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letter from munich
by Susanne Nusser

Lyonel Feininger
at Achim Moeller

Boiserie Salon,
at Senger Bamberg

with guinea-fowls
and sheep at
Röbbig München

Robe à la Française
at Galerie Ruf

Nicholas Pineau's
ca. 1730-35
at Daxer & Marschall

Karai necklace and earrings,
at Galerie Exler

Bruce Livie with
Friedrich Olivier's Roman Forum
at Galerie Arnoldi-Livie

Rosenberg & Stiebel

Renaissance angels at
Patrick Reijgersberg
   The 43rd Munich Art Fair, Oct. 24-Nov. 1, 1998, has ended and was well worth seeing. Approximately 19,200 visitors came to the fair, held in new hall in Munich Riem for the fair. The first weekend seemed extremely busy. The middle of the week was somewhat quieter, followed by a second weekend of lively business. The number of younger visitors was remarkable.

As previously reported in ArtNet Magazine, the modern art section of the fair -- of increasing importance in recent years -- did well. Of course the show of works on paper by Lyonel Feininger at Achim Moeller Fine Art of New York was sensational. Moeller sold more than 15 drawings, many related to works featured in the Feininger retrospective that opened at the Munich Haus der Kunst on Nov. 1.

Galerie Schlichtenmaier from Grafenau sold a painting by Max Beckmann, View from the Villa Romana (1907), to a German museum. Galerie Thomas, Munich, sold sculptures by Max Ernst at prices ranging up to DM 48,000. (A mark is worth about two-thirds of a dollar.)

One focus of the Munich Art Fair is the exquisite furniture and decorative arts of the 18th and early 19th centuries. Such an approach is understandable, considering the cultural landscape of Southern Germany, with its Baroque churches, Rococo residences and Neoclassical palaces.

Senger Bamberg presented an array of important furniture (the gallery also deals in sculpture). Senger featured two extraordinarily rare objects. One was a complete Boiserie Salon in subdued blue, white and gold, ca. 1790, by Empire architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine for a residence in Amsterdam. The other was a marquetry secretaire by David Röntgen, dated 1775. Its ten different types of rare wood created a unique harmony of warm tones.

Expensive works often take time to sell. As pleasant as it may be for dealers to sell directly from their stands, they know that in most cases a longer negotiation must take place before an expensive object is sold. The fair is a forum for the initial contact, for viewing and eventually laying the groundwork for a sale. There are, however, exceptions to this rule.

One of the precious works at Röbbig München was a brightly colored 1745 Potpourri of both Chinese and Meissen porcelains, decorated with a sheep and two guinea-fowls and mounted on a French gilt bronze base of rich foliate rocaille-scrolls. The beautiful vessel was created to contain aromatic essences that would fill the air with fragrance. The object was sold immediately to a private collector of Continental porcelains, and disappeared from view on the very first weekend. The price paid was top secret.

Sometimes a dress can evoke the charm of an entire epoch. One such example is the lovely lavender silk Robe à la Française, ca. 1785, presented by the Gallery Wolfgang Ruf from Emmetten, Switzerland, as part of a collection of 20 costumes. Ruf usually does not exhibit in fairs -- most of his clients are museums -- and was therefore surprised at the strong response from the public.

Marcus Marschall of Daxer & Marschall, Munich, has always been associated with Neoclassicism. At Munich he surprised everyone with a chased and gilded lead "fontaine de buffet" (fountain for a dining room) by the great French Rococo designer Nicholas Pineau, ca. 1730-35. Marschall also found a buyer for a Louis XVI "table de Salon" from ca. 1785.

At the stand of Brussels dealer Jan de Maere, most interest was shown in German and Dutch paintings. One highlight was an oil-on-canvas Adoration by Theodor van Loon. The "deisegno" has the power of a large-scale altarpiece, with modeling built up through many layers of delicate color. Jan de Maere also sold a Carl Ruthart landscape with shepherds, 50 x 70 cm.

The power of non-European art was demonstrated by Helga & Wolfgang Exler, Frankfurt, who specialize in African, Islamic and Oceanic works. At the Munich Art Fair they showed a massive repoussé gold necklace "karai" and earrings made in Southern India at the end of the 19th century. Fine gold jewelry sold well. One example was the massive gold necklace with rubies and diamonds of a 19th-century queen from Rahjstastan, which was priced at DM 45,000.

Works on paper, especially drawings, were a further highlight of the fair. This is a quieter area of collecting, requiring a certain visual education and one that can be lost in the general hubub of an art fair. With this in mind, the fair organized a special stand that provided information about collecting works on paper. One could argue that this innovation is more useful to the general fair visitor than a special curated exhibition.

Several galleries presented drawings from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Galerie Arnoldi-Livie of Munich (where I work) featured German Romantic drawings and watercolors. Of these works, all formerly in distinguished private collections, the scene done in brown wash, pen and ink over graphite of the Roman Forum, ca. 1820, by the artist Friedrich Olivier, is most worthy of mention.

Katrin Bellinger, Munich, presented a drawing by Caspar David Friedrich and a beautiful watercolor by Carl Rottmann, Capuchine Monastery near Perugia. Siegfried Billesberger, Moosinning, also proudly presented drawings by Caspar David Friedrich and Edgar Degas.

You could call Gerald & Penelope Stiebel, of Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, "American pioneers" because they have exhibited at the Munich Art Fair since 1994, when they were the only exhibitors from the U.S. Stiebel's family left Frankfurt for New York in the 1930s. In addition to the 18th-century French art for which his gallery is known, he brought to this year's fair works that illustrate links between Germany and America. One example is the acquatints that Karl Bodmer made illustrating the 1832-34 travels of Prince Max zu Wied through the American West.

As far as sculpture is concerned, everyone admired the pair of Renaissance angels, originally made in the Munich area, on view at Patrick Reijgersberg of the Haarlem in the Netherlands, priced at DM 39,000. Dr. Reiner Jungbauer, Straubing, noted increased buyer interest in smaller objects made of ivory or terra-cotta, and said that sacred images seemed to be less in demand.

Gallery Neuse, Bremen, did good business in fine silver objects. A sculpture of Saint Nicholas made by a Bavarian master was sold to a collector from the same area. Galerie Julius Böhler, Munich, also repored sales of several sculptures.

For further information, interested parties can contact the Messeburo at 49-89-1577349.

SUSANNE NUSSER is an art historian who works at Arnoldi-Livie in Munich.