Back in March 2020, The European Fine Art Foundation’s annual fair was one of the earliest casualties of Covid-19. While, at the time, only one exhibitor was known to have contracted the illness, it would be over two years before the esteemed art fair—which brings together pre-eminent dealers of everything from Old Master paintings to 20th-century furniture—returned to its home base in the quaint Dutch town of Maastricht. Last week, TEFAF made its comeback and collectors swarmed, eager to make up for lost time.
What sets TEFAF apart from other outings on the international art circuit is the variety of its exhibitors (from blue-chip contemporary galleries like White Cube to jewelers like Hemmerle and specialists in everything from illuminated manuscripts to Japanese armor) and its stringent vetting process. It is a fair for true collectors, those who aren’t simply interested in what’s buzzy but are astute about, say, 16th-century Flemish tapestries or French Art Deco design. We were on the ground for the fair’s preview day and the enthusiasm was palpable—there were several noted collectors along with representatives from the Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre and some 90 other heavy-hitting institutions all eagerly zipping from booth to booth.
Certainly, there was an abundance of finds to be had. A handful of exceptional pieces garnered the most attention, such as a recently rediscovered Jan Lievens drawing that had been missing since 1888, an early painting by Gustave Courbet and a work from Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Net series. But, then again, everything on display was exceptional—and some of the best discoveries were those that weren’t headliners. Here are eight of the more idiosyncratic treasures that caught our eye.