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Rembrandt Leads $1.4 Billion Art Fair as Dealers Vie for Buyers

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March 16 (Bloomberg) -- Works by Rembrandt and Renoir will be among 30,000 items worth more than 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) offered at the world’s biggest art and antiques fair as dealers vie with auction houses to lure wealthy buyers.

The Rembrandt portrait, priced at $47 million, and the $15-million Renoir will be on show at the 24th annual European Fine Art Fair, Tefaf, in the Dutch city of Maastricht. The event, owned and run by dealers, previews tomorrow.

Its 260 galleries, showing museum-quality artworks from four millennia, are competing more than ever with auctions, where rich collectors are bidding millions for trophies.

“We now see players in the art market with unlimited means,” Jacques Billen, director of the Brussels-based antiquities dealership Galerie Harmakhis said in an interview. “The auction houses are extremely successful. Though the dealer market is shrinking, Maastricht is still an opportunity to meet people who are not looking for us.”

Tefaf’s dealers in antiquities are placed near specialists in 20th- and 21st-century works in the 100,000 square-foot exhibition space. As a result, about 10 percent of Harmakhis’s buyers at the fair are contemporary art collectors, said Billen.

He is offering a stone fragment from an Egyptian water clock commissioned by Alexander the Great. It is priced at 150,000 euros.

Rembrandt’s 1658 “Portrait of a Man with Arms Akimbo” will be shown by the New York-based Old-Master dealer Otto Naumann Ltd. The painting was acquired from the Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, who paid 20.2 million pounds ($32.2 million) for it at Christie’s International in London in 2009.

Monet’s Wife

Renoir’s 1874 painting “Femme Cueillant des Fleurs,” showing Claude Monet’s first wife Camille Doncieux in a sunlit meadow, is offered by the London dealer Dickinson. The early Impressionist work is being sold by the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Old Master dealers have been the mainstay of Tefaf. With auctions now usually the starting point for the limited pool of new buyers drawn to historic paintings, the event gives traders a chance to see fresh faces. Last year, 72,500 visitors attended, with 171 private planes landing at Maastricht airport during the fair.

“People go to the auctions first, then come to dealers when they feel more confident,” the London-based Old Master specialist Jean-Luc Baroni said in an interview. “If we’re going to meet new collectors, we’ll meet them at Maastricht.”

A panel of the Madonna and Child by the 16th-century Mannerist painter Rosso Fiorentino is one of several discoveries. It is priced at “several million pounds,” said Baroni.

Chinese Art

Increasing attention will be focused on Chinese art, following auction results such as the record 51.6 million pounds bid -- if not yet paid -- by a Beijing-based collector for a Qianlong-dynasty vase at an auction in London in November.

The London- and New York-based Asian art specialist Littleton & Hennessy has priced an early Yuan-dynasty lacquered bronze at $8 million.

Though Chinese dealers turn up in force at European auctions of Chinese art, wealthy collectors from the region have yet to make an impact at fairs such as Tefaf.

“I’m not expecting to sell to hordes of Chinese on my stand,” gallery director James Hennessy said in an interview. “It’s still quite difficult for wealthy mainlanders to leave the country. I’ll be selling mostly to Europeans and Americans.”

The fair runs through March 27.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Scott Reyburn in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Beech at

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