The eighth edition of TEFAF New York, that renowned art and antiquities fair with a decided design slant, opened uptown to stylish VIPs at the Park Avenue Armory yesterday. Brooklyn-based art writer Vittoria Benzine made her first-ever appearance at the fair, savoring its ornate floral arrangements, wood accents, and truly scrumptious hors d’oeuvres. The fair’s site says 91 galleries have convened across two floors featuring a standard fare main hall and a baker’s dozen more secluded rooms, some historical. That seems surprising. It felt pleasantly quaint, manageable.
At one point Benzine locked eyes with John Krasinski, who definitely gave the Jim stare, an energy she echoed to herself over and over while exploring — out of all the fairs she’s been to, this one had the most creative, clueless traffic patterns. But who could blame attendees? Pairing furniture and fine art, each booth offered immersion. Read on to discover our favorites. All photos by Benzine.
Pace set up shop across from Gagosian at the main hall’s entrance, presenting a tasteful, deliciously sensitive solo show of small-scale sculptures and collages by late Ukrainian art darling Louise Nevelson. If it hadn’t been for the unmistakable style of her 3D works I might not have recognized what was happening — which is kind of silly when I think about it, since Nevelson’s sculptures are collage incarnate. Arrangements of oil, cardboard, sandpaper, tape, wood, spray paint and newspaper unveil new intimacies in Nevelson’s practice, best suited to those hoping to build as a deep a relationship with her work as Arne Glimcher enjoyed once with the artist herself.
Galerie Maria Wettergren
This Parisian gallery, just 13 years old, actually had my favorite booth at the fair. I did numerous laps, I promise, just to make sure. Whereas TEFAF has a staid, dare I say stodgy reputation, these works felt totally fresh, ebullient, otherworldly — united by pastel hues and dreamy textures, drapery with personality. It was popular too, and populated by particularly well dressed women like one in a silk dress printed with illustrated interiors echoing Signe Emdal’s Pharoah from 2023 (pictured left, top) and another in a mustard velvet pantsuit complimenting Hanne Friis’s Trophy from 2016 (center) — both perfectly. Even without the queens, I would live here.
The arrangement of this booth did not feel so different from many others throughout the fair — sculptures and paintings from the 1950s through today, a wide net to catch the most collectors perhaps. But the quality, the weight, the edge of these selections proved undeniable. Rock n’ roll. The opposite wall has neon and saws, but this corner was my favorite. As I talked further with director Joe La Placa and learned about his history creating community for revolutionaries like graffiti writers during New York’s 1980s heyday, I began to understand how it all came together.
TEFAF’s second floor promised exclusively “historical rooms,” some with legitimate antiquities, and others with a more modern bent. I loved this moody ensemble by New York-based Hostler Burrows most of all. The blocky tangle in the foreground looked like unakite to me at first, and only gained more intrigue once I gained the conviction I was wrong. Similar silhouettes complimented its complicated angles throughout, from Torbjørn Kvasbø’s cerulean Stack (2010) just off-screen, to artist duo Egeværk’s glowing Tethys (Moon), created this year, radiating all the way in the back.
Donald Ellis Gallery
Even in the fair’s main hall, a gallery or two still devoted their space entirely to antiquities. It will be interesting to see over time how TEFAF’s standards change — I saw one exhibitor listed provenances on all their wall texts, and it wasn’t the one hawking Ptolemaic idols. Donald Ellis Gallery, though, reminded viewers like me that “antiquities” and “Greek” are not one in the same. Instead, they shared their unique selling proposition through a canon-expanding collection of Indigenous art including totems and masks by Yup’ik and Inuit creators — and a whole collection of drawings from Cheyenne warrior artist Nokkoist — hailing from centuries back in the past.
TEFAF New York May 12th-16th, 2023 tefaf.com/fairs/tefaf-new-york