“YOU have to wait until June at the earliest to assess just how Maastricht went,” said one veteran of the world’s top fair. Other exhibitors maintain you do not really know just how successful Maastricht was until a year after its close.
As I write, TEFAF Maastricht, held in the Dutch city from
March 3 to 13, has only closed its doors three days ago and most of
the dealers who have got back to their galleries are still
understandably a bit shell-shocked. TEFAF is a long, serious fair
where stand staff have to work very hard to garner sales.
But while most serious purchasers are still pondering, I would
venture that this year's Maastricht was certainly as successful as
last which, in turn, was a vast improvement on 2003, blighted by
the SARS scare, war in Iraq and the depths of economic
As always, the first weekend was the most buoyant.
In the opening days after the March 3 vernissage there was muted
talk around the stands of a perceptible revival of business, of
customers starting to spend again but while there was optimism
aplenty after the fair, there was not, perhaps, the earlier feeling
that a corner had been turned. In weeks, though, news may filter
through that this was indeed a vintage Maastricht, and if so I will
let you know.
Maastricht is universally known for its Old Masters, particularly
Dutch and Flemish, and I think these were the best sellers again
this year, despite a better than ever representation of Italian
St James's dealer in Dutch paintings Johnny van Haeften does much
of his annual business at this fair and I cannot remember him
having a bad one. This year was probably his best ever with more
than 30 sales including the Jan Lievens portrait we illustrated in
our news pages last week, which he sold to a Dutch collector for
Local dealer Robert Noortman sold 10 pictures on opening night
alone, among them a Cezanne watercolour. Bernheimer-Colnaghi sold
several works to European and American collectors, prompting Konrad
Bernheimer to comment: "I could not have hoped for a better start
in my position of chairman of Pictura [the collective name for the
picture element of Maastricht]".
Representatives of the world's museums were there in force and
many works have been reserved.
The National Gallery of Scotland clinched a deal for a Gerrit van
Battem gouache from David Tunick of New York, who enjoyed his best
ever fair, and a German museum bought a Joseph de Bray from
Kunsthan-del P. de Boer of Amsterdam.
The Modern Art section does not match the Old Masters and is more
difficult to read, but it has grown in strength. Annelly Juda had a
particularly good outing and Waddington and Marlborough Galleries
also enjoyed good business.
Across the board, antiques and works of art sold very well, a
reminder that Maastricht is not just a picture fair.
Indeed, no other fair matches it for the range of museum-quality,
rare objects to be found there.
Oriental works did extremely well with Ben Janssens of London and
Vanderven & Vanderven from Holland notching up spectacular
sales from beginning to end.
Zen Gallery of Brussels sold their major piece, a limestone Buddha
from the Chandung province of China, to a Swiss
As on the international market, tribal works are gaining sales at
Maastricht and antiquities proved strong again this year.
Charles Ede from London sold his major piece, a six-figure Roman
mosaic, on the first day and sold steadily throughout to museums
and collectors, and Cologne antiquities dealer Gordian Weber
reported "unexpected" sales to Italian, French, Belgian and German
Warwickshire arms and armour specialist Peter Finer had his best
ever Maastricht with stunning sales.
In the arcane section of illuminated manuscripts Dr Jörn Günther
Antiquariat sold a number of manuscript pages from the New York
collection of Robert Lehman to Swiss, German and Dutch collectors
while an American museum has reserved a 15th century Flemish
manuscript from Bernard J. Shapero of London who reported "an
immensely successful 2005 Maastricht".
The new design of the fair was appreciated and, astonishing as it
is, the standard of works in all areas was as high this year as
If anything, the antiques and works of art section is the one
improving year on year and the buoyancy of antiquities, tribal,
Deco and Oriental work on the international market is apparent at
Buying was truly international, including Americans and although
there were not, perhaps, so many from the UK, the fact that there
was plenty of business, achieved and to come, proves the top end of
the market is very much alive and sales can be made.
Nevertheless, as one exhausted exhibitor put it "the market is
still far from easy."
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