MARCH in the small and ancient Dutch city of Maastricht is not just the hub of the international art world for the duration of the world’s top fair, TEFAF Maastricht. It has an impact which reverberates throughout the whole year and is a commercial event unparalleled in its quality and expertise.
Every year when it comes to previewing this fair, which runs
at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC) from March
4 to 13 (with a vernissage on March 3), all commentators tend to
run out of superlatives. And I can guarantee this is the only fair
where that happens. With the perennial problem of finding fresh,
often museum-quality stock to bring onto the market, the only
question about Maastricht - and it's an annual one - is can they
keep up the quality? But they do.
And, regarding its status, it is telling that this is not a self
regarding event. In its publicity it just once simply refers to
itself as "the world's leading art fair". Other quality fairs blow
their own trumpets far too loudly throughout most of their
pre-publicity and continually bang on about becoming another
But they won't, and internationally the consensus among
collectors, dealers and museum people is that this fair simply has
no rivals and, in the current climate, is, if anything, moving
further away from any possible contenders. This year 202 of the
world's very top dealers will be displaying their wares. Although
by no means every stand will have the kind of museum-quality
associated with Maastricht, many will.
The assemblage is truly international with the dealers coming from
14 countries. This year Acquavella from New York return after a
three-year absence with their classical Modern and Contemporary
European and American art.
Two London dealers make their debut - Blairman with 19th century
applied arts, and Rupert Wace, the extremely busy antiquities
Newcomers from Europe will be Bulgari from Rome with fine
jewellery; Karsten Greve from Cologne with 20th century fine art;
Amedeo Montanari from Paris with antique frames; Segoura from Paris
with 18th century French furniture and objects; and Carolle
Thibault-Pomerantz from Paris with 18th century to Deco French wall
I will not attempt to tabulate the proffered highlights of the
fair. Suffice to say that at whatever level, this is the fair for
which the exhibitors save the very best pieces. This is why on
vernissage day the small Maastricht airport has its annual traffic
jam with celebrities, seriously rich collectors and dealers, and
museum curators all flying in.
That is one reason why it is always difficult to gauge actual
business achieved at this fair. After-sales are all-important and
museums, in particular, often take many months to affirm an
But it became clear that at the past two Maastrichts, which were
held during arguably the most difficult times many in the trade can
remember, much business was achieved. And, of course, here most
business is seriously high end.
For those who just come to look, this fair is proving an almost
unwieldy attraction. Last year the gate of 75,000 was 15 per cent
up on the previous year, and even the MECC cannot easily
accommodate such a throng.
For 2005, there is a new design by the fair architect Tom Postma
of Amsterdam, who has been working with British exhibition designer
Also this year there is a special loan exhibition of 35 Old
Masters and sculptures from the Detroit Institute of Arts, many of
them bought at TEFAF.
I greatly look forward to reporting whether the best assembly of
art and antiques outside of the world's museums actually finds
buyers and not just admirers.
That is the only real worry about this fair, as is so often
expressed by exhibitors. It may be museum-quality but, like every
other fair, it is not an exhibition. It is a marketplace.
Admission is €35.
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