The Art World Historian on TEFAF

The Art World historian on TAFAF and broadcaster Bendor Grosvenor calls on Tefaf, Maastricht “the heaviest in the world”. This month, 189 of the world’s leading specialists in fine and decorative art – from paintings by the old masters to designs from the 20th century – gather through the objects in the fair. They form the last line of defense, after the dealers and the Art Loss Register have done their work, on authenticity, origin and state.


The Art World historian

The Art World historian

“We judge ‘beef on the hoof'”, says Edgar Peters Bowron, the head of the 23 experts from the French, Italian, Spanish and British Old Master paintings commission. He is typical of the caliber: formerly curator of European paintings at the………..>

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, his resume featured leading roles at the National Gallery of Art at Washington, DC and Harvard Art Museums in Massachusetts. “You have to have the experience of constantly viewing and handling paintings over the years, you need a kind of sixth sense and the confidence to know which questions to ask,” he says.



We judge ‘beef on the hoof’ EDGAR PETERS BOWRON / Art World /

The dealers only have three days – from the Saturday to the Monday before the opening of the fair on Thursday – to prepare their stand. The high profile of the event, the value of the work involved, the costs of attending and the short lead time ensure that the tensions can rise high. To ensure that they do not affect the control, dealers leave their stand before the process starts.

The buoys start first on Tuesday. “There were about 200 people, and I did not know anybody in my committee,” says Emily Stoehrer, the curator of jewels at the Boston Fine Arts Museum, who recalled her first test experience with Tefaf. “The director gives a statement, and then it’s a” go “, almost like a race, it was pretty overwhelming.”

The dyers are divided into specialized groups and, systematically with the guidelines of -TEFAF- for each field, work systematically through the fair. “We get the object list and the keys to the cases, we check the labeling and authenticity and we spend a lot of time on cross-checking brands,” says Stoehrer. “And we are careful with the integrity of pieces: jewelry can be disassembled and otherwise made.Tefaf does not want that kind of thing on the stock market.”


The Art World historian

The Art World historian

Sealed notes are left to dealers who request further information, who request that items are re-labeled or, in extreme cases, reject a work of art from the fair. It is “intense”, says Stoehrer. The painters are spread over two hotels and breakfast, lunch and dinner are best for two days. “Immersing in your colleagues in this way is a dream, but it is also a huge responsibility,” she says.

Most specialists come from museums, but in some areas the experts are in trade. Simon Andrews is a specialist at Christie’s and the head of the committee of six applied arts and design dyers. He is trained as a furniture restorer, so he has practical experience with construction, materials and techniques. He says that understanding the market is also essential.

“One of the reliable indicators of indebtedness in the art market is the appearance of similar objects at the same time,” he says. “Our job at Tefaf is a lot easier because the people we do business with are at the top, smaller exhibits can be more challenging because you are exposed to objects from a large number of sources, and not to the benchmarks of importance that we would see on a fair like this. ”

On Wednesday at 3 pm the main check is over and the job process starts. Andrews says this is a civilized business. “Diplomacy is the key,” he says. “We keep our thoughts between us [the commission, the stock exchange and the dealer], there is no banter, no useless chat, we respect the dealers’ dedication by dealing with them with discretion.”

But things can and will be loaded. “I went to restaurants with [Old Master] traders after screening in restaurants and the temperature has dropped a few degrees”, says Peters Bowron – perhaps not surprisingly in a field where a small change in attribution can mean a price difference of hundreds. thousands of dollars. “But ultimately we do our best to act on behalf of visitors and buyers at the fair, so that they can look at photos with confidence.”


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