What sold at BIAF 2017 in Florence

Stefano Pirovano

Three days after BIAF 2017 opened at Palazzo Corsini in Florence here is what sold but also which main pieces are still looking for a collector

The Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato in Florence (BIAF 2017) was inaugurated on Thursday last week at Palazzo Corsini and will be open until next Sunday, October 1st. We were there, and we had the distinct impression that, thirty years after its first edition, the eldest fine art fair in the world is in good health. And we would add that all the 80 participating galleries, 8 of which are based out of the country, have reason to be positive about this upcoming week, even if last weekend the highlights’ market may have looked a bit lazy.

Despite some outstanding pieces on offer, and roughly 18.000 visitors already attended BIAF 2017, the typical red spots indicating that a work is sold were just a few until last Friday night. Taking into account that also here most of the main collectors generally attend the fair during the opening days one expects, for instance, that the sophisticated portrait of a Gentlemen from the Piperari family of Cremona painted by Antonio Campi (on offer at Agnews gallery) wouldn’t have to wait long to find a buyer. The gallery asks for a fair price and the painting has a convincing provenance, namely the collection of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, English historian and statesman, and grandfather of two English monarchs, Mary II and Queen Anne. The painting is still available, but rumours say there are three collectors who have shown a serious interest in it.

Likewise, the perfectly preserved Allegory of Love painted by Bernardino Licino in the first half of the XVI century, on sale at Robilant + Voena, is still available. In spite of the price being not that inviting as in the case of the above mentioned painting, it doesn’t take a Renaissance expert to notice that it’s an outstanding secular piece of art supported by strong bibliography and provenance. And the same goes for the two intense portraits of Antonio Mancini at Giacometti Old Master Paintings. Both pieces – the one drawn on paper is known as Madness Self-portrait and was restored by the artist himself – are included in Mancini’s “Catalogo Ragionato” that is going to be published by the end of 2017.

The hypnotic red and blue painting by Piero Dorazio at Farsetti Arte (Reticolo, 1960) went sold during the opening. But the buyer in this case is Roberto Casamonti, owner of Tornabuoni Arte, that also had an excellent Dorazio from the same period on offer at its booth. A marble bust by Lorenzo Bartolini embodying playwright Giovanbattita Niccolini has been bought by a local association supporting the Galleria dell’Accademia (the piece was on sale at Giovanni Pratesi’s gallery), and it will be donated to the Florentine museum. Tomasso Brothers Fine Arts sold a small stucco from the studio of Luca Della Robbia. It represents the Holy Mary with a child with a choir of Angels. Enrico Frascione sold a nice oil on board by Domenico Cresti, while Walter Padovani found a collector for the magnificent bronze statue of Farnese Hercules by Francesco Righetti, signed by the author and dated 1789. That’s all for the moment, “but we’re pretty sure that new sales will take place in the next days” says Damiano Lapiccirella from Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Arts, who is exhibiting an outstanding “Primavera” by Cagnaccio di San Pietro, also still available.

Carlo Orsi, President of the Associazione degli Antiquari d’Italia, confirms that art dealers are generally happy about the fair and he is confident that some main sales will take place before the end of the week. Still, we heard some dealers complaining that the fair is still a bit too local to provide international market to its participants. More international galleries and visitors are required to call it a truly “Internazionale” art fair. In this regard we would say that the BIAF is committed to Italian art and that could be its winning card in the near future. Current art fairs need now more than ever a specific identity to win the international collectors’ attention and the BIAF is one of the few fine arts fairs around that can compete on this level with the big players.

If you still need a supplementary motivation, please note that last week a definitive exhibition about the Florentine XVI century art has also opened at Palazzo Strozzi, Il Cinquecento a Firenze. Curated by former Uffizi director Antonio Natali and Florentine art historian Carlo Falciani, this show is the most important exhibition ever made of this seminal period of the art history. A dedicated article will follow soon on Cfa. Meanwhile, go and visit it as soon as you can, for you are not going to see anything like that for many years.

September 25, 2017