Europe's Art 'Mecca,' TEFAF 2011 Highlights: Rembrandt, Jeff Koons, Renoir, Courbet

TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is back: The art-lover’s “Mecca” returns in 2011 (March 18-27), as collectors, gallerists, artists and spectators are eagerly making the pilgrimage to Maastricht in the Netherlands. Featuring 260 dealers from 16 countries and showcasing around 30,000 works worth an estimated $1.4 billion and covering the past 7,000 years, the fair offers something for virtually everyone, catering to a wide variety of palettes.

One of the most important art fairs in the world, TEFAF made its debut in 1975 and featured primarily old masters' works while these masterpieces still feature prominently at the fair, TEFAF has since expanded to include paintings, metalwork, jewelry, drawings, photographs, glass, ceramics, sculptures, prints, and porcelain objects d’art from ancient to modern times.

The fair is divided into nine sections, each devoted to a different art form, and a team of 168 experts in 29 specialist committees meticulously examines each piece to ensure that only the best is displayed.

Fair organizers and participants expect this year’s TEFAF to fare even better than last year’s successful turnout, as the art market continues to recover from the 2008 financial meltdown. More applicants than ever before have applied to showcase their works at this year’s fair, and certainly the figures speak for themselves: in 2010, the number of visitors totalled a staggering 73,073, representing a 7.75% increase from the previous year.

In anticipation of TEFAF’s 2011 debut, presents a list of the event’s highlights:

Priceless works by renown masters, old and new

Rembrandt’s remarkable 1658 masterpiece Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo (see image below on right) shown by the Otto Naumann gallery from New York. With a rarely seen price tag of $47 million (€33.6 million; £29.2 million), the exotically dressed subject of the boldly painted picture is unknown. The gallery purchased the work from Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn, who had snagged the piece from a Christie's London sale in 2009 for £20.2 million (€23.2 million; $32.4 million).

Several works by impressionist master Renoir will be highlighted at TEFAF, including a €10.8 million ($15 million) work from London's Dickinson gallery, Woman Picking Flowers (circa 1874, pictured above on right). The exquisite painting depicts Claude Monet's pretty wife Camille in a field of flowers.

Renoir’s work will be featured elsewhere throughout the fair -- London’s Stephen Ongpin Fine Art, a first-time exhibitor, will show a preparatory watercolor by the artist done for his painting Bathers in the Forest. More than twenty works by Renoir will also be displayed by New York’s Hammer Galleries - showcasing for the first time at TEFAF - among them a painting of his son Claude (c. 1906).

Frans Francken the Younger’s famed $14 million (€10 million) work Mankind's Eternal Dilemma—the Choice between Vice and Virtue (see image below) will also be showcasing at the fair. The Dutch master’s 1633 canvas depicts the struggle between good and evil, featuring the dichotomous icons of angels and demons. The center of the piece is dominated by Minerva, goddess of wisdom, armed with lance, breastplate and helmet. Her sacred bird, the owl, looks down into the shadowy underworld where a grimacing Satan, astride a dragon, presides over the entrance to Hell.

Lost for more than 130 years, Gustave Courbet’s exquisite La Liberte sculpture will be shown by New York dealer Richard Feigen. The 1875 piece is a powerful depiction of freedom and is the only bronze cast created by the artist. The piece is priced at an impressive €685,000 ($951,000).

Architectural Capriccio with a Self-Portrait of Bellotto will make an appearance with a price tag of €8.2 million ($11.4 million). This rare painting, a self-portrait of the artist in the costume of a Venetian nobleman, was executed in the 1760s. The work will be exhibited by Otto Nauman from New York, depicting the lavishly clad Bellotto amidst a palatial backdrop.

TEFAF Showcase

Since it’s launch in 2008, TEFAF Showcase has been dedicated to giving recently established galleries the opportunity to participate in the fair on a strictly one time basis. The galleries and dealers who are invited to apply specialize in one of the various disciplines represented at the fair, including antiquities, paintings, prints, photography and jewelery, as well as modern and contemporary art. The selected galleries are accommodated in a pavilion with small, uniform units created especially for TEFAF Showcase by Amsterdam-based architect Tom Postma.

The aim of Showcase is to give younger dealers the experience of being part of a major international fine art event. This year, six successful galleries - from the United Kingdom, France, and the United States - have been chosen from a record-breaking number of 80 applicants.

Jeff Koons BMW

The work of contemporary American artist Jeff Koons will certainly add zest to the show with his BMW art car (pictured below). The “power piece” - a BMW M3 GT2 that the artist has covered with colorful stripes - will be exhibited prominently in the main hall by TEFAF organizers, and isn’t for sale.

The Happy Hunter

Wim Pijbes, Managing Director of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, will bring his personal selection of late 15th century works on paper from the museum’s collection to TEFAF. Appropriately titled “The Happy Hunter,” the works will be featured in a small but stunning exhibit showcasing the talents of Flemish masters. Pijbes says the title of the exhibit also serves as a metaphor for the art collector’s aim at TEFAF: “TEFAF is the best hunting place for private and professional collectors,” he says. “I am honored to be able to present an exquisite selection of the best and rarest works on paper from our own collection.”

Dealers’ Choice

During TEFAF 2011, every day at 4.30 p.m. a TEFAF hostess will take a small group of visitors (maximum fifteen) to dealers who will highlight a specific object or explain why they became dealers. The group will visit five or six dealers in one hour. This service to the visitors will be free of charge and offered at the end of each working day.

During TEFAF: featuring notable exhibits and shows coinciding with the fair

Gabriel Metsu: a master rediscovered at the Rijksmuseum through March 21st: Gabriel Metsu (1629- 1667) was one of the most influential Dutch genre painters of the 17th century. His paintings beautifully depict everyday life during the Golden Age. The Rijksmuseum has brought together over 35 of his best paintings from museums across the world and private collections, including works which were recently rediscovered and brought back to the Netherlands, in some cases after more than 250 years.

Two Faces of Northern Renaissance - Two separate exhibitions featuring Northern Renaissance masters are coinciding during TEFAF, both illustrating the influence this genre has had on the development of art today. The works of Joos van Cleve will be showing March 17-June 26 at the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum in Aachen, and in Leiden, the works of his contemporary, Lucas van Leyden, will be on display at Leiden’s Museum De Lakenhal (March 20-June26).

Often referred to as the “Leonardo of the North” – Joos van Cleve (1485/90 - 1540/41) was the most successful painter and entrepreneur in early 16th-Century Antwerp. He received commissions from all over Europe from merchants and nobility alike. By making use of the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci he was able to set a new standard for the market. The Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum brings together 60 panel paintings by Joos van Cleve, coming from 34 museums worldwide, as well as 12 private collections.

Lastly, beginning March 20th the Museum De Lakenhal in Leiden will highlight the works of another Northern Renaissance master, Lucas van Lyden (c. 1494-1533). This renown Dutch master is noted for introducing the iconography of the Italian Renaissance to the Northern Netherlands. Van Lyden’s prints garnered attention due to their unrivaled, polished engraving technique, coupled by a narrative quality. Biblical and profane themes were popular subjects in his work.

Written by staff