TEFAF Photo Diary: 25 Things to See at the European Fine Art Fair

At the TEFAF stand of Tornabuoni Arte, Alighero Boetti’s “Mappa del Mundo” (1980), viewed through tulips. (All photos: UnBeige)

Armory Week has come and gone in New Amsterdam, but the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) is just beginning in the Dutch town of Maastricht. Gluttons for masterpieces, we decided to take a field trip. With some 265 exhibiting art and antiques dealers, the 26th edition of the fair opened to the public today after a vernissage that, in the words of a colleague, “makes Art Basel look like a slum”–all savvy lighting, high ceilings, and spacious aisles bursting with tulips, thanks to fair designer Tom Postma.

TEFAF has long been a must for collectors of Old Masters and antiques, and in recent years has boosted its offerings in modern and contemporary art, design, and photography. Were the fair crass enough to have a slogan, it would be “where the museums shop.” We arrived in Maastricht and, fortfied with stroopwafels, set out to see works spanning 6,000 years of history. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that the fair runs through March 24. Here are 25 of our early favorites.

The multilayered stand of Axel Vervoodt. We couldn’t muster the courage to ask him whether he receives a monthly royalty check from Restoration Hardware.

Wartski of London offers (for six figures) the shot that almost killed Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Fired–maybe accidentally, maybe as an assassination attempt–in 1906, the lead pellet was mounted in gold by Carl Fabergé and presented to the tsar as a creepy souvenir.

Among the standouts in the design section of the fair: a 1921 Wiener Werkstatte table lamp by Dagobert Peche (at Bel Etage, Wolfgang Bauer, Vienna) and a preppy combination of works by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (at Galerie Ulrich Fiedler).

Claude Lalanne‘s “Grand Lapin de Victoire” (2001) stands sentry at the Ben Brown Fine Arts stand and keeps an eye on the 1984 Basquiat across the way, at Tornabuoni Arte.

At the stand of Robert Hall, bottles, bottles everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

Mooving right along. An anatomical model of a cow from late 19th/early 20th century Bavaria (at Otto von Mitzlaff) and the MINI concept car designed in 2012 by Schotten & Baijings.

Times Square, TEFAF style, glimpsed through bronze spheres by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

Vanitas rules at TEFAF, even in the books and manuscripts section. Here, first editions from Shapero Rare Books, which also plays to the home team with a bouquet of Basil Besler‘s tulip engravings from 1713.

We knew we’d been walking the fair too long when we thought we saw Paul McCartney in Matthias Stomer‘s “The Feast of Absalom” (detail shown here), at Johnny Van Haeften.

State of the art. Michael Eden‘s 3D-printed “Bloom” vases made in 2012 and 2011 (at Adrian Sassoon) and centuries-old turned ivory candlesticks and art objects (at Galerie Neuse).

Because you can never have too many diamond-encrusted feathers. This one is by Van Cleef and Arpels, circa 1928 (at Wartski).

Blow their minds on Antiques Roadshow with your toothpick holder in the form of a porcupine, made circa 1798-1809 by Jean Baptiste Claude Odiot (at Galerie Neuse). Chuckle to yourself whilst jotting down their value estimate with one of your fancy pencils.

The ladies at Charles Ede Ltd. wouldn’t let us try on this Greek helmet of Corinthian type, made from a single sheet of hammered bronze, dating from the early 6th century BC. We suspect the original wearer was related to Marvin the Martian; the gallery wasn’t familiar with his work.

The spooky stand of Hamiltons Gallery shows the work of Irving Penn in a darkened space. Spotlights illuminate these photos of hippo and camel skulls, part of a series of animal crania Penn photographed at Prague’s Narodni Museum in 1986.

The best American furniture is being showcased by Paris gallery Eric Philippe. Here, a 1965 bench by Philip and Kelvin Laverne.

Marlborough’s one-two punch. From left, Manolo Valdes‘ “Retrato en blanco y rojo” and Koen Van Den Broek‘s “Pine Ave #4” (both 2012).

Wear your Alex Katz on your sleeve. At Didier, “Sunny” (1992) shines in 18-carat gold with a coral tongue and black onyx eyes.