TEFAF Maastricht is certainly a grand affair and upon entering into this dazzling display for antiques, design, modern art, paintings and works on paper, the atmosphere is one of an exclusive connoisseurs club, especially when one considers the stark contrasts between the glamourous insides (you are welcomed with flowers everywhere) and the industrial suburban surroundings of the Maastricht Exhibitions Events and Conventions Centre (MECC).

Since 1988, TEFAF has been held in March each year at this location and the non-profit foundation positions itself for an expertise and unsurpassed vetting process which makes it appealing to collectors, museums and art enthusiasts interested in art from across the ages. Time spent here at times felt like a revisiting of E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art, with 275 expert dealers from 21 countries spanning 7,000 years of art history, the quest was to find surprises in this vast presentation of Antiques, Rare Books, Modern and Contemporary displays of Jewellery, Design, Works on Paper and Ceramic objects.

For the third edition of TEFAF Curated with the theme ‘Le Grand Horizontale’, the fair invited Penelope Curtis, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum (ex-Tate Britain Director) as its guest curator. Curtis uses the recumbent figure as a point of departure to make connections across different time periods, artistic movements and mediums. This section presented works from the antiquities to the present which use employ the reclining nude both visibly and abstractly in explorations of life, death, figuration and abstraction.

We see familiar ‘horizontal’ nudes in the works of Ernst Wilhelm Nay, a relief of Mary Magdalene Reading and a complete absence of this form in Horizon a work co-created by English artist, David Tremlett and French artist, Michel Verjux that considers the horizontal line, water and light.

In the Works on Paper section, Franz Gertsch’s  woodcuts particularly stood out for their precision of execution and monumental formats reaching the limits possible in the production of the paper. Delicate monochrome works that are beautiful depictions of portraiture and landscapes.
First timer, Elisabetta Cipriani who was part of TEFAF Showcase presented virtuoso makers of thrilling jewellery as demonstrated in the Segmenti Ring by Giorgio Vigna, architecturally informed rings by Ifeanyi Oganwu. This display was unmissable with floating glass boxes with black rims popping out of the walls as if floating mid-air.

Another standout and new discovery was Japanese Gallery Sokyo with its presentation of stunning and poetic ceramics.
Roni Horn’s minimalist sculpture, Untitled (“I was arriving at Chacarita to catch a subway when I saw a little white dog die…”), 2013 at Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery and Korean gallery, Gana Art with Yi Hwan-Kwon’s Three Siblings (Elder Sister), 2015 that distorted the statuary of modern people made you stop and have a closer look, whilst London’s Adrian Sassoon displayed Felicity Aylieff’s Blue & White Monumental Lidded Vase, 2016. Aylieff has spent over three decades researching and making large-scale vessels bringing sculptural elements into objects that usually operate on a smaller scale.

TEFAF certainly has its audience. It’s a quite safe fair format that does exactly what it says on the tin. Perhaps more interesting for encounters with experimental ceramic and jewellery, other than these two strengths, its worlds away from other international art fairs that are more willing to rethink their format and engage more thoroughly with their audience through a more robust public programme.

by Jareh Das