Art Mar­ket

Although fewer Amer­i­cans vis­ited Maas­tricht, young col­lec­tors and deal­ers stepped into the lime­light

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Huon Mal­lalieu

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

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