Art and Business in Maastricht (NL)

Mar 19, 2023

Despite the spectacular theft suffered during the last edition, and a series of changes at the top, this 2023 edition confirmed TEFAF (The European Fine Art Foundation) as the queen of fairs, with 268 exhibitors from all over the world and a newfound enthusiasm in buying and selling.

An important signal after the cancellation of three fairs in the UK, including the formerly glorious Masterpiece. The suffering of this sector in the UK is therefore confirmed, if needed, to be fully attributable to the uncanny choice to leave the European Union.

For TEFAF, the investment by exhibitors was particularly notable this year, with the setting up of something close to a temporary museum, decidedly extraordinary to see, with stands designed down to the smallest detail, to amaze and involve.

Botticelli Antichità presented itself, for example, with a “closed” stand, which could only be accessed by crossing a “theatrical backdrop” made up of a sculpted door.

Many masterpieces on display, with dizzying names, from high quality “fondi oro” to Fontana, from Picasso to Ingres, from Mengs to Tintoretto – immediately sold to a private individual, to Bruegel, Cranach, van Dijk. Also interesting is the presence of artworks by various female painters of whom we still know little, such as Camilla Guerrieri (Fossombrone 1628 – post 1690), who, in a small oil on majolica proposed by Altomani, paints herself while making the portrait of Vittoria della Rovere.

Camilla Guerrieri (Fossombrone 1628- post 1690), Allegory of the Painting with self-potrait and double portrait of Vittoria della Rovere. Oil on maiolica. Altomani Gallery
Camilla Guerrieri (Fossombrone 1628- post 1690), Allegory of the Painting with self-potrait and double portrait of Vittoria della Rovere. Oil on maiolica. Altomani Gallery, (image credits Luisa Berretti)

Although many contemporary works were also present, the fair retains its emphasis on antiques. «Generally, the Old Masters collector is of a certain age, he is male and he is European. Now we know a new generation, younger and with a different approach“, said Carlo Milano of the London Callisto Fine Arts gallery in an interview published on the Art Newspaper. “The type of collector who focuses on a specific school or artist is being replaced by a new category of younger enthusiasts who love the image and the story it tells ».

However, the fact remains that for ancient art the amount of sales is strongly limited by the prices of the artworks, currently much lower than those of contemporary art pieces. In 2021, for example, the European Old Masters represented only 4% of sales, against 45% of the contemporary, and not because fewer pieces were exchanged.

After all, the contemporary art market seems more linked to the desire to make money, to the bet that the quotations of the chosen artists will continue to increase, even if these are already orders of magnitude higher than those of the old masters, who, however, have already passed through the scrutiny of history.

For Art-Test on the other hand, it was satisfying to note that for the first time, at least in our memory, a IR reflectography was exhibited together with the painting in a prominent place, and on a 1:1 scale for the Resurrection Christ, by Gracia Fernandes (1514-1565) and Crustivai de Figueiredo (1490-1555). Here the infrared ray investigation shows a preparatory drawing and numerous “pentimenti”, supporting the originality of the work.

After all, scientific proofs of authenticity are recognized as increasingly necessary to support a correct attribution.

Anna Pelagotti
Anna Pelagotti