The exhibition at the Park Ave Armory marks the inauguration of the Spring edition of TEFAF New York 2017, the annual venerable fair well-known in the art industry throughout Europe held annually in Maastricht since 1988 (the non-profit also publishes one of the most important art market reports on an annual basis). The second Fall edition occurs October 27-31. Exhibitors were selected by a committee of four members of the TEFAF NY Board and four external art experts and the artwork must be vetted professionally for authenticity using modern technology to be displayed.
While the work is museum quality with price tags to match, the fair offers a uniquely intimate opportunity to closely view masterpieces and multimillion-dollar works in an elegant setting without the intellectual coherence imposed by curated exhibitions. TEFAF’s focus on modern and contemporary art and design also creates an interesting contrast between neighboring booths and within single booths containing more diverse displays than usual, some approximating art in situ from a Park Avenue living or dining room. This all made for a welcome experience quite different than either standard high-end art fairs or design expos.
Access to passionate and informed dealers from around the world also made the experience a much less stuffy affair than expected, and I quite enjoyed the fair despite everything being for sale yet unaffordable. But of special note is the international flavor of TEFAF: with 98 exhibitors, about one-third were not from the big three art cities, with Hong Kong and Brussels most prominent. Others were on display from Antwerp, Copenhagen, Milan, Munich, St. Moritz, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Turin, Tokyo, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. As a result, French and German seemed more common than English, and Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese were well-represented. The manageable size, quality of work, contrasting and diverse displays, and this international aspect made TEFAF one of my favorite fairs.
The James Butterwick booth was strikingly colorful and vibrant with a theme of “Bitter Harvest” accompanied by a beautiful catalog for the exhibit of Russian and Ukranian Avant-Garde from 1890 to 1934. Being a fan of Kandinsky, I had been a bit disappointed not to see more at TEFAF, so this piece was a major standout for being on so unusual a medium as incised panel. But it was impossible to consider this work the lead piece despite its uniqueness when compared to the extraordinary Alexander Bogomazov work that developed “spectralism” to attain such ethereal depth, energy and motion.