Despite attending Tefaf at opening weekend it is very relaxed meandering through one of the most influential art and antiques fair in the world. There are wide spaces between the stands and you can easily look at the art being displayed as people are not blocking your view. Except at Kukje / Tina Kim Gallery people are blocking the view of Anish Kapoor’s work ‘Random Triangle Mirror’ as they wait for their turn to photograph themselves in front of a concave shape featuring little triangles of mirrored glass.
On the adjacent wall, the two figures in Bill Viola’s video ‘Delicate Thread’ have plenty of space to walk as they are walking in a barren landscape towards a camera. At the beginning of the video you experience the mirage and the figures are blurry. It seems they are walking on a treadmill as they are not getting any closer. They can’t be reached. In this work, Viola utilizes landscape as a metaphor for spiritual seeking, poignantly evoking the desire for untouchable things*. As they are gradually approaching the camera you can identify a man and woman looking like the actress Carey Mulligan. Taking the time to watch the 28:31 minutes video is a restful and meditative experience.
More Viola at Agnew’s. In a video shown at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam – which displays one of Viola’s most powerful works ‘Tristan’s Ascension’ – the American artist explains that he wants “to wake people up” with his work. “As we go through life we are asleep; you get a job, you do the same thing over and over again. We really need moments where someone comes along and slaps you in the face and I think that’s a very important thing that art has brought into the world.”
The two videos shown at Agnew’s do shake you up. They are part of a series of four works on martyrdom exhibited for the first time in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In each video a person is facing the four elements: Water, Fire, Wind and Earth. In ‘Air Martyr’ a women endures a strong whirlwind whilst her hands and feet are bound. Her white dress might indicate that Viola is depicting “white martyrdom”: dying to oneself every day. It’s fascinating to watch how she is ‘tortured’ by the wind but remains calm expressing resignation and dignity. When the wind stops at the end of the video she looks up facing the light implying she has been purified.
Some dealers have created a living room environment of their stands, most notably Paul Kasmin Gallery and Axel Vervoordt. Kasmin invited an artist from their stable, Mattia Bonetti, to design the stand. He designed the wall panels, flooring, pedestals and trompe l’oeil wallpaper, and the stand also features his industrial designs such as tables and chairs. Bonetti’s use of warm materials created a delightful atmosphere to view the works by Robert Motherwell, Simon Hantaï, Andy Warhol and Tina Barney.
Viewing the art in a living room environment might help visitors to visualize how the art will look in a home environment. As Tefaf is open for ten days, longer than other fairs, dealers are prepared to invest in the interior of their stand.
Two main activities of Axel Vervoordt gallery coalesce perfectly at their stand: the Art & Antiques and Interior Design & Home Collection. Boris Vervoordt, leading the Art & Antiques section, seeks to find ‘bridges’ between one object to another. They present an eclectic mix of ancient & contemporary paintings, sculptures and furniture. “Our vision is evolving through knowledge of our history and trying to find the common thread between objects from different cultures”, Vervoordt once told me.
In their selection of works there is a sense of minimalism, Zen Buddhism, and each artist stayed close to oneself. On a large couch placed central in the stand you can view works by ZERO artist Jef Verheyen, Günther Uecker, an Egyptian sandstone sculpture, or the Gutia artists Yuko Nasaka and Kazuo Shiraga. The word “gutai” means tool (gu) and body (tai). One of the dealers told me that Shiraga produced ‘Tomomori jusui’ by placing a lump of paint on the canvas, suspended himself from ropes and painted the canvas with his feet. The work feels very ‘physical’ and has a raw energy.
Horst P Horst, Table Setting for Vogue, 1951, Dye transfer print, printed c 1985. Hamiltons Gallery
Hamiltons, a gallery specialized in modern masters of photography, presents an iconic selection of photographs by Horst P. Horst, Helmut Newton and Irving Penn. Centrally displayed is a work by Guido Mocafico who photographed breathtaking glass models of marine invertebrate animals made by the Czech craftsmen Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. Mocafico approached the Natural History Museum to photograph the sea creatures which are manufactured out of clear, coloured and painted glass.
In the past Mocafico photographed reptiles and arachnides families such as snakes and spiders. They are photographed on a black background in order to get complete focus on, for instance, the variety of snakes’ scales, the colours and the patterns. Mocafico also made a series on jellyfish called ‘Medusa’. As invertebrates don’t have a skeleton and a transparent body it provides the photographer a breath of opportunities to play with light and colour.
On the website of the Natural History Museum, a collection manager explains what is special about the Blaschka’s models: “you can often see through the glass to internal structures whereas with a real specimen you have to look under the microscope and you have to dissect it”. With this series Mocafico wanted to pay homage to the craftsmanship of the Blaschka’s and he did a magnificent job in capturing the impeccable accuracy and attention to detail of these wonderful glassmodels.
Tefaf is open to rejuvenate and reserved a space in the Modern section for a modern sculpture exhibition called ‘Night Fishing’. The initiator is the Dutch dealer Hidde van Seggelen who pointed out to the TEFAF board that the artists who are born in the 1940s and 1950s are hardly present at the fair. He made a proposal for an exhibition featuring sculptures made by living artists.
Eight galleries who have never shown at the fair before agreed to participate. Each gallery has a sub-section on the 250 square metres space with presentations by eight artists including Mark Manders, Tony Cragg, Markus Raetz, Richard Deacon and Georg Baselitz.
The idea is that the sculptures of these ‘Modern Masters’ create a dialogue with each other or with 5,000 years old sculptures that are being exhibited at the fair. In the work of Cragg and Raetz you can compare how they depicted the silhouette of the human face. Raetz minimalistic version next to Cragg’s abstract, morphed version where you can detect human profiles into the silhouette of the sculptures.
Often in Mark Manders’s wet clay looking sculptures the heads are sandwiched between planks, but in ‘Unfired Clay Torso’ they are removed given the impression of an ancient statue with broken off ears or noses. The artists aims for a timelessness in his work and once stated in an interview: “A work of art should be unrelated to time. Although it’s made in a specific period, it should be capable of moving through time and relate both to art from ancient times and to something still to be made”**. At Tefaf, Manders’s work sits comfortably amongst works of art from centuries ago.
Written by Thierry Somers
*Press release courtesy Kukje Gallery
**Mark Manders in an interview with Nickel van Duijvenboden, Reference Book, Roma Publications, 2012, p. 32.