Strik­ing out alone

Un­cou­pled from the Bi­en­nale, the Paris Tableau Old Mas­ter briefly moved to Brus­sels

Country Life Every Week - - Art Market -

LAST year, the Paris Tableau Old Mas­ter paint­ings fair showed as a sec­tion of the au­tumn Bi­en­nale rather than hold­ing its own event, a mar­riage, or rather en­gage­ment, that proved un­sat­is­fac­tory. Although the pic­ture deal­ers have been able to ex­tri­cate them­selves, they had to agree not to stage their own show again in Paris for three years. Thus, to demon­strate their con­tin­ued ex­is­tence, the one-off Paris Tableau Brus­sels, was staged be­tween June 8 and 11 to co­in­cide with Cul­tures—the World Arts Fair, a now an­nual fes­ti­val of deal­ers’ shows of­fer­ing antiquities, tribal and Asian arts.

This Tableau in ex­ile brought to­gether 22 French and other deal­ers in the re­cently re­vamped La Pati­noire Royale, a relic of the late-19th-cen­tury glory days of roller skat­ing, which makes a fine ex­hi­bi­tion space. Built in 1877, it is an al­most ex­act con­tem­po­rary of the rink in Nor­wich that has found a rather sim­i­lar use as the home of the South Asian Dec­o­ra­tive Arts & Crafts Col­lec­tion, com­bin­ing a shop with a mu­seum.

A draw­back, per­haps, for Tableau was that it is in the Ix­elles district, off the Av­enue Louise and some way from the tra­di­tional art and an­tiques area around the Sablon.

There was a sur­pris­ing em­pha­sis on Ital­ian and Baroque paint­ing and some deal­ers seemed to be re­ly­ing too much on pre­vi­ously seen stock, which is not al­ways wise given the cos­mopoli­tan char­ac­ter of art buy­ers. That said, there is still a bias to­wards home-grown art at fairs and, here, galleries with Flem­ish and Dutch works tended to sell them. Col­naghi, for in­stance, sold a very pleas­ing 28½in by 61¾in col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween two An­twerp spe­cial­ists, the fig­u­ra­tive painter Frans Francken the Younger (1581–1642) and land­scape painter Joos de Mom­per the Younger (1564–1635) (Fig 1).

In mytho­log­i­cal times, it was of­ten un­wise to ac­cept an in­vi­ta­tion to re­fresh­ment in some­body’s cave, but the hero Th­e­seus struck lucky when held up by a flooded river—the river god Ach­e­lous (who had once de­feated Her­ak­les) proved a gen­er­ous host un­til Po­sei­don and ‘fairan­kled’ Am­phitrite ar­rived to calm the wa­ters.

Other sales in­cluded a ver­sion of The Rest on the Flight into

Egypt painted by Luc-olivier Mer­son (1846–1920), an aca­demic and some­times Sym­bol­ist painter who de­signed well-known French stamps and ban­knotes. A ver­sion of this com­po­si­tion, in which the Vir­gin and Child sleep be­tween the paws of a sphinx, is in the Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Bos­ton, USA, but this one was priced at about €50,000 by Di­dier Aaron.

Jac­ques Lee­gen­hoek of Paris took a €85,000 for a Diana and

Endymion painted on leather by Pasquale Ot­tino (1578–1630), a Veronese painter who worked there for most of his ca­reer and died of the plague.

Not yet sold, but a paint­ing I like very much is a 26in by 217∕8in self-por­trait by Seraphin de Vliegher (1806–48), with Michel Descours of Lyon. The del­i­cacy of his ex­haled cigar smoke is ex­tra­or­di­nary.

The com­bined forces of Cul­tures—39 tribal-arts deal­ers, 13 Asian spe­cial­ists and 10 antiquities galleries—seem to have sold well, if not of­ten spec­tac­u­larly. Some of them, es­pe­cially the Asians, of­fered tempt­ing things at lower prices and they re­ported a num­ber of first-time and younger buy­ers as a re­sult. Kit­sune Ja­panese Art was par­tic­u­larly pleased with the sale of a lovely gold lac­quer inro to a youth­ful col­lec­tor (Fig 3).

One no­table antiquities sale was a well-gilded late Ptole­maic mask from a mummy (Fig 2) with Alexan­der An­cient Art at €60,000. Al­most all of these gal- leries were around the Sablon area, although deal­ers are be­ing pushed from the square it­self by

choco­latiers and frock­istes. An ex­cep­tion was the lead­ing African art spe­cial­ist Di­dier Claes, who has re­cently moved away from the area to a hand­some new gallery on the rue de l’ab­baye in Ix­elles. He re­alises that his stock sits well with the con­tem­po­rary art galleries that have al­ready moved to the streets off the av­enue Louise. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see who fol­lows him. He sold a num­ber of works dur­ing the week, in­clud­ing a 10½in-high Jukun fig­ure from Nige­ria (Fig 5).

In the Sablon it­self, the tribal deal­ers had com­bined to mount an im­pres­sive ex­hi­bi­tion of sculp­tures from Africa and New Guinea, held in the for­mer Vatican Em­bassy, and there was a stim­u­lat­ing se­ries of lec­tures. I par­tic­u­larly en­joy vis­it­ing these deal­ers’ shows in Brus­sels be­cause I al­ways learn some­thing. On this trip, I had an in­tro­duc­tion to Abo­rig­i­nal art, which I had not re­ally looked at be­fore. At Abo­rig­i­nal Sig­na­ture, Ber­trand Es­tran­gin proved to be a very good guide.

An­glo-aus­tralian art has been in the news, with AU$2,976,000 (£1.8 mil­lion) paid for 29½in

by 495 ∕8in Grandma’s Sun­day Walk (Fig 4) by Sir Rus­sell Drys­dale (1912–81) at Moss­green in Ade­laide. It has been said that Drys­dale ‘was the vis­ual poet of that pas­sive, all-en­com­pass­ing de­spair that end­less heat and drought in­duces’—‘aus­tralian Gothic’, per­haps. This was painted in 1972 for a Lon­don ex­hi­bi­tion at the Le­ices­ter Galleries, where Drys­dale had first come to in­ter­na­tional no­tice in 1950 un­der the aegis of Ken­neth Clark.

In my June 14 col­umn, I mist­i­tled Zachary East­wood-bloom’s de­but ex­hi­bi­tion at Pan­golin, King’s Place, Lon­don N1. ‘Divine Prin­ci­ples’ will run from Oc­to­ber 11 to Novem­ber 11 (www. pan­golin­lon­don. com; 020–7520 1480).

Fig 1: A land­scape with Th­e­seus and Ach­e­lous, with Nep­tune and Am­phri­tite (1564–1635) by Francken and de Mom­per. With Col­naghi

Fig 2: Ptole­maic mummy mask. With Alexan­der An­cient Art

Fig 5: Jukun fig­ure from Nige­ria. Sold by Di­dier Claes at Cul­tures Big­gles, glid­ing and a mild orgy Next week

Fig 4: Grandma’s Sun­day Walk by Sir Rus­sell Drys­dale (1972). AU$2,976,000 (£1.8 mil­lion)

Fig 3: Gold lac­quer inro sold by Kit­sune Ja­panese Art

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