Sunday, 25 March 2012

A fine art fair

I must have spent well over a million euros on Friday. In thought that is. Sadly.

Now I do tend to spend virtual dineros more often (mostly while drooling over great houses), but this was on a trip to Maastricht. Ah, lovely old Maastricht. So very rich in history and culture. They do a rather nice type of tart there as well. And an excellent beef stew. I didn't go to Maastricht to stuff my face though - I was going on my annual visit to TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair.

This is really the crème de la crème, possibly even the crème brûlée of art fairs. An opinion that is shared by quite a few millionaires if the number of private jets landing at the local airport is anything to go by. Not to mention the Old Money Parade. But even if your purse is slightly smaller - like mine - it's still well worth a visit. Whatever tickles your fancy in the field of art and antiques, chances are you'll find it here. Displayed to perfection I might add.

Some stands are kept deceptively simple, with dramatic black or white walls, highlighting only a few choice pieces. Art - haute cuisine style. But you can also find the gloriously over the top rococo boudoir here, complete with gilt chandeliers and mirrors and curvy swirly bits. Or something that looks like a modern-day version of the Diogenes Club. Quite liked that one actually. And I was oddly taken with the curiosity cabinet an Austrian dealer came up with this year - complete with floating dead things in glass containers and a rather saucy coco de mer taking pride of place. So there you have it: every stand takes you to another period and another world. I could just picture Joséphine de Beauharnais writing a passionate billet doux in an Empire style room. Possibly because it featured armchairs that were once made for her - plus an enormous coronation portrait of Napoleon. The little corporal* was trying his best to look fierce and manly. I'm afraid the cringe-worthy outfit had rather the opposite effect. 

In all, going to TEFAF rather feels like visiting a museum - one with the most diverse collection in the world. Of course unlike in a museum, everything you see here is up for grabs. Just one tiny snag: you probably already guessed it but you do need rather deep pockets. In some cases journey to the centre of the world type deep. Fancy a nice Henry Moore? You can take one home for a mere €27 million. If you don't want to spend all that much, you can buy a genuine Van Gogh for €3 million. A trifle in comparison. Not one of his most appealing works though if you ask me. It's the potato harvesters. Blasphemous for a Dutch person to say it, but: meh.

Personally I always spend the longest time at the classical antiquities. I used to have this dream of becoming a female Indiana Jones. NOT because of the whip. Interestingly enough, this section always has some items that, although incredibly old and breathtakingly beautiful, are not entirely out of reach. I once stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted the most gorgeous faience scarab. It was of the deepest turquoise, with separate wings, perfect in every intricate detail. It not only called my name, it crooned to me Sinatra style. In spite of me not being overly fond of real-life creepy crawlies. We are talking big beetle. Amazingly, for all its beauty, the price was slightly under what was then my monthly net salary. I ended up being practical and sensible and exceedingly dull and responsible and not buying it. Of course the following year, as I stood gazing at a display of not quite so gorgeous scarabs in the British Museum, I mentally kicked myself. Hard. On the plus side - I did escape the curse of the mummy.

And now TEFAF is all over for another year, leaving me to fantasize what it would be like to go there with unlimited resources and buy everything I never knew I needed desperately. Yes, chances are I would end up with quite an eclectic mix, if I may use an increasingly popular word. I'm not daunted by the prospect. There might be a bit of John Soane in me after all. Plus, if I would really be filthy rich I could afford to buy me a mansion big enough to house all of my pretties. Plus a hired help. For now, I need to be content with doing a spot of dreaming and drooling while browsing the TEFAF app (they move with the times) or leafing through the brochures. Speaking of which: don't you agree the head in the first picture looks amazingly like Elvis? The King not only lives - he time travels.

* I have it on good authority that the little corporal wasn't actually that small. Not that Stephen Fry can't get it wrong of course.


  1. Replies
    1. You and Mr LC would have loved it Deb - perhaps it's time to plan a little tour of Europe, say next spring? ;-)

  2. How come I missed this post?
    I think I would have love this place. There is a little antique shop just the other side of the road from my shop with the most incredible treasures. Some are part of a private collection, others are for sale. This guy travels all over europe to buy pieces for his shop - what a wonderful and interesting life he must have! I also adore the black Ferrari he parks near my window every now and then.
    There have been times when my wallet was fuller that i gazed at one piece for hours asking myself 'should I get in? Should I buy it?' I never bought anything and don't regret it, but window shopping in this places is my favorite hobby.
    And I love love love mr Stephen Fry.

    1. I'm pretty sure you and I would have been plotting grand schemes to get our fingers of some of those treasures had we been there together!

      There are so many items at TEFAF with a remarkable story behind it. I should just pick 10 items and then write a book on their 'life', the places they've been, the events they witnessed, the people who once made them, owned them or admired them.

      That shop sounds like my kind of place! There's a shop here in town that I used to call 'Aladdin's Cave', because it was just so full of STUFF. You could find true hidden gems there. Actually, I've still got a round art deco table in my living room that I bought there at a great price. And a couple of very dainty old cups and saucers. Now the owner has taken on a new approach, tidied up the store (a great old building with a creaking old wooden mezzanine and a scary spiral staircase - I'm always wondering when the place is going to fall apart) and is displaying less items against a less dramatic background. It's still a lovely store, but some of the old magic is gone I have to say. Prices have gone up tremendously though. But yes, the owner travels all over Europe (in an old van, not a Ferrari) to gather more treasures to take home with him. What a life!

      Oh yes, Mr Fry is one of a kind. And I mean that lovingly!


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