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European art fair TEFAF opens in Maastricht

Europe's premier art fair, TEFAF, has opened in Maastricht, expecting 75,000 visitors over the next week. Changing times in the art buying world mean spinoff fairs in New York are being added to the annual offer.

The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in the small Dutch town of Maastricht opened its doors for the 29th time on Friday with 35,000 works on display.

Spanning 7,000 years of art history, the objects have been inspected by 170 experts and include an early, previously unknown painting by Dutch master Rembrandt from the 1620s to paintings by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, along with a hitherto unknown, early 15th century illuminated manuscript by the Limbourg Brothers with an asking price of 12 million euros ($13.3 million).

TEFAF began in 1975 as a fair for dealers in Old Masters. That tradition has continued with museum representatives looking for potential acquisitions.

With the 270 art and antique dealers from twenty countries, the fair's umbrella organization, the European Fine Art Foundation has also released its annual Art Market Report.

The report serves as the art industry's only comprehensive overview of transactions. It said global sales of art declined nearly 7 percent, to $63.8 billion in 2015 from $68.2 billion in 2014.

The TEFAF study describes the art market in 2015 as "highly polarized," with most of the value in sales of postwar, contemporary and modern art at "the very highest price levels."

Overall sales in Britain declined 9 percent in the past year, and in China by 23 percent. Sales in America increased 4 percent to $27.3 billion, representing 43 percent of the global value.

New York offshoots

In response to the growing dominance of American collectors and museums, TEFAF announced last month that it would be holding two "mini Maastrichts" in New York at the Park Avenue Armory.

TEFAF New York Fall will focus on more historic works and open in October. TEFAF New York Spring will be a showcase for modern art and design. It is scheduled for May 2017. Both events will include about 80 to 90 exhibitors.

Rembrandt and Uccello

One of a series of panel paintings of the senses by Rembrandt is being shown by Paris dealership Galerie Talabardon & Gautier. "Smell," or as it is also known, "The Unconscious Patient," was painted in the 1620s when Rembrandt was still a teenager. The painting is not available for sale.

It was bought in September by the French dealers at an auction in New Jersey before being identified as an early Rembrandt and sold to the American billionaire Thomas S. Kaplan for about $2 million, according to a dealer.

Also turning heads in Maastricht was a 15th-century gold-ground painting of the crucifixion by Florentine artist Paolo Uccello. It was shown by the London dealers Thomas Agnew's with a price tag of 5.5 million euros.

The fair continues until Sunday March 20.

jm/rc (EFE, TEFAF)

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