He founded the gallery in 1999 and since then has become a regular exhibitor at events catering to his field such as Asia Week New York, Asian Art in London and Parcours de Mondes in Paris. TEFAF offers a distinctly European platform from which to sell.
“I have visited the fair before and it is the best event for ancient art,” Monméat says. “The best dealers exhibit there and very important collectors come. There is such a special atmosphere at TEFAF.” To court these top-end dealers he plans to give his stand a light, modern look with white and grey walls.
Among the objects he is bringing are south-east Asian statues, several Nepalese pieces and a group of Gandhara schist pieces.
The TEFAF Showcase is often a step on the path to a full stand at the fair, but it’s not a guarantee of a future space. It’s easy to imagine the delight of New Bond Street sculpture and works of art dealer Benjamin Proust when he was invited back the year after his appearance at the Showcase. “I’m very happy. Usually they give you some purgatory years and I was expecting to have to wait, but no, they gave me a stand straight away and in a good location.”
Positioned at one of the new entrances to the fair, he reflects happily that his corner stand will be the first thing many visitors see as they come in and the last as they leave.
He’s taking the position as an opportunity to give something back: “I’m going a bit mad with the stand design even though it’s not that big, but it’s TEFAF, my first TEFAF as a proper exhibitor. It’s a thank-you for them putting their faith in me after just one fair.”
Proust describes the stand as a tribute to the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, citing the architect’s ground-breaking designs for museums in the 1950s and ‘60s such as the Museo di Castelvecchio as his point of reference.
It’s a labour of love (“I’m spending too much money again,” Proust says with relish) and he speaks with exasperation about the dealers who don’t bother to invest in their presentations.
A previous appearance has also taught the dealer about time management. Despite the length of the event, it’s busy right through and “you have a little bit less time to explain everything to the public”.
He adds: “I love to answer questions, but when I’m being asked every 30 seconds, I’ll have to learn to be a bit more straight-to-the-point and not give each person a lecture on the history of art.”
Proust is bringing a mix of objects, from 15th century marbles to 20th century sculpture, offering new and old clients – and the fleet of international museums he hopes to meet – plenty to choose from.