Art Review: A European Art Fair Freshens Up for Its First Spring on Park Avenue


PETER FREEMAN INC., NEW YORK Sometimes dealers pair older and newer art to sex up the former and goose the latter’s prices. But this astute and revealing two-hander of the fin-de-siècle Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso and the contemporary German artist Thomas Schütte goes far beyond the usual exercise by concentrating on both artists’ deformed, arresting busts. Rosso, a key figure in the Met Breuer’s inaugural show “Unfinished,” created discomfiting bronze and wax statues which dissolved the subjects’ faces into landscapes of crags and divots. Mr. Schütte (who will have a retrospective at MoMA next year) also drowns individuality into twisted form, whether in glazed ceramic masks or in an astounding bust of green Murano glass, displayed on its side as if bowled over.


Furniture at the Dansk Mobelkunst booth. Credit Michael Nagle for The New York Times

CAHN, BASEL AND GALERIE CHENEL, PARIS Ancient art is an unexpected highlight of this fair, and a half-dozen dealers here have brought antiquities from Egypt, Greece and Rome — which are, surprisingly to some, less expensive than much contemporary art. (Numerous stands have opted for Cycladic art from pre-Classical Greece, whose simplified forms and lack of facial detail may appeal more to modern tastes.) Chenel has brought a commanding, full-height Roman statue from the second century A.D., depicting Hercules wearing the skin of the Nemean lion. The hero killed the beast as the first of his 12 labors; he wears the skin tied jauntily around his neck like a cashmere sweater, and it drapes down Hercules’ shoulders to his noteworthy backside. At Cahn, you can become lost amid smaller Greek prizes, like an Attic cup painted with vigorous wrestlers, or a bronze Corinthian helmet covered with verdigris.

GALERIE JACQUES GERMAIN, MONTREAL Among several galleries specializing in African and Oceanic art, this booth has one of the rarest pieces: a 14th-century ancestor figure from the Dogon people of central Mali, made of patinated wood. With its parted lips and its belly thrust forward, the forefather represented here has an indisputability that makes him nearly a god. Also here is a commanding mask from the Gyé people of present-day Ivory Coast, from the 19th century, that exhibits the stylized facial features (a strong pyramidal nose, a perfect O of a mouth) that would later prove decisive for the development of modern Western art.

DANSK MOBELKUNST, COPENHAGEN Furniture and the decorative arts have their place at Tefaf, too, though the galleries’ approaches range from curated single-designer displays to cash-and-carry mini-shops. This Danish design gallery has put together one of the more impressive offerings, which intermixes tables, chairs and sofas with textile art, like a tapestry by the Swedish designer Marianne Richter of syncopated oranges and reds. A large copper lamp from 1929 by Poul Henningsen and a rare marble dining room table by Poul Kjaerholm argue for the enduring allure of Scandinavian design this deep into the Ikea Century.

DIDIER LTD, LONDON Several jewelry merchants have set up shop at Tefaf, but if your tastes run beyond bling, the most rewarding of them will be this British specialist in wearable works by fine artists — among them Braque, Giacometti, Calder and Jacques Lipchitz. The gallery’s most covetable works are surely the lightweight pendants and brooches of Louise Nevelson, made from scraps of incised wood that she painted black and slathered unevenly with gold. Modern sculpture since Rodin has gone greater and greater distances from the studio; these artists’ baubles are a throwback to personalization and craftsmanship, for which the word “decorative” seems not to suffice.

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Source: New York Times



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