9 Rarities Appearing at a New York Art Fair’s Debut
Say “Maastricht” to anyone in a certain precinct of the art world and they will know you are talking about TEFAF Maastricht, the grande dame of art fairs, specializing in extremely high-end art and antiques. Now comes TEFAF New York, a new fair scheduled to appear twice a year at the Park Avenue Armory, in the fall and the spring, and repeat that museum-quality level.
The fair’s fall debut has accomplished this task. With 94 dealers from 13 countries — many of whom have never shown in New York or haven’t shown here in years — the fair fills the 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall and includes art, antiquities and furniture from around the globe. Fifteen period rooms on the second floor of the Armory expand the fair’s footprint into other realms. Following are some highlights.
DANIEL CROUCH One of the most spectacular objects at the fair, at Daniel Crouch Rare Books, is a map of the known world created in Genoa, Italy, in 1531. More than six feet long and painted with liquid gold, lapis lazuli and watercolor on vellum (that is, six goatskins), it was made and signed by the Genoese cartographer Vesconte Maggiolo, who may have sailed with Verrazzano. Most important, it is the first extant map to show New York Harbor. Camels, elephants, lions, unicorns, dragons and cannibals are also used to describe different continents and locales.
SAFANI Another marvel, the Egyptian sarcophagus of the Princess Sopdet-em-Haawt from around 828 to 712 B.C. is at Safani Gallery. The sarcophagus, probably from the Theban necropolis at Sheikh Abd-el Qurna in Northern Egypt, came to France in the early 19th century after the Napoleonic campaigns in Egypt. Hieroglyphs are painted on a bright yellow ground inside the sarcophagus, although the mummified body of the princess was removed sometime before it reached France — and TEFAF.
ALBRICHT Every fair should have a newly discovered van Gogh painting, as TEFAF does. The one here was unearthed after nearly 50 years in a private collection by the Dutch gallery Kunstgalerij Albricht. Painted in The Hague in 1883, when van Gogh still thought of being a clergyman rather than a painter, the small canvas features the New Church of The Hague surrounded by the rust-colored roofs of houses in the foreground.
DIDIER CLAES Masks and sculptural figures from the Congo region, very much like those that inspired Picasso, are featured in the second-floor room of Galerie Didier Claes. The showcase figure here is a male ancestral figure from the Hemba tribe of Niembo in the Congo, carved in dark wood with a patina. Facing forward with his hands on his belly, the hair on the back of his head shows off his elaborate coiffure.
VANDERVEN Another commanding male figure stands guard at Vanderven Oriental Art. This one is also carved in wood but painted and decorated with plaster and glass inlaid eyes. It depicts the Buddhist deity Wetuo Pusa, who fought demons to retrieve the Book of Wisdom after the Buddha’s death. The figure is from the early Ming dynasty (14th to 15th century) in China and likely came from a temple.
PHOENIX The Greco-Roman world is covered in the booth at Phoenix Ancient Art, which is tricked out to look like the interior of the Pantheon in Rome. The central work in Phoenix’s booth is also a figurative sculpture: a svelte Aphrodite carved in marble from the 1st century B.C. to the 1st century A.D. whose arms were restored at some point, then removed for authenticity’s sake, which makes her look a bit like the Venus de Milo.
RONALD PHILLIPS Two playful dolphin tables made by Marsh and Tatham — that is, with gilded aquatic mammals roiling around their bases — are at Ronald Phillips. The 19th-century tables were made for Bridgewater House in London, an early public art gallery, and were for many years in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland.
BÖHLER/BLUMKA/LAUE Upstairs in the newly reopened period rooms, three dealers — Julius Böhler, Blumka Gallery and Georg Laue — have teamed up to create a Wunderkammer, or a cabinet of curiosities, even using a 17th-century painting of the subject by Georg Hinz in the Hamburger Kunsthalle as their guide. The collection inside the chamber includes an amber chess set, a bronze model for a Renaissance equestrian monument and a playful jesting figure from a fountain among other curiosities.
BERNARD GOLDBERG A musical portrait, by the Ashcan School painter John Sloan, is at Bernard Goldberg Fine Arts. “Yolande Singing” (1909) features Sloan’s favorite model, Yolande Bugbee (the painter hated her common-sounding last name), standing with flushed cheeks in a gaslit room, holding a page of sheet music. The irony is that Ms. Bugbee couldn’t sing at all. And yet she was a vivacious young woman at another moment in American history when the future seemed to be female.