In an era of seemingly countless art fairs, it’s welcome to come across one that’s a clear not-to-miss. Even 95-year-old Alex Katz made it to Thursday’s preview of the European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF)’s latest New York edition, which has the cavernous Park Avenue Armory filled with a museum’s worth of art through May 16. Ninety-one galleries have contributed antiquities and contemporary artworks, objects, and jewelry spanning roughly 7,000 years. Yes, you can find many of the big names—Pace, Gagosian and David Zwirner, to name a few—at other fairs throughout the year. “But here, you have a lot more art historical basis,” Will Korner, TEFAF’s Director of Fairs, told Observer, noting his surprise that the oldest work he’d so far encountered only dated back to around 2,500 BC.
Intimidated by all the offerings? From solo showcases to curated mini exhibitions, here are the booths you shouldn’t skip:
Karma (Booth 307)
Giorgio di Chirico lives on in the booth of New York’s Karma gallery, dedicated to his appreciation of architecture and featuring three works by the late Italian artist himself. Gertrude Abercrombie’s paintings of eerie exteriors pair with them perfectly, and hang at the start of a showcase that includes Nicolas Party, Hughie Lee-Smith, Lynne Drexler and Matthew Wong.
Di Donna Galleries (Booth 334)
Missed MoMA’s recent survey of Meret Oppenheim? New York’s Di Donna Galleries has you covered with a showcase that includes three works featured in the exhibition—plus a Man Ray photograph of the fur-covered teacup and spoon that’s long been the late Surrealist’s claim to fame. Highlights include a gold ring set with a real sugar cube (replaced since Oppenheim conceived of it in 1936) and a vase of fake flowers covered in oatmeal flakes that have held up for 54 years.
Galerie Chenel (Booth 210)
The fair extends to the Armory’s upper-level period rooms, making for a welcome break from the standard white-walled booths and harkening back to the venue’s 19th-century beginnings. Galerie Chenel, which is based in Paris and specializes in antiquities, took the nostalgic feel and not so much ran with it as sprinted. The centerpiece of its mahogany-walled showing is an Egyptian sculpture of a bronze cat that dates back to circa 664-332 BC. (Also of note: many an ancient marble sculpture and a couple of Picasso earthenware plates.)
Mennour (Booth 314)
Galerie Mitterand lucked out with the best of the period rooms, which it has devoted to an impressive showcase of the bronze, often crocodile-themed furniture of François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne (the couple also known simply as “Les Lalanne”). But the real Lalanne showstopper is downstairs, outside the booth of Paris’s Mennour. On view to the public for the first time since its creation for a private collector in the mid-70s, François-Xavier’s Sauterelle Bar is a larger-than-life steel and polished brass statue of a grasshopper that fully functions as, yep, a bar. The only other such specimen in existence belonged to none other than Queen Elizabeth II.
Petzel Gallery (Booth 370)
Imbibers seem to be in luck this year. On the opposite side of the Armory’s lower level, Petzel offers a fully functional bar with a completely different feel and backstory. Its maker, Jorge Pardo, planned to trash it before his ex-wife convinced him otherwise well over a decade ago. The Cuban-born artist created the 14-foot-long structure in question for an arts school in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, where Pardo often encountered the red-tinted plexiglass he chose as the work’s primary material.
Van de Weghe (Booth 207)
If you’re looking for the heavy hitters, Van de Weghe’s booth is the one for you. With these artists, there are no first names needed: Basquiat, Warhol, Magritte and Calder all make appearances. Of course, that means the prices are nothing to sneeze at. The teeny 1974 Joan Mitchell diptych displayed near a vibrant Gerhard Richter, for example, goes for $700,000.
R & Company (Booth 325)
The psychedelic feel of R & Company’s booth, tucked away in the Armory’s far left corner, will erase any hint of fair fatigue. Nicola L.’s knack for fun yet functional furniture is on full display in the form of a cabinet shaped like a woman and floor lamp shaped like lips. Between those, Pierre Paulin’s mahogany and leather desk set and Katie Stout’s mismatched ceramic chandelier, you’ll leave with the urge to redecorate.