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What Did Collectors Look at during TEFAF Online?

Some of the most-viewed artworks presented during the first digital fair
  Dec 18, 2020

This Greek helmet, custom made by the bronze smith for a particular individual, survives in a remarkable state of preservation. The quality of workmanship along with its blue-green patination and dynamic shape achieve a balance between abstract and natural, organic form. While this helmet belongs to a group designated as Corinthian, the production of these helmets was not limited to the city-state of Corinth but extended throughout Greece and its western colonies. The earliest examples of around 600 B.C. are functional and practical, resembling deep sea diving bells. Their simple shapes gradually gave way to more graceful, refined and ceremonial forms.

Armor is known to have been dedicated to the gods, particularly Athena and Ares, and left as offerings at temples. Ceremonial and decorative armor was also deposited as grave goods of warriors or prominent male citizens. The quality and condition of this helmet suggest it was most likely dedicated to a god by a prominent Greek citizen.

Made to be viewed from all sides, this refined Court Cabinet is one of the few extant works by the Augsburg goldsmith Boas Ulrich (master 1576-1623). Its exterior is informed by the contrast between the elegant ebony veneer and the silver plaquettes, some of which are gilt.

In the oval medallion decorating the front, the hall mark of Augsburg and the master mark VB are prominently struck on the left and right side of the tree depicted in the center. These marks indicate that the elaborated silver plaquettes and fittings for the Court Cabinet were made in Augsburg by the master goldsmith Ulrich between 1590 and 1594. The central silver relief represents Venus and Cupid at Vulcan’s forge – a popular court subject, that indicates this cabinet was most probably intended as a wedding present.

This painting represents an important addition to the catalogue of Baroque artist Niccolò Tornioli (1606-1651), who created his earliest works in the wake of Caravaggesque master Rutilio Manetti. Endowed with a sense of mystery and monumental quietness, this arresting painting depicts an unusual subject. The two protagonists have been traditionally read as Saint John the Baptist and Christ, though several clues suggest they should be identified as the Saints Philip and James.

The elderly man on the left, almost twice as old as John the Baptist at the time of his beheading, holds a cross, the iconographical attribute of the apostle Philip, who was crucified in Hierapolis. The younger figure on the right, pointing at himself while carrying a thin club, portrays the apostle James Minor, called the Brother of the Lord, who was said to resemble Christ in both his physical appearance and manners. He was thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple by the Jewish leaders, and subsequently beaten on the head with a fuller’s club.

The ‘Westermann Fireplace Chair’ was designed in 1943 as part of a number of individual pieces of furniture commissioned by publisher and editor Poul Westermann. Westermann was an editor, publisher and astute businessman who possessed an equal amount of foresight and skillful marketing. Among his many projects in publishing, he hired French designer Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron (more well known as ‘Cassandre’) to design and illustrate his advertisements. He established his fortune mainly through publishing easy-to-read non-fiction.

‘The Fireplace Chair’ is the precursor of the well-known and iconic FJ 45 armchair. Both models were produced by master cabinetmaker Niels Vodder who executed Finn Juhl’s finest designs and with whom he established a close working relationship. Initially, Vodder was one of the only cabinetmakers to work with Finn Juhl as many other more traditional cabinetmakers deemed his designs too radical for contemporary tastes. Excecuted in fine Cuban Mahogany, Finn Juhl interestingly chose to employ an Oregon pine for the cross stretchers. The chairs have been upholstered in wool upholstery by Kvadrat.

‘Homme au mouton, nu et musicien’ comes from a series of ten works on paper which Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) created in early 1967 while staying at his villa in Mougins. The drawings center on three figures: a seated female nude in profile, a flute player and a man carrying a sheep. Works from this group are now part of various public collections including the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mythological scenes fill Picasso’s oeuvre, particularly in his work post World War II. In this drawing, the seated female nude is an allegorical portrait of Picasso’s wife and model Jacqueline Roque. She becomes a goddess doted upon by the flautist and shepherd. The musician regularly appears in Picasso’s art, often taking the guise of Pan – the Greek god of shepherds and music but also the patron of lust and physical satisfaction. The man holding the sheep is a highly an important figure in Picasso’s art, most notably his 1940s sculpture created during the Nazi occupation of Paris to symbolize compassion and vulnerability.

The 2020 Black Label Masterpiece ‘Green Plumule Brooch’ from the Feather Collection by Cindy Chao combines contrasting hard titanium and soft emerald, featuring 487 pieces of fancy-cut emeralds, totalling 172.58 carats. With each setting angle and height accurately calculated, the emeralds are set in an interlacing, embossment-like manner to create a peculiar three-dimensional contour for the brooch, portraying the plumule’s airiness. The brooch is composed of 14 barbs, all linked to the yellow diamond-paved rachis with flexible joints that give life and motion to the piece. Fifteen cm long, the ‘Green Plumule Brooch’ weighs less than 49 g – truly feather light.

Alex Katz (1927) turned to flowers as a way to capture a sense of movement that he felt was missing in his portraits. He made his first group of flower paintings from 1966-67, and another in the early 2000s. In the past decade, Katz has returned to flowers regularly as he continues his seven-decade exploration of light and motion.

In his new flower paintings, the view is close up and the background is vast. Katz depicts flowers alone and in small groups, referencing the very first flower paintings he made in the 1960s. However, these new paintings, namely ‘Azalea on Lilac’, are made with an aggressive, deliberate simplicity that we’ve come to know in Katz’s most recent works. He has returned to these flowers each summer in Maine for over sixty years. With these new paintings, he gives us the essence of the flower, allowing us to see how he sees.

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