ART MARKET: UP FOR SALE New York, new fair

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The Independent Culture
IF YOU want to sell an expensive painting in 1995, your best bet is America. The International Fine Art Fair in New York, which opened on Friday and runs until 16 May, has attracted an unprecedented number of European dealers. Of the 77 exhibitors, 47 are from Europe. According to organiser Brian Haughton, Paris dealers claim to be doing 60 per cent of their business with Americans this year. Desmond Corcoran of London's Lefevre Gallery has decided to go to the New York fair because "There are a lot of new punters in America who haven't necessarily reached us yet".

Only paintings, drawings and sculpture are exhibited for sale at the Fine Art Fair - no antiques - and this seems to be the secret of its appeal to collectors and museums alike. No contemporay dealers are invited, to avoid competition with established contemporary events. The works for sale date from 1300 to 1900.

The Lefevre Gallery of Bruton Street, Mayfair, is one of three exclusive London galleries which have never previously exhibited at a fair but are taking the plunge this week. The others are Thomas Gibson of Bond Street and Artemis of Duke Street, St James's. Lefevre and Gibson are London's top specialists in Impressionist and modern art; Artemis covers the gamut from Old Masters to Impressionism.

Some of the Fair's most interesting exhibits are illustrated here. The Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies by Vincent van Gogh which Lefevre has taken to New York is priced at around £5m-£6m. Painted in 1887, it was thought to be lost - nobody had seen it since the 1920s - but it was hiding in a German collection in Switzerland. Another high point is Poussin's mythical landscape, Olympus and Marsyas. It dates from around 1626 and used to belong to the Dukes of Mantua. Geneva dealer Jan Krugier is showing it but has refused to tell me how many million dollars he wants for it.

The New York Fine Art Fair is an annual event organised by London dealers Brian and Anna Haughton. Launched last year, it proved immediately popular. It is held in the Seventh Regiment Armory hall on Park Avenue, in the heart of the most fashionable quarter of town. Tickets for the launch party on Thursday night cost $500 (£300) each if you wanted to be there during the first hour, or $200 (£125) if you could contain your impatience for 60 minutes.

Brian and Anna Haughton have had a remarkable record of success with their fairs. They are porcelain dealers who started life with a humble market stall and graduated to a Mayfair gallery. In 1982 they launched the London Ceramics Fair and Seminar, an annual event loved by specialists who will be turning out for the 14th such occasion at the Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, from 16-19 June this year.

The Haughtons ran a similar specialist Silver and Jewellery Fair from 1985 to 1991 when it was effectively killed off by the recession. But recession fuelled the appetite of more generalist dealers for fairs, and in 1989 the couple launched the October International Fine Art and Antique Dealers' Show in New York. It was the first fair in the US where the offerings were vetted for authenticity - and the Americans loved it. An attempt to mount a similar international show at Harrods in 1993 flopped, and has not been repeated. Undaunted, the Haughtons launched the Fine Art Fair last year and found they had another triumph on their hands.

Such was the success of the 1994 Fine Art Fair that it has spawned an imitator, the Salon des Beaux-Arts de Paris, scheduled for 20-25 September this year and every two years thereafter. Like the New York Fair, the Salon will concentrate on paintings, drawings and sculpture and avoid contemporary art - already catered for by the Faire Internationale d'Art Contemporain.

Geraldine Norman

The big apples: Nicolas Poussin's 'Olympus and Marsyas' (main picture), never previously seen in America, is one of the main attractions at this week's International Fine Art Fair in New York. Dealer Jan Krugier will not reveal how many million he is asking for it. Another highlight is Gilbert Stuart's handsome 'Portrait of John Gell, Admiral of the White' (left), painted when Stuart - one of the first great American artists - was working in England. It is for sale at $450,000 (£280,000). George Inness's green summer view, 'In the Catskills' (above left), is for sale through the Connecticut dealer Thomas Colville. With a price-tag of £5m- £6m, Vincent van Gogh's 'Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies' (above) is another star of the New York show - one of a series of flower pictures painted in Paris in the summer of 1887