The modern-art section of Tefaf had been depleted by the absence of dealers such as Hauser & Wirth, L & M Arts and Luxembourg & Dayan, who had exhibited last year.

Bottle Tops

Some exhibitors were eager to counter perceptions that visitors had been distracted by events in the Middle East and Japan. "It was our best-ever opening night," said Tefaf stalwart Axel Vervoordt, a Belgian dealer who creates room settings with an eclectic mix of art and objects. "It often happens that when there's a commotion in the world, people want to find joy in something."

A colorful metal bottle-top hanging by the Ghanaian contemporary artist El Anatsui priced at 600,000 euros-and bought by a Russian collector-was among over 20 pieces sold at the VIP preview, Vervoordt said today.

The Amsterdam-based dealer Noortman Master Paintings sold three paintings and a drawing for a total of $15 million at the preview. These included a 1671 oil-on-panel view of Haarlem by Gerrit Berckheyde priced at 4.5 million euros and a 1937 Picasso drawing of Dora Maar marked at $2.5 million.

"Whatever might be happening in the world, the art market is in a better place than it was two years ago," gallery director, William Noortman, said in an interview. "There are some confident sellers and some confident buyers out there."

Freud's Mother

A 1972 Lucian Freud portrait, "The Painter's Mother," acquired from the artist himself, was the stand-out lot on the booth of the Munich contemporary-art dealer Galerie Daniel Blau, priced at 2.8 million pounds ($4.5 million). "It feels no different from last year," Blau said in an interview. The Freud had attracted interest, though no reserve, by 2 p.m. today, the official opening day of the fair, said Blau. He will be holding an exhibition of Freud works sourced directly from the artist at his Munich gallery in May.

Rembrandt's 1658 "Portrait of a Man With Arms Akimbo," shown by the New York-based dealer Otto Naumann Ltd., with a price tag of $47 million, and Frans Francken's 1635 figure- packed allegory, "Mankind's Eternal Dilemma-The Choice between Vice and Virtue," priced at $14 million by London-based Johnny van Haeften Ltd., were the star works of the Old Master paintings section, the traditional backbone of the fair. Neither had attracted early formal reserves.

Picasso Minotaur