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    $2.7 Billion Dutch Fair Lures Collectors as Confidence Rises

    Date: 14 Mar 2010 | | Views: 2318

    Source: Bloomberg, by Scott Reyburn

    A record 263 dealers will offer paintings and other works worth $2.7 billion at the world’s largest art and antiques fair, anticipating the return of the billionaire big-spenders.

    The 23rd annual edition of the European Fine Art Fair -- Tefaf -- in the Dutch city of Maastricht will be the year’s first test of demand from buyers outside the auction rooms, where wealthy collectors have been pushing up prices. Tefaf, owned and organized by a confederation of dealers, offers about 2 billion euros of museum-quality artworks, antiques, design and jewelry from prehistory to the present day. It opens to VIP guests on March 11.

    “If you’re going to do one fair, Maastricht has to be it,” Jean-Luc Baroni, a London-based Old Master pictures dealer, said in an interview. “Though some collectors only buy at auction, it’s an event where dealers see a lot of clients and do sell. It gives us a chance against the auction houses.”

    The exhibitors, from 17 countries, have been encouraged by record prices at auction. Collector Lily Safra bought Giacometti’s 1961 bronze “Walking Man I” for 65 million pounds ($103.4 million) at Sotheby’s in London last month; Leon Black paid 29.2 million pounds for Raphael’s drawing of a muse at Christie’s International in December, dealers said.

    Baroni, representing a client, was the underbidder on the Raphael drawing at Christie’s. He is returning to Tefaf after an absence of four years.

    Rockefeller Botticelli

    With more than 70 exhibitors, dealers in pre-20th century pictures are the largest contingent at Tefaf. London-based Dickinson will offer the Sandro Botticelli painting “Madonna and Child With the Infant Saint John,” dating from the mid- 1490s and formerly owned by the Rockefeller family, for $15 million.

    Dickinson will also be showing Paul Gauguin’s 1902 Tahitian-period painting “Deux Femmes” at 18 million euros ($24.4 million). Both works are being sold by private collectors, the Gauguin having been bought at auction for 12.4 million pounds in 2006.

    New York-based Hammer Galleries -- among 30 newcomers or returnees to Tefaf -- are bringing Gilbert Stuart’s 1822 “Portrait of George Washington,” priced at 5 million euros. The painting, also from a private collection, is the source of the image of Washington on the U.S. one-dollar bill, said Hammer Galleries.

    “The high auction prices are good news for the market as a whole, but it’s scary for dealers,” said Dominique Levy, director of the New York-based modern and contemporary art specialists L & M. “In the six months after the fall of Lehman Brothers we had phenomenal access to private works.”

    Warhol Flowers

    L & M’s debut booth at Tefaf will simulate the drawing room of a discerning postwar collector. A 1964 Andy Warhol four-color “Flowers” painting will be hanging on the paneled walls, priced at $9.8 million from a private seller, together with works by Jean Arp, Franz Kline and Jean Dubuffet.

    “We’re determined to keep our prices the same and keep them in dollars,” Levy said, responding to auction results.

    Total sales of fine and decorative art in crisis-hit 2009 were estimated at 31.3 billion euros, down 26 percent on 2008, according to a report about the international market published on March 1 by the Netherlands-based European Fine Art Foundation. Auction houses accounted for about 45 percent of the market and dealers about 55 percent, it said.

    Tefaf’s modern and contemporary art section has expanded to more than 40 booths. Amsterdam-based Borzo Modern and Contemporary Art regularly exhibits the work of the Dutch minimalist sculptor Jan Schoonhoven at the fair.

    Last month, a 1962 white relief by Schoonhoven fetched a record 780,450 pounds -- four times the estimate -- at Sotheby’s 23.2 million-pound sale of the Lenz collection of “Zero Art.”

    This year, Borzo will be showing the 1973 white relief “R 73-19” by Schoonhoven, priced at 175,000 euros.

    Tefaf Maastricht runs from March 12-21. Information: http://www.Tefaf.com.

    (Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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