The first online European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) has opened to customers after fair organizers announced in July that the New York Fall Fair, formerly held at the Park Avenue Armory, would be canceled due to restrictions related to pandemic. Around 298 galleries took part in the fair’s debut online iteration, which ends today with only one piece of art displayed by each exhibitor.
TEFAF is one of the world’s art fairs hit hard by the pandemic. Its latest event, TEFAF Maastricht, was closed in early March this year after several attendees tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, digital art fairs have been gaining traction, and the TEFAF one-piece “masterpiece” format, first announced in September, was designed in part to combat online lounge fatigue. Mimicking the auction house vanity catalogs used to advertise sale highlights, the one-object limitation allows each piece to stand out among hundreds of offers.
The new online fair featured a variety of digital delights, including a live chat feature and virtual programming. Known for its rigorous standards, TEFAF has also included a verification profile, whereby every proposed item is verified against the Lost Works of Art Register, a private database of stolen works of art.
In the past, live broadcasts of global art fairs usually resulted in a flood of sales guaranteed on opening day. But at a digital trade show like the last TEFAF, sales are announced much more slowly.
A TEFAF spokesperson said in a statement that thanks to TEFAF’s many institutional backers, including museum curators, directors, and acquisition teams, some negotiations are ongoing and business is often completed within weeks and months of the fair. While several dealers continued to receive inquiries from interested buyers, one of them quickly made a major sale.
New York’s Di Donna Galleries sold the painting Interior with a Standing Woman (1913) by Danish artist Wilhelm Hammershoi to a private European collector for $ 5 million during a TEFAF VIP preview. That made it one of the most expensive works on the market.
Evarts said that they specifically wanted to re-contextualize the discussion around the artist. Often revered as the heir to the tradition of Dutch genre painting, in particular Vermeer, they wanted to point to daring modernism in later works such as this and her relationship to minimalism in 20th-century American art, such as those of Agnes Martin and Mark Rothko.
In June 2005, a seller bought the actual work at Sotheby’s London for £ 388,800 ($ 702,300) with a premium, and the cost of the work has risen 612 percent over the 15-year period of ownership. The artist’s current record rose to $ 6.2 million when another interior featuring a woman seated at a 1901 piano was sold at Sotheby’s in New York in November 2017. The sale of TEFAF was the third-highest price paid for the work of a Danish artist.
Another dealer has had success with improved visuals ordered for an online showcase. London-based antiques dealer ArtAncient turned to a design firm to create a VR clip of his proposal: a late Hellenistic-style marble bust of Hercules. The dealer announced the sale of the sculpture at a seven-figure price. The gallery bought the bust in February at the Adam Partridge Auctioneers in Macclesfield, Cheshire. According to Art Newspaper, it was discovered by a landscape designer in the early 1980s on the British property of collector Stanley Seeger for £ 320,000 (with royalties). Elsewhere at the fair, Dutch company Endlich Antiquairs sold an ornate 17th-century Dutch silver cover for about $ 50,000.
Colnaghi Gallery in London reported interest from American institutions as well as American and European collectors in the late 16th-century pietra dura Roman tabletop.
Colnaghi CEOs Victoria Golembiovskaya and Jorge Call said that in 2020, the one-masterpiece-focused TEFAF NY Online format allowed them to create a quality marketing campaign that showcases the history and rarity of a single work of art in its purest form.
This year the dealer ordered a video dedicated to the pietra dura technique to promote the object. Colnaghi representatives said this has enabled them to reach new audiences around the world and has already attracted commercial requests from global government agencies. The dealer did not disclose the exact price of the item, but according to the TEFAF online site, the item is one that is priced in excess of $ 1 million.
New York-based dealer Skarstedt Gallery reported strong interest in Eric Fischl’s 1981 painting Obsessed, which depicts a woman sprawling in a driveway, previously in the collection of Irma and Norman Brahman of Miami. The gallery did not disclose the listing price, only confirming that it is seven figures. On the second day of the fair, the Zurich gallery Gmurzynska announced that it was negotiating with the buyer of an abstract painting by Fernand Léger Nature morte au compas (1929), presented in black, red, white and blue palettes.
And Hostler Burrows, a 20th-century design dealer with offices in New York and Los Angeles, sold a large-scale Stack (Red Glazed) sculpture by Norwegian ceramist Torbjörn Kvasbø, 2014, at an undisclosed price. The work was estimated at $ 34,000.
Polly Sartori, the co-founder of 19C Gallery in Los Angeles, described the stand-alone work format as an effective method of attracting clients.
Sartori said it is one thing to browse the 10 or 20 product kiosks at a live fair, and quite another to browse the nearly 300 online multi-product kiosks. In a way, the masterpiece also acts as a fun bouquet. Sartori said that the gallery had received a number of serious inquiries from private individuals and museums for a painting by Jean Pierre Alexander Antigna’s Young Peasant Girl (Une jeune fille des champs) in 1852 at a price of $ 115,000. As is the case with most live exhibitions, Sartori said she thinks after the fair they would see some serious follow-up.
Sartori was not alone in praising the TEFAF format. Almine Rech presented the only work by abstract artist Vivian Springford, which is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at a New York mall. Although the price of the work was not confirmed at the time of publication, Ethan Buchsbaum, senior director of the North American branch of Almine Rech Gallery, said the gallery generated a lot of interest due to the way TEFAF was organized this time around.
He said that in the context of digital presentations, focusing on one work has a unique advantage – the format provides convenience for the audience and collectors, which fosters close interaction.