.
Greek bronze, Griffin protome, Archaic Period (ca. 625-600 BCE), sold at Charles Ede for $225,000.
Egyptian limestone relief (unknown date), sold at Charles Ede for $125,000.
Fortuna cabinet (ca. 1620), sold at Kunstkammer Georg Laue of München, Germany, for over $100,000.