RECESSIONS affect art fairs in different ways. The most obvious is when buyers stay away, especially if a fair has fallen from fashion or if entry tickets are too expensive. Another is when dealers abandon ship, curtailing the fairs they attend to two a year, say, instead of three. Or they suddenly offer deep discounts to ensure a sale. Slashing prices is a sure sign of lack of confidence.

市场低迷对于艺术展有多种影响。最直接的影响就是展会的人气不旺,那些内容不够时尚或门票价格昂贵的展会就更是门可罗雀了。另一种是交易商为了从不景气中及时抽身,把每年三次的展会缩短为每年两次。或者为了保证达成交易,临时大幅压价。削价显然说明了交易商对市场缺乏信心。

This year at the Maastricht fine art fair, Europe's premier decorative and fine art festival, there was a different problem: an abundance of ordinary offerings, not so much second-rate as indifferent. Dealers have clearly found it hard to source fresh, top-quality works during the recession. Much of the art was even quite stale: Antonio Guardi's beautiful 18th-century “View of the Villa Loredan at Paese”, presented by Simon Dickinson, a London dealer, was on its fourth Maastricht visit, after a winter with another dealer and no buyers in New York.更多信息请访问:http://www.24en.com/

马斯特里赫特艺术博览会是欧洲最具影响力的装饰艺术盛会。不过今年的展会面临了一个新问题:虽然不至于平庸到不值一提,但展品大多都很普通。交易商意识到在经济萧条时期很难淘到上等的新品,大多数展品甚至在展会上反复出现。比如伦敦艺术商西蒙·迪金森带来参展的“洛雷当乡村别墅风景”。这幅由安东尼奥·格瓦尔基(注:似应弗朗西斯科·格瓦尔基,威尼斯风景画家)绘于18世纪的杰作,已经是第四次出现在马斯特里赫特的会场上。去年冬天,另一位交易商带着这幅画到纽约参展,却没有吸引到购买者。

None of this was evident at first glance. The private view on the first day, March 12th, was anything but private. A record 10,500 people attended. Cashmere, fur, high heels and hairspray was the uniform of the day. Maastricht is a destination fair; people regard it as an outing. The number of personal jets that bore them there would have been higher had Munich airport not been closed by fog.

不仔细观察还真看不出这些差异。3月12日是预展的第一天,展厅内人头攒动,哪里像个预展。与会的人数创纪录地达到了10500人。这一天来宾个个身着羊绒和毛皮衣,脚蹬高跟鞋,发型考究。马斯特里赫特博览会的定位是一个大众展会,但人们却把赴会当作一次短途旅游了。如果慕尼黑机场不是因为大雾关闭,肯定会有更多参观者驾驶私人飞机前往。

More than $3 billion worth of art work—covering every category and period, from ancient Egyptian statuary to post-Modern painting—was presented on 263 stands (24 more than last year). The exhibitors came from 17 countries; most were American, British or continental European, but some trekked from further afield, such as Uruguay and South Korea. A conservative estimate would put the fair's entire offering at over 25,000 pieces. Yet no more than a dozen were truly memorable.

263个展位(比去年多出24个)上陈列着价值超过30亿美元的展品——包罗了各个时代不同种类的艺术风格,既有古埃及雕像,也有后现代主义绘画。参展商来自17个国家;大部分来自美国,英国和欧洲国家,也有一些是千里迢遥而来,比如乌拉圭、南韩等国家。据保守估计,所有展品大约在25000件以上,然而值得一顾的不过一打。

Alan Rubin of Pelham Galleries, a British dealer based in Paris, is something of a maestro. His stand is always a theatrical show, and this year was no exception. The centrepiece was a magnificent canopied bed that once belonged to Talleyrand, the great 19th-century French diplomat. But the most intriguing item was an elaborate automaton clock that hadn't been seen in public for more than 100 years. Standing 130 centimetres high, it had feet shaped like dragons that spat out pearls at regular intervals.

佩勒姆马勒画廊的亚伦·鲁宾是驻守于巴黎的英国画商。他的展品算是神来之笔。鲁宾的展位布置一直富有舞台效果,今年也不例外。展位中心是一架华丽的四柱床,它的故主是19世纪法国著名外交家塔列郎。不过,最引人注目的是一只雕琢精细的机械钟,此前它至少被收藏者紧锁深闺一百多年。这只钟高130厘米,外表呈龙形,每隔一段时间会从龙口中吐出珍珠。

Chinese specialists also like to put on a show. Ben Janssens, a London-based Dutchman and the chairman of the fair, had a small side room at his elegant stand displaying 20th-century Japanese bronzes. Beautiful late Japanese craftsmanship is beginning to gain ground among collectors, especially Westerners, who no longer want to compete with the Chinese in buying Chinese porcelain and metalware.

中国收藏家也很热衷在展会上现身。博览会主办者,现居伦敦的荷兰人本·杰森在其华丽的展位旁开辟出一间小侧室,用以陈列20世纪日本青铜制品。近代日本的艺术品精美绝伦,愈来愈受到收藏家,特别是西方收藏家的追捧,他们不再同中国的艺术品经纪人竞购中国瓷器和金属器皿了。

Lacquer, though, is still something in which Western collectors lead the way. Littleton and Hennesy, which has offices in London and New York, unveiled a spectacular lacquer piece at Maastricht: a 15th-century chest of drawers depicting a Taoist paradise. From the Manno collection in Japan, the chest was unusually large—more than 80 centimetres across and 64 centimetres high—and, despite its age, impressively well-preserved (lacquer is treated with special care in Japan). A Western collector bought it on the second day of the fair, happy to pay the full asking price of E3.1m ($4.2m).

不过在漆器方面,西方收藏家仍然独领风骚,引导风向。在伦敦和纽约设立了事务所的利特顿&轩尼诗艺术画廊在此次展会上展出了一件令人惊叹的漆器——一件诞生于15世纪,其上绘有道家仙境图案的五斗橱。这件藏品出自日本万野美术馆,高约64厘米,宽达80厘米,尺寸出奇的大。尽管这件藏品年代久远,仍然保存得很完好(在日本,漆器都被加以特别保护)。展会第二天就有一位西方收藏家买走了这件漆器,尽管要价高达310万欧元,他还是很乐意付了原价。

Another eye-catching display was Bernard de Grunne's crowd of 27 Igbo monumental standing sculptures from Nigeria, many of them taller than their owners. Drawn in part from his father's collection and that of Jacques Kerchache, once a leading French dealer of tribal and contemporary art, this unusual show featured works that had not been seen in public for many years. Much sought after by French, Belgian and, increasingly, American buyers, these pieces are both fragile and rare, and they seldom travel. The demand for African art has grown over the past five years, and it is expected to expand yet further with the reopening of the Museum for African Art in Manhattan next year. Several buyers were keen on the most important statues—a male and a female carved by a sculptor known as the Awka Master—which ultimately went to a European collector for close to the asking price of E400,000.

伯纳德·布鲁恩的展位展出了27尊产自尼日利亚的站立式伊博纪念雕像,大部分比人还高。这些雕像迅速成为展会上又一焦点。展品一部分出自伯纳德父亲的藏品,另一部分则出自非洲部落艺术及当代艺术方面的顶级收藏家雅克·盖尔沙什。这次非同寻常的展览重现了在公众视线中消失多年的艺术,购买者大多为法国人和比利时人,越来越多的美国人也加入这个行列。稀有的雕像极易受损,从五年前开始,收藏家对于非洲艺术品的需求不断增长。到明年曼哈顿的非洲艺术博物馆开馆后, 需求会进一步增长。最贵重的雕像是由阿瓦卡大师雕刻的一尊男像和一尊女像,开价为40万欧元。数个竞买者都表现出强烈的兴趣,最后被一位欧洲收藏家以差不多的价钱竞走。

Maastricht is the sort of fair where clever dealers bring their discoveries. Often these are works acquired at auction for a bargain price, owing to an original misidentification. John Mitchell Fine Paintings, a family dealership in London, arrived with a Dutch winter landscape it had found in a French provincial sale last summer. The picture came from a chateau in central France and was so dirty as to be almost unrecognisable. Auctioneers described it as Dutch school (circa 1620) and estimated its value at  E910,000.

精明的交易商通常在马斯特里赫特展出他们淘换的物品。这些物品大多因为鉴别失误开价很低,让交易商们在拍卖中捡了便宜。约翰·米切尔画廊是伦敦一家家族经营企业,这次展会他们带来了一幅荷兰的冬景,是去年夏天在法国一次级别较低的竞拍中购得。人们在法国中部的一座城堡中发现它时,这幅画因为污渍斑斑几乎无法辨识了。拍卖人将这幅画鉴定为荷兰学院派(约作于1620年),估价在两到三万欧元间。专家对画进行了清洁并作了仔细研究,认定这幅至今无人知晓的画是亚当·凡·布林所作。这幅画的年代可追溯至1611年,是荷兰学院派早期名画之一,最终被美国国家艺术博物馆以91万欧元竞走。

An even more impressive surprise came from Mr Rubin, again of Pelham Galleries. He brought a large French champ de bataille painting, a huge formal garden landscape featuring a grand chateau. Mr Rubin had bought the picture at an auction house that was unfamiliar with this kind of work and gave it an estimate of E50,000-70,000. Given the painting’s odd perspective—at once topographical and a bird's eye view—Mr Rubin identified it as a lost work by Pierre-Denis Martin, who painted some of the most important topographical landscapes in the Trianon palace at Versailles. The picture depicts the visit of Louis XIV to the Chateau of Juvisy, and is still available, priced at E2m. Its value lies mainly in its discovery, the product of experience, a good eye and meticulous archival research. At its best, that is what Maastricht is known for.

更出人意料的惊喜是鲁宾带来的又一作品:一幅大型法国油画“战场城堡”,画中修剪整齐的庭园映衬着雄伟的城堡。拍卖行不懂得这幅画的价值,给出5-7万欧元的估价卖给鲁宾。这幅画呈现出独特的视角,以鸟瞰地形的角度着笔。鲁宾从这个特点判断出作者是皮埃尔-德尼斯·马丁,因为他曾经绘制过特里阿侬宫几幅最重要的地形图。这幅画描绘了路易十四出行驾临瑞维希城堡的情景,标价200万欧元,现在还未易手。它的真正价值在于被发掘的过程,是一个经验丰富的收藏家凭借一双慧眼和对古董细致入微的考证给与了艺术品相应的价值。马斯特里赫特之所以出名,就因为这个展会让艺术品呈现出最有价值的所在。

Despite the paucity of works with the wow factor, dealers at Maastricht reported considerable buying interest. Mr Janssens sold 30 pieces on the opening day, and 20 more over the first weekend. James Ede, a London-based antiquities dealer, has called this fair his best fair ever. During the worst months of the recession, collectors refused to sell unless they had to, drying up both the supply of and the demand for top-quality works. Sourcing first-class art may still be difficult, but the experience of the Maastricht dealers over the past few days is that there is no shortage of money to spend. The worst of the recession appears to be over, for both dealers and buyers.

尽管展会乏善可陈,与会的艺术商仍抱有浓厚的购买兴趣。詹森在开幕当天即售出30件展品,到第一周结束又售出20件。伦敦古董商詹姆斯·爱德称这次是他参加过的最好的展会。在经济最不景气的数月中,若非必须收藏家绝不出售藏品,于是顶尖的艺术品在市场上销声匿迹,求购无门。尽管发掘一流的艺术品仍很困难,不过艺术商在展会期间的经历证明,人们很乐意为收藏一掷千金。无论对于卖家还是买家,行情低落的艺术市场开始有复苏的迹象。