What TEFAF tells us about collecting in the 21st century
Featuring more than 7,000 objects shown by 275 dealers from 20 countries, The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht (10-18 March) offers a snapshot of contemporary collecting trends. Here, seven experts offer their interpretations
How does this year’s fair reflect current collecting trends?
‘TEFAF Maastricht has always been broad in its offering and our dealer community presents art covering around 7,000 years of history. Tribal art has been present at the fair for many years, although last year a new section was created for it. TEFAF Design was first introduced in 2009, and this has grown enormously in terms of popularity.’
Does starting TEFAF New York signal a change in collecting?
‘With major collectors located throughout the world
, TEFAF Maastricht has long seen its audience as global. It has been crucial to develop a footprint in the United States.'
Which aspects of the fair are you most looking forward to?
‘It is exciting to see the fair just before it opens. After so much work there is an extraordinary moment, a mixture of calm and anticipation, immediately before the first collectors enter.’
How have collecting tastes changed across your time at the fair?
‘In principle, tastes have changed little: the exceptional is always desired. Of course, trends have their ups and downs. For example, there has been increased interest in antiquities, whereas that in 18th-century decorative arts has fallen.’
What are you exhibiting this year?
‘Every year we go through a rigorous selection process, following fundamental criteria: public interest, quality, good documentation, conservation and price. This year, I’m bringing a complete 15th-century altarpiece by the master Joan Figuera. That it is still possible, in the 21st century, to acquire a work of this historical and artistic value is incredible.’
Co-founder of Galerie Le Beau, a 20th-century design gallery in Brussels, exhibiting at TEFAF for the first time
Are you seeing new collecting areas that appeal to a 21st-century audience?
‘There has been a clear evolution in the taste of 20th-century design collectors, from Art Deco 40 years ago to French and Scandinavian design from the 1990s onwards. Now, the trend is for mixing periods and styles. Both North and South American cabinetmakers offer great design — Brazilian furniture has a radical, yet comfortable style.’
Which pieces are you exhibiting?
‘We have a selection of furniture and lighting from the 1940s to the 1980s, from Scandinavians Alvar Aalto, Poul Henningsen and Finn Juhl, to Brazilians Jose Zanine Caldas and Jorge Zalszupin, to Israeli free-spirit Ron Arad. My favourite is The Chieftain, a chair by Juhl, and probably his most important creation.’
Editor of Apollo magazine and chair of this year’s TEFAF Symposium
What are the forces driving collecting in the 21st century?
‘It’s true to say that collecting has become fashionable again, partly due to the globalisation of the art market — and the increased opportunity that brings for people around the world to view, learn about and set their heart on art.’
Can you discern any trends in what is being collected?
‘Traditional fields in the fine and decorative arts are probably still most popular in the American and European markets, although one big recent story has been the interest of Chinese buyers in acquiring Chinese art from Western markets. It would be good to see interest deepening in traditional fields — both geographically and among younger collectors — and not least because there are many great artworks available for less than you’d (probably) pay for a signed photograph of Jeff Koons.’
Is there a change in who is collecting Old Master Paintings?
‘While big-name works still appeal to collectors from around the world, there has been more interest from Asia in pictures that traditionally might not have appealed to that market.’
Are there more young collectors in the field?
‘There’s increased engagement among young people as museums and galleries develop digital platforms and social media. People are now doing their own research and the role of the dealer has changed. Some contemporary collectors and interior designers are being drawn to Old Masters, often choosing non-traditional works such as quirky medieval paintings.’
What does TEFAF offer that cannot be found online or in galleries?
‘You can browse informally, while meeting other collectors, curators and experts, which I really enjoy. In addition, I’m looking forward to my private passion for posting fashion and costume details from the works at TEFAF on Instagram.’
What do you look for when you visit TEFAF?
‘I look for art pieces that I can relate to. I love to go to fairs like TEFAF to inspire myself. I go to a lot of design fairs, but am more inspired by art and the art world. I know some of the gallery owners and artists at TEFAF too, which helps create that emotional connection.’
Is it exciting to work with a client’s existing collection?
‘It’s a great challenge. We just worked on a hotel in Maastricht — the Hotel Derlon, the owner of which has an enormous art collection. We integrated it in the new rooms of the hotel, which has worked out well.’
What new trends do you see emerging among collectors?
‘We’re seeing a variety of collectors. There are “aficionados” (passionate collectors, primarily interested in contemporary art) and “traditionalists” (reluctant internet buyers who favour more traditional categories). More recently, we’ve seen a new “tribe” of collector-investors, who appreciate art, but also look to unusual or rare objects as assets. They are less inclined to frequent art fairs or artists’ studios, and instead source information and buy online.’