Runjeet Singh, who deals by appointment from his home in Warwickshire, will be showing at TEFAF Maastricht for the first time this year, joining the Showcase – one of five dealers to be invited to do so.
How did you become a dealer?
I entered the art world as a collector of Asian arms and armour at the age of 20 in 1999. I dabbled as an amateur dealer for a few years before taking the plunge, leaving my full-time job as a civil servant and becoming a professional dealer in 2014.
What area do you specialise in?
I focus on Asian arms and armour. Born in England of Indian (Sikh) heritage, I have a passion for Indian, Islamic, Tibetan and Chinese material from the 15th-19th centuries.
Have you been to TEFAF Maastricht before?
No. Usually of course I would scope out a fair before I exhibit. But I have never been able to go as I have always taken part in Asia Week New York in previous years.
What criteria do dealers have to pass to be accepted in the Showcase?
I had to pass a list of criteria including dealing for no fewer than three years, but no more than 10. It is a rigorous application with lots of requirements including references from museums and academics.
How have you planned for the show?
You can’t turn up with run-of-the-mill stock. You need exceptional pieces. Luckily I knew of some great pieces with collectors and I was able to negotiate for them to sell at the fair. Collectors are never keen to sell but if they do decide, they want to see their items in published catalogues and given the recognition. TEFAF Maastricht is perfect for this. I will publish catalogues alongside the exhibition at the fair comprising 21 pieces and around half of these objects came from private collectors.
London sculpture dealer Stuart Lochhead is exhibiting at TEFAF Maastricht for the first time since setting up on his own two years ago, having previously worked for Daniel Katz Gallery. He will share a stand with Old Master dealer Hazlitt – the two dealers having also shared a stand at TEFAF New York Fall 2019.
How long have you been dealing?
I set up my own business in January 2018 after being in the sculpture world for 23 years.
Why have you chosen to do TEFAF Maastricht?
It is the best fair in the world. It offers the best material and attracts the best clients from across the globe including many museum curators and directors. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of it? Clients come with a real thirst to learn and acquire the best pieces.
What are you hoping for from this year’s fair?
An art fair is always full of surprises! Of course, I am hoping to see some of my favourite clients and hopefully meet some new collectors. But I also have a few exciting works to unveil at Maastricht which I hope will cause some excitement.
What objects are you exhibiting?
My specialism is European sculpture from medieval to modern so I will have a range of works in this area, from a beautiful marble statue of St John the Baptist by Nino Pisano to a rare model by Rodin. However, we are just as excited by the stand itself which has been designed for us by a great Japanese architect called Yuichi Kodai.
What’s one highlight you are offering?
One of the most exciting and unusual works I am showing at Maastricht will be a late-19th century patinated plaster sculpture by the French sculptor Jean Carriès called The Frogman (Le Grenouillard). A half-man-half-frog clutching another frog – it is a fabulous work of symbolism and Japonisme combined – by one of the great free-thinkers of his time.
What else will you do in Maastricht?
On my day off during the vetting I will take the train to Amsterdam to see the exhibition Caravaggio-Bernini: Baroque in Rome. It will be a feast of great baroque sculpture and paintings.
Are there any other stands you’re looking forward to seeing?
I always go and look at the stand of Yufuku Gallery from Tokyo who have the most amazing Contemporary art pieces in ceramic, glass and bamboo. The Japanese sensibility towards technique and craft is unmatched. For them what we call craft is art. Why should there be any difference? My other stop will be to discover what Oscar Graf has – a really exciting dealer. He’s a Frenchman who specialises in English arts and craft.
Aline Chastel’s Paris business Chastel-Maréchal Gallery specialises in 20th century French designers, particularly those working from 1930-60. This is her first appearance at TEFAF Maastricht where she brings around 20 mirrors and several lights by designer Line Vautrin as well as a selection of pieces by Jean Royère, examples of 1950s-60s Brazilian furniture and ceramics by French post-war creators.
Why did you decide to exhibit at TEFAF Maastricht?
To me, it is the only fair today with such high standards in terms of quality. It was a logical step for the gallery. We already participate in a lot of worldwide fairs. Then we were invited to apply to TEFAF and now we have been accepted. This year is the perfect timing as I have gathered some masterpieces that need a proper set. TEFAF Maastricht is the perfect occasion to exhibit them.
What was the application process like?
Both very exciting and challenging. We had to imagine a special project for the fair with a selection of high-quality pieces and propose a real curated show. My line-up reflects perfectly the history of the gallery with masterpieces by Line Vautrin, Jean Royère, André Borderie, Marc Nicolas Du Plantier… proposing these artists came naturally to me.
One of the creators you specialise in is Vautrin, who became popular in the 1950s for her mirror sculptures. What is her appeal?
One explanation of the success of Vautrin’s pieces is that her mirrors match with anything and everything. When an object is beautiful, when it has a strong aesthetic presence, when it has a true aura, nothing else matters. This is generally what I am looking for in the pieces I present in my gallery and at TEFAF Maastricht: a strong aesthetic presence rather than a specific and definite style.
Vautrin’s buyers can be very different. Some of them are 18th century lovers, some others are design and Contemporary art collectors… I see a lot of different profiles but all of them share the same love for the object at its core.
How do you reflect this in your business?
At the gallery, for over 25 years now, I try to pass on this passion. The set-up in the gallery is always a mix of pieces from the 1930s-80s. Beauty fits with everything.
What do you hope to get out of the fair?
I hope to pass on my passion for the artists we sell and meet new collectors. At the gallery, clients share my taste for mixing up pieces and my eye. When they come, they step into my poetic, eclectic and refined world. They are usually attracted to my universe and are very diverse, some more interested in design, others in 18th century pieces. There is no general rule.
Fairs are the occasion to meet and spend some time with other art dealers. It’s always interesting to talk about their specialty, their thoughts. It’s enriching!