Van Gogh, Kandinsky stars of the show at Dutch art fair

Art dealer Robert Landau bought the painting at auction from Sotheby's last year for about $45 million, the most expensive Kandinsky ever sold.

A rare early work by Vincent van Gogh and a record-selling masterpiece by Wassily Kandinsky will be up for sale when one of the world’s largest art fairs opens its doors this weekend.

From Saturday until 14 March, visitors at The European Art Fair, better known as TEFAF, will be able to marvel at a treasure trove of paintings, sculptures and jewellery all up for sale in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht.

‘Star at the fair’

Among the many pieces up for grabs, which include famous names like Manet, Rubens and Rodin, the undisputed stars of the show are two paintings: Van Gogh’s “Tete de paysanne a la coiffe blanche” and Kandinsky’s “Murnau mit Kirche II”.

Also known as “Head of an Old Peasant Woman with a White Cap”, Van Gogh’s early work, painted around 1884 has been put up for sale by M.S. Rau, one of the largest and best known galleries in the United States, based in New Orleans.

“Van Gogh is such an incredibly timeless artist,” said the gallery’s vice president of acquisitions Rebecca Rau.

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“There is bound to be a lot of interest” from buyers, she told AFP.

Van Gogh made the painting while living with his parents in the southern Dutch town of Nuenen the year before he painted his other famous work from the period, the 1885 “The Potato Eaters”.

M.S. Rau’s president Bill Rau told AFP the asking price for the painting which goes on sale on Thursday was 4.5 million euros ($4.9 million).

“We knew that this would be a star at the fair,” Rau said. “But we had no idea how excited people would get just walking by.”

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Record Kandinsky

Painted in 1910, Kandinsky’s “Murnau with Church 2” was sold by Sotheby’s in London last year for a record $45 million.

A colourful vision of the German village of Murnau with its church spire stretched like the peaks of the Bavarian Alps, heralded the Russian master’s move towards abstraction.

The oil work once adorned the dining room of the Jewish couple Johanna Margarethe Stern and Siegbert Stern, founders of a textile company.

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At the heart of Berlin’s cultural life in the 1920s, counting Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein in their circle, they built up a collection of around 100 paintings and drawings.

Siegbert Stern died of natural causes in 1935.

His wife fled to the Netherlands but died in Auschwitz in May 1944 after being captured by the Nazis.

Prodigal art piece

“Murnau Mit Kirche II” was identified only a decade ago in a museum in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, where it had been since 1951.

It was returned in 2022 to the heirs of the Sterns, whose 13 survivors shared the proceeds of the sale.

Art dealer Robert Landau bought the painting at auction from Sotheby’s last year for about $45 million, the most expensive Kandinsky ever sold.

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Landau did not want to disclose a selling price but told AFP the painting was recently valued at “100 million euros”.

“But I have nothing to say about the price. The world knows what we paid for it and we will only sell it to someone we like, and who will keep it in a nice place,” Landau said.

Both paintings may not be seen by the public for the foreseeable future, should they land in the hands of a buyer for a private collection.

But said Rebecca Rau: “The way I feel about most of the masterpieces, many of which are in this building at the moment, is eventually they will likely end up in a museum.”

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