David Tunick Inc. | A European Art Fair Is Ready to Return to New York | New York Times
April 27, 2022 | The New York Times
A European Art Fair Is Ready to Return to New York
TEFAF’s event in the Park Avenue Armory will be its first in-person edition since March 2020, before pandemic lockdowns took hold.
After two years of disruptions that led to virtual versions of its events, the European Fine Art Fair, known as TEFAF, will make a comeback with a New York fair May 6-10 in the Park Avenue Armory.
It will be the first in-person TEFAF fair since an early March 2020 event that was held in the fair’s home base of Maastricht, the Netherlands, just before pandemic lockdowns took hold.
The last one in New York took place in the fall of 2019. When the New York fair was established in 2016, there were both spring and fall editions, but they have since been combined.
“We’ve had so many postponements, we’re very excited that we can make it happen,” said Hidde van Seggelen, the fair’s chairman and a dealer of contemporary art based in Hamburg, Germany.
He said he believed his enthusiasm would be shared by collectors: “After two years of Covid, people are longing for it.”
TEFAF New York, which will feature more than 90 dealers, is the first in a rapid succession of art fairs scheduled in May and June, with many of the highest-profile entries happening on the heels of each other.
The list includes Independent New York, which will overlap with TEFAF New York next week when it takes place at Spring Studios in TriBeCa; Frieze New York; two editions of Art Basel, one in Hong Kong and one in Basel, Switzerland; TEFAF Maastricht; and Masterpiece London.
“It’s going to be a very busy couple of months,” Mr. van Seggelen said, adding that given the scheduling challenges for dealers and collectors, “It’s not an ideal world.”
With many options for collectors, organizers are ever more conscious of delivering a worthwhile experience.
TEFAF, which will mark its 35th Maastricht edition this year, is best known for its strength in older works — from antiquities to old masters — but the New York event makes an effort to include newer objects that reflect local talent in the capital of the contemporary art market.
“We have the DNA of TEFAF, plus the best of modern and contemporary,” Mr. van Seggelen said. “I’m very proud of the mix.”
Concurrent with the live fair, there will be an online version of TEFAF New York, with the same galleries showing up to three works each from their Armory selection.
The dealer David Tunick, who has a gallery on the Upper East Side specializing in works on paper, has been showing at both TEFAF fairs for years. He will show around 15 works in his booth, including gouaches by Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger and a painting by Helen Frankenthaler.
The marquee item in his booth is a painting by Marc Chagall, “Self-Portrait with Palette” (1917).
“I can count on two hands the number of real masterpieces I’ve handled in my career, and this easily ranks with them,” Mr. Tunick said.
Chagall, a French-Russian painter — known for works like 1915’s “Birthday” in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art — was long-lived (1887-1985) and prolific.
“He did more than 1,000 paintings, plus watercolors, prints and drawings,” Mr. Tunick said. “But there are only eight or nine self-portraits of him alone.” The image shows the painter looking at his hometown, Vitebsk, Russia, and the work features large areas of white, red and pink.
“It was made in 1917, the year of the Russian Revolution, which makes it all the more significant,” Mr. Tunick said. “The colors may refer to that.”
The work first appeared on the market at a Sotheby’s auction in 1995, after residing in the apartment of Chagall’s sister for decades.
“It has a small depiction of a floating goat, which became synonymous with Chagall’s work,” Mr. Tunick said. “This may have been the first.”
The painter’s work has personal significance for Mr. Tunick, too.
“The first original work of art I bought after college was a Chagall print,” he said. “A group of friends pooled our funds and we gave it as a wedding gift.”
He added that Chagall’s work might have a healing effect amid a pandemic.
“He’s a happy optimistic artist, who made poetic, lyrical, mystic and dreamlike paintings,” Mr. Tunick said.
He added, “It’s not so much the taste of our times. We seem to want a lot of angst these days.”
April 27, 2022
An earlier version of this article, relying on incorrect information from a publicist, misstated the material used in a bust by Kehinde Wiley. It is bronze, not iron.