Reviewed October 2020
Grace Kim, librarian
The TEFAF Cultural Programs website includes a series of recorded videos from live panels held at the Park Avenue Armory during TEFAF’s fall and spring fairs. Originally live streamed on Facebook, panels from fall 2016 to fall 2019 are freely available on the website. The website brings TEFAF’s cultural programming to the general public, providing access to current and educational discussions on art without having to attend the fairs. Experts from many fields examine issues related to art on topics that range from the historical to the contemporary. Researchers, students, art enthusiasts, and collectors will find insightful discussions here.
The programs’ recordings are clearly presented in reverse chronological order, organized by the fair’s event categories: TEFAF Afternoons and TEFAF Coffee Talks. Unfortunately, this makes finding a talk by speaker or topic cumbersome. Titles of the panel discussion are on the home page, but the viewer must go to each panel’s page to see details about the talk and speaker. Without a search function, table of contents, or other thematic organization, the viewer will need to scroll down the page and peruse titles to find a program of interest-- an experience not dissimilar to viewing a live schedule at the fair. The intent of creating a fair experience is evident, but causes unnecessary restrictions for viewing the recording in an online context. The embedded video only plays and pauses. For full screen, rewind, and fast forward options, the viewer has the option to exit the website and watch the recording on YouTube.
Notwithstanding some of these technical limitations, the programs are valuable as a resource and are of the quality one would expect from TEFAF programs. Access to insights by art experts will appeal to English-speaking art collectors, connoisseurs, historians, researchers, and enthusiasts all over the world. Catering to the TEFAF New York audience, discussions would be of interest to anyone seeking to understand what is influencing the art world at the time. For example, a panel regarding the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris on December 12, 2019 acknowledges and addresses the concern for preserving a cultural heritage after a devastating fire. In addition, panelists address a bias in the art market toward European and American art with programs such as "Latin American Art: The Market Shifts" (fall 2019) and "Chinese Art and its Markets: A Tremulous Present, What for the Future?" (fall 2019). The discussions are timely, but for an hour-long panel, the depth is necessarily limited. The linear design of a webpage view provides the online visitor the sense of temporality that is inherently the value of panel discussions.
What the TEFAF Cultural Programs offers is a glimpse into the art market through the lens of experts in the field during a fair, which is rare on the internet. A comparable fair, Masterpiece London, provides similar recorded panel discussions as part of Masterpiece Online, to bring the viewer to an online fair experience during COVID-19 closures. Panel discussions are from June 2020 and panelists logged in from their respective homes. TEFAF Cultural Programs is, thus, unique in providing online access to an in-person fair experience. It serves as a valuable resource on art, a lens through which we can witness discussions that were otherwise accessible only to in-person fair attendees between 2016 and 2019.