Although fewer Americans visited Maastricht, young collectors and dealers stepped into the limelight
Huon Mallalieu finds that youth was key at Maastricht
NOWADAYS, one must take great care to distinguish between perceptions, facts and ‘alternative facts’. My perception during the preview and first public day of this year’s TEFAF Maastricht fair was that there were fewer American visitors than usual. This was also reported to me by many of the exhibitors that I spoke to, several of whom were missing important regular clients.
However, several other Old Master, manuscript and antiquities dealers later spoke of American sales and a press release claimed: ‘Many sales to American collectors and institutions.’ Some of those who mattered most must have made the trip, even if overall numbers were down.
Two reasons were cited for the perceived Transatlantic drop: the well-known reluctance of Americans to travel abroad in troubled times and the success of the first TEFAF New York fair last autumn. It had been argued by some that this would be a showcase that would draw New Yorkers to Maastricht itself; doubters felt rather that taking the best to them like delivery groceries would encourage them to stay at home. At least one long-standing Maastricht exhibitor from New York stayed away this year. All this will no doubt be further debated among the organisers.
The crowds who did come to Maastricht—as to the January BRAFA in Brussels, where the visitor numbers are catching up —also offer evidence to refute the patronising belief that ‘young people are not interested in anything old’ and have minimal attention spans. There were plenty of younger people there, and by no means only in the rather lacklustre Contemporary section.
Some of the youngest dealers, too, were Old Master specialists, including Lullo Pampoulides of London, which had an extraordinary debut in the fair’s ‘Showcase’ booths for new dealers, and Colnaghi, now under the direction of the youthful Spaniards Coll & Cortes. In fact, one of Colnaghi’s first major sales was a newly discovered fruity 343 ∕8in by 46¼in still-life by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi (1587–1625) owned jointly with Lullo Pampoulides (Fig 1).
Obviously, these fairs are the upper level of the market, although not everything at them is outrageously expensive, but the perceived lack of youthful engagement in the middle market is not always due to lack of interest. In a world where it is difficult to buy a home, there is little incentive to buy things to put in it. Moneyed older people may perhaps be obsessed with shopping, but their juniors prefer to spend any disposable income on experiences rather than things.
The London antiquities dealer Charles Ede was very positive about TEFAF’S two American ventures. As well as exhibiting in the autumn, he will be at the May fair in New York, which is mostly for modernists and des- igners, as antiquities fit so well with their specialities.
New York is already working for Mr Ede: ‘An established New York collector acquired a sizeable Egyptian bronze Apis bull, while an extremely refined Cycladic head went to a client that the gallery first met when exhibiting at the TEFAF New York Fall fair.’ Furthermore: ‘That Holy Grail among the art trade, a new young collector’, bought a delicately modelled
Hellenistic marble head of a Ptolemaic queen and aims to develop a collection.’
He told us that ‘Maastricht is the ideal location for young collectors because of the range of pieces being offered by leading dealers in the field’.
However, it was things, as well as people, that I was at Maastricht to see, and the gallery was particularly pleased with a European-based sale. The very knowledgeable buyer, with his own museum in the South of France, declared its £120,000 EgyptoRoman bronze basin (Fig 3) the best piece in the fair.
It had many competitors. Over the years, the Tomasso Brothers of Leeds and London have made a speciality of discovering bronze sculptures by Giambologna (1529– 1608), who blended Italian Mannerism with his native Flemish techniques.
The latest, at an asking price of €1.5 million, was one of the fair’s earliest sales and was a particular rarity, in that it was his only known wood carving. The 20¼in-high limewood figure on a walnut socle showed a classically posed Julius Caesar (Fig 2), nude, like a miniature Apsley House Napoleon, which it almost could have inspired.
It was not only signed and dated 1551, but inscribed to its first owner, Bernardo Vecchietti, a Florentine financier and patron. Between the 1550s and the 1590s Vecchietti built Il Riposo, a villa that still stands in the countryside south-east of Florence, and he filled it with works by Michelangelo, Leonardo, Cellini and Giambologna, whose patron he was.
In 1584, Raffaello Borghini published a book of conversations on painting and sculpture that he imagined taking place in the villa. Antiquarian books and illuminated manuscripts were strong this year. During the preview, Dr Jörn Günther sold a compilation of chronicles made for Willem van Bergh (Fig 4), about 1455, whose Huis Bergh in Gelderland is now a museum, which was delighted to have the opportunity to buy back the work for their collection. It is the only known illustrated manuscript from the region, written in the regional language. Dr Günther also sold two miniatures to an American collector he met at TEFAF New York.
Then, Les Enluminures of Paris and Chicago concluded
the $3 million-plus (£2.4 million) sale of the Liesborn Abbey
Gospel Book (Fig 5) (created about AD980), which returns to Westphalia after more than two centuries in England and the USA.
Next week Further fairings and Irish furniture
Fig 1: Cavarozzi still-life. With Colnaghi and Lullo Pampoulides
Fig 4 above: Compilation of chronicles made for Willem van Bergh. With Dr Jörn Günther. Fig 5 above right: The Liesborn Abbey Gospel Book. With Les Enluminures
Fig 2 right: Classical nude Julius Caesar by Giambologna. With the Tomasso Brothers
Fig 3: Egypto-roman bronze basin. With Charles Ede