In times of global economic turbulence, art fairs are being put to the test. While last year reports of top sales suggested a seemingly endless growth in contemporary art, the era of a red-hot, lifestyle-oriented market seems to be gone for good. Yet while the mood and sales remained cautious at the most important art fairs such as Frieze in London, Art Basel in Miami, and the New York Armory Show, the TEFAF in the Dutch city of Maastricht was able to defend its title as the highest-class fair for arts and antiquities in the world. Shortly before the fair closed, its organizers announced: "TEFAF confirms art market remains solid."
Equally optimistic was the design of the VIP Lounge of Deutsche Bank, which sponsored TEFAF once again this year. The bright, open space presented a selection of the works from the Deutsche Bank Collection scheduled to be given over to the Städel Museum in Frankfurt in 2011. Works by artists the likes of Georg Baselitz, Imi Knoebel, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter were hung in clusters on the lounge’s wood-paneled walls. Closely grouped pictures alternated with open areas, echoing the rhythms of the modernist wall design. The high-caliber paintings invited guests on an evocative journey through German post-war modernism. On the opening day of the fair, guests were greeted by Friedhelm Hütte, Global Head Deutsche Bank Art, while Städel Director Max Hollein paid tribute to the significance of the works from the bank collection for the museum’s continuing image. In addition, the lounge once again provided a context for Deutsche Bank’s traditional art market discussions, in which renowned experts provide information on current developments and trends.
On the opening day, nearly 10,000 visitors entered through the newly designed entrance area to the fair, which combined cool design with lavish arrangements of thousands of roses. At TEFAF, "business as usual" stands for the extreme. Thus, more than 150 museum directors arrived from all over the world. Although this year around thirty fewer private jets landed at the Aachen-Maastricht Airport than in 2008, over the first three days more than one hundred of these high-class accessories were counted. Amidst the finger food and champagne, important sales were made already on the opening night: thus, for instance, at Konrad O. Bernheimer/Colnaghi (Munich/ London), dealer in Old Masters, the 1610 Portrait of a Young Man by Peter Paul Rubens changed owners for five million Euros. Yet the turbulence on the market can also be seen at TEFAF—primarily, however, in the area of contemporary art. Important galleries like Jablonka (Berlin/Cologne), Waddington (London), and Moeller Fine Art (New York) stayed away, while in the contemporary sector controversial positions were clearly avoided. Hauser & Wirth, for instance, showed Louise Bourgeois’ early columns from the forties and fifties alongside Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures. This went over very well: already at the opening, four of Bourgeois’ works were sold at prices ranging from 950,000 to 1.3 million dollars.