It is the second world fair after Art Basel, and one of the most universal. After two empty years, it’s a dive into 7,000 years of human representations.
For Bernard de Grunne, Brussels specialist in tribal art, “TEFAF remains the best generalist fair in the world, even if this year, covid and Poutine have postponed it at a time when many buyers and collectors are already in summer posture at other latitudes”. For some galleries, the fairs constitute three-quarters of their annual turnover, but he qualifies: “This market has no established rules: we will sell an object for 800,000 euros one year, three objects for 50,000 euros another.” For tribal art, the market is played in Europe, and secondarily in the United States, Asian or South American buyers can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
“The first choice remains Art Basel (which has just closed, editor’s note). They are not necessarily the same artists, and the price levels here, at TEFAF, are more accessible.”
The Applicat-Prazan gallery, in Paris, essentially centered on the Second School of Paris, a major and eclectic movement of the mid-20th centurye century (including Appel, Bazaine, Dubuffet, Hélion, Hartung) will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2023. Franck Prazan judges that the first choice remains Art Basel (which has just closed, editor’s note). “These are not necessarily the same artists, and the price levels here are more accessible.” At TEFAF, the Karel Appel that he proposes is not of the same register as the one he exhibited at Art Basel (“Big bird flying over the city”, 1950). “If we choose a Masson for Art Basel, he fits between the two periods of exile in Spain and the United States, between 1934 and 1944”, and that of TEFAF, “Delirium of Penthesilea” (1960) is later. I would probably not have shown Charchoune (“Good Advice”1951) in Basel, or rather a purist or analytical painting.” Finally, one of the “Stones” from Magnelli to TEFAF yields it to one of the nineteen “Lyrical Explosion” (1918) offered at Art Basel. One sells for 480,000 euros, the other “several million”.
TEFAF, he concludes, addresses a natural basin located in one of the richest regions of the world, encompassing the Netherlands, the greater Rhineland, while Art Basel is global.
Parisian in Brussels
Another Parisian, but in Brussels, David Lévy presents a two-sided Simon Hantaï (1973), on the back, bright colors, on the front, a study from 1970, two-tone. A 1948 Picabia (“The Magic of Chance“) faces him. “Picabia traversed from musicalism to cubism, hyperrealism inspired by advertising and photography, before the surrealism of the 1940s. His Max Ernst (“Sea and Moon”, 1925) is part of the frottage and scraping experiments: “While on vacation in Pornic, in Brittany, he draws on a sheet on the floor and sees the wood imprinted as a watermark.” He makes a technique out of it, makes combs to reproduce the veins and adds a silver tin plate to the canvas to reproduce the undulations of the sea lit by a moon as round as a photographic lens. David Lévy is not exhibiting at Art Basel, but wants to be at Art Basel Paris in the fall of 2022, which will succeed the FIAC, in a post-Brexit context which puts Paris in a strong position.
Chinese in London and Londoner in the Beguinage
“With historic London galleries on Old Bond Street becoming fashion boutiques, Brussels undeniably has a card to play.”
Two philo-Asian Englishmen face each other in their driveway in Maastricht. The first, Michael Goodhuis, presents the exceptional Wei Ligang, born in 1964, who, in his eyes, is transforming modern Chinese culture. “Renowned calligrapher, physicist, mathematician, one detects in his work the vestiges of calligraphic characters which change into play of abstract forms, where he injects color, to form columns of trembling circles (‘Emerald Peacock B’, 2018, and ‘Red Blue Peacock’, 2017). By untying the famous Chinese line, which becomes flexible and free, he thus reaches a wider audience.” His other line of research leads him to revisit the classic patterns of Han textiles from the IIe century before our eraHan Brocade”2018), which evoke the monumental color flows of the Englishman Ian Davenport.
“After a few decades in London, I got bored, I looked towards New York, Paris, the prices deterred me, and here I am in Brussels.”
Gregg Baker, who runs the Saturday Square gallery, behind Saint-Jean Baptiste au Béguinage, exhibits a graceful wooden figure of Jizō Bosatsu, carrying a thin stick (Japan XIIIe century). “After a few decades in London, I got bored, I looked to New York, Paris, the prices put me off, and here I am in Brussels, where my wife and I met and got engaged. I know the Asian arts community.” Before Brexit, he moved his stock to a single space “where I can accommodate gallery and office by reducing my expenses by 75%, in the midst of a fraternity of collectors. My clients are mostly outside the UK, my balance point increasingly in Europe. With historic London galleries on Old Bond Street becoming fashion boutiques, Brussels undeniably has a card to play.”