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Maastricht Fine Arts Fair '91: Post-Gulf War optimism, with good paintings’ sales

Thumbs down for the modern and contemporary paintings section

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With 134 exhibitors, thirty-seven of them newcomers, and a Textura section bolstered by the arrival of the five top-notch specialists, this year’s vast Maastricht Fine Arts Fair, held from 9 to 17 March, provided the international art world with a welcome awakening from the commercial anaesthesia of its Gulf War winter. Twenty-five percent more visitors came to the opening, and business was brisk, particularly in the area of Dutch paintings and of nice, but not important silver and ceramics.

Franz Bausback from Mannheim fronted his stand with an intricate seventeenth-century Mogul mille-fleurs carpet from Northern India and Michael Franses of London’s The Textile Gallery gave Bolivian textiles their first ever airing in Maastricht. The object of much admiration on the stand of Galerie Kailash from Antwerp was an eighteenth-century Kenya kilim from Central Anatolia in wool warp and wool and cotton weft.

The quality of the modern and contemporary paintings section was worse than mediocre this year, and it sparked off debate among other participants as to whether it was really a boon having it in the Fair. The paintings, drawings and prints section, meanwhile, housed and abundance of older works, including many Flemish still lifes and village scenes at tempting middle range prices: Rafael Valls Ltd brought no fewer than 126 works, predominantly high quality Dutch and Flemish, from London.

Verner Amell from London, sharing a stand with New York’s Newhouse galleries, showed the best publicised painting of the fair, the rare and unusually large oil on copper landscape of 1610 by Jan Brueghel the Elder, sold by Sotheby’s in New York in June of last year.

Alongside more decorative works by artists such as Joseph Vernet and Jean-François de Troy, Bruno Meissner of Zurich displayed an imposing and powerful canvas by Mathaus Stomer, “The pilgrim of Emmaus”.

Jean Max Tassel from Paris, a newcomer to Maastricht, brought along a selection of his sixteenth-to eighteenth-century Northern School, Italian and French works,and fronted his stand with a magnificent flower study by the seventeenth-century Spanish painter Juan de Arellano which he hopes will interest a museum.

Bob Haboldt of Paris and New York angled for a local German taste, and, he hoped, for a local German museum, with a small oil sketch of 1739 by Pittoni for the “Martyrdom of Saint Stephen” in the church in Diessen in Bavaria.

Galerie Neuse from Bremen tried a similar ploy to catch an expert, and possibly an acquisitive curator, with their magnificent alabaster low relief sculpture of Adam and Eve, dated about 1560, and the best such piece to have been seen on the market in thirty years. Directors Volker Wurster and Achim Neuse were not sure whether the sculpture was from Fontainebleu, Northern Italy or Flanders. But they were confident of its price tag: DM 2.8 million.

Another major work dominated the stand of Van Aalst Kunst und Antiek from Breda in Holland: a 2.73m high baroque mirror frame in fuitwood by the Venetian sculptor Andrea Brustolon. The Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice is thinking of buying it with a little financial help from the Italian Ministry of Culture.

London’s Mark Gallery and Linda Wrigglesworth presented their respective specialities of Russian icons and Chinese clothes and fabrics. Galerie Glass of Essen, meanwhile, devoted their stand entirely to a collection of handsome seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch embossed leather panels, screens and wall hangings, at prices from DM28,000 to 90,000.

Visitors at Maastricht heard the ticking from a lot of clocks, too, on the stands of Martie Orijns from Breda, and Stender from Amsterdam. Mentink and Ropoet from Vught showed a sideboard size clock built in 1849 to the specificationof a priest, comprising no fewer than eighteen dials. They also boasted one of the first ever travelling clocks, a three-inch diameter German timepiece of 1530,and a very early and beautifully engraved bracket clock, also German, of 1560.

There was relatively little furniture at Maastricht—at least, in comparison to furniture-heavy fairs like the Paris Biennale. But Prinz and Moller from Noderstedt organised a stand comprising outstanding pieces of Biedermeier.

Spectacular medieval and Renaissance tapestries and art objects were presented by specialists Bernard Blondeel and Jan DIrven of Antwerp, while Patrick Reijgersberg from Haarlem showed medieval German stoneware, pewter, jewellery.

Nicolas and Alexis Kugel from Paris gave pride of place on their stand of continental silver to eighteenth-century boxes from all over Europe. Axel Vervoordt, who works from home, which is a moated castle outside Antwerp, hung his stand with early eighteenth-century Italian doors and floored it with Versailles parquet.

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