Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

Alternating white and pale gray 8.7 centimeter-wide stripes arranged in a mesmerizing geometric design are reflected in mirrors to magnify the dynamic space, broaden our perspective and depth perception, and create echoes.

We’re drawn into an immersive experience celebrating a collaboration between French conceptual artist Daniel Buren and British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor. Buren designed the sleek and spellbinding in situ environment for the Mennour booth at TEFAF Maastricht.

Standing out at Europe’s preeminent art fair is a Herculean task, each booth offering a curated array of artworks, ranging from museum quality masterpieces to rare works seen for the first (and perhaps last) time. In previous years, my eye was guided by many of the most grandiose (2020) and exquisite (2022). This year was an exceptional delight for cognoscentes of Modern and Contemporary.

The Parisian gallery showcased seven paintings by Buren, executed mostly in the Virgin Islands in 1965, in conversation with three stone sculptures by Kapoor. Carved in monolithic blocks of Italian alabaster and Belgian black granite, the sculptures evoke duality, symbolically and formally, forcing the viewer to confront polarities of the universe, and ponder the relationship between empty and inhabited spaces.

TEFAF-Maastricht 2023 closed yesterday, reporting robust sales to private collectors and international institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Patek Philippe Museum. It will be a joy to revisit many of these masterworks in permanent collections and special exhibitions, while recalling the range of moods cultivated by the booths.

I was whisked away on an otherworldly adventure via the Alon Zakaim Fine Art of London booth on March 9, the first of two Invitation-only Preview Days of the 36th edition of The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) at the Maastricht Exhibition & Conference Centre (MECC), when Marc Chagall’s haunting and sumptuous Le soleil rouge dans le ciel bleu (1969-1975) caught my eye. I could gaze for hours at this dreamy composition, pondering every detail mingling the Russian-French master’s personal narrative and Eastern European folklore.

As I surrendered to the dreamy oil on board, I realized how the theatrical lighting was enhancing my mythical and mystical journey. To be sure I was accurately observing and evaluating the meticulous manipulation of light, I asked my playwright/culture critic husband to concur that it was indeed brilliantly installed. It came as little surprise to learn that Gallery Director Ben Springett used a minimum of two LED lights for each picture, and usually one whiter bulb combined with one warmer yellowish bulb. The lights could be focused and then framed around the edges of each painting. The second light was often a little softer to add some ambient light to the frame while enhancing the brightness of the painting, It was a delicate balancing act, with as little light as possible spilling onto the wall to create the dramatic effect.

Careful curation fostered an intimate dialogue with some 40 works on paper, such as Henry Rousseau’s ultra-rare oil on board, La Citadelle (1893), and Jacques Villon’s Cubist drawing Étude pour Monsieur D. Lisant (1913), at the Rosenberg & Co. in New York booth.

“I never understood the sort of distinction of being an artist in his studio who grabs a piece of cardboard, a piece of paper, a piece or whatever and it doesn’t make it to canvas,” Marianne Rosenberg, the granddaughter of world-renowned Modern Art dealer Paul Rosenberg told me on March 10. “People will often think of papers as studies that are not necessarily their finished work.”

Rosenberg was permitted to hang six artworks that aren’t works on paper, underscoring the inherent and enduring value of the latter throughout art history.

“We’ve had a lot of very intense collectors come in and say (our booth) is very interesting,” Rosenberg said. “They’re on a mission, and they were asking questions. It was really gratifying.”


TEFAF-Maastricht Celebrates Stellar Sales To Museums And Private Collectors, Including Contemporary Blockbusters That Captured My Gaze During Previews

Large-Scale Contemporary Artworks Astound At TEFAF-Maastricht

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