Art Out: TEFAF 2018 - PARK AVENUE ARMORY
By Belle McIntyre
For all of you who felt overwhelmed, exhausted and drained by the buzzy hipness and boundary-pushing hotness of the art at FRIEZE (matched by the temperature under the tent), there was an antidote. The European Fine Art Fair known as TEFAF is the anti-Frieze art fair. You could be forgiven for not being familiar with this entity. TEFAF was founded in 1988 in Maastricht, the Netherlands and is widely regarded as the most venerable of art fairs, based on the consistently high quality of the work, scrupulously vetted and meticulously curated with a sophisticated eye. TEFAF is new to New York, their debut was 2016 and they have returned with two shows a year. The fall show focuses on antiquities, fine and decorative art until 1920. The Spring show consists of modern and contemporary art and design. There are 90 galleries from 13 countries, mostly European which feels fresh to us. Although this year there are about 10 familiar New York galleries participating for the first time.
One of the first things you notice upon entering is how completely different the Armory feels. The Dutch designer Tom Postma, who has has designed all of the TEFAF shows at the Armory transforms the gloomy place miraculously. Using architectural sleights of hand and discreet enhanced lighting he has managed to make the ornate dark wood paneled interiors with low lighting from antique fixtures look relatively sleek, open and light. By masking some of the ornate details it allows the art to be advantageously displayed. There are the huge signature suspended floral “chandeliers” which hang above the drill hall booths - a nod to the floral tradition of the Netherlands. The individual stands are so elaborately designed that they appear to be fully finished rooms.
One of the most glamorous is Galerie Gmurzynska which has a raised floor which allowed them to create a sunken circular seating area with cushioned banquets from which to view the work, which included two dramatic Tom Wesselman sculptures, “Smoker #5” and “Smoking Cigarette #1”, which makes it feel slightly decadent. Di Donna Gallery has a selection from its current show in their New York gallery called “Moon Dancers” which is a group of Yup’ik masks
from the American northwest combined with surrealist paintings by well-known artist like Max Ernst, Picabia and Man Ray. It is arrestingly installed in a midnight blue room which sets off the fascinating conversation between the unconnected but very related works of art. The jewelry of Taffin, Hemmerle and Reza is is unique and original - often one of a kind.
Kohn Gallery showed some of Wallace Berman’s negative Verifax collages, which are an endlessly fascinating format for this prolific artist who mixed media in new and unexpected ways. Also on view at Kohn are gelatin silver portraits by Dennis Hopper. Skarstedt Gallery showed Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince’s “Three Women Looking in the Same Direction”
from 1980. There was an arresting Michaelangelo Pistoletto of a life-size woman facing away at Augustine Luhring which caused me to go up close to make sure of what it was since it looked like a woman who might have been at the art fair looking at work. Hans Kraus brought part of his huge collection of vintage photography, which always rewards close inspection.
TEFAF reeks of luxury in a good way. No expense has been spared. There are elegant places to eat and interesting food, and you do not feel hassled or frantic. The viewer is not crowded and neither is the art, which is still paramount, housed in elegant, refined spaces. It makes those of us who were busy embracing the new re-think the appeal of the Park Avenue Armory.