Showing up at TEFAF Maastricht in the southern Netherlands with a stand cobbled together from stale, lacklustre stock is tantamount to professional suicide, the sort of nightmare that has dealers waking up in a cold sweat.
To avoid such eventualities, each year they
hoard merchandise to unveil at the fair that has become a byword
for quality - most dealers would rather stay at home than show up
with poor stock.
We say it every year but it remains the case
that The European Fine Art Fair, now over a quarter of a
century old (it celebrated its 25th anniversary last year), is
still the best art and antiques fair in the world.
Yes there is talk every year of young
pretenders vying for its crown, that TEFAF has become too
complacent, that the 'exclusive' preview day for 10,000-plus guests
often descends into a Brueghel-esque fight (yes, literally) for the
last vol au vent.
But to exhibit at TEFAF is still considered
the pinnacle of the trade and says that as a dealer you have truly
Above: vetters examine a table at TEFAF
This year the fair runs from March 15-24 at
the usual venue, the huge Maastricht Exhibition and Congress
Centre. From the outside the MECC is yet another soulless
convention centre in a business park. But inside it is a stunning
sight, millions upon millions of pounds/euros/dollars worth of art,
antiques and jewellery, and more cut flowers than you'll see all
year - 64,500 tulips and 33,000 roses last year.
Unlike events in metropolises such as London
and New York, TEFAF truly takes over the small Dutch city - its
restaurants, hotels and bars refer to its run as their 'golden
weeks', as the world's collectors, curators and dealers arrive and
spend. Maastricht is centrally positioned within Europe,
undoubtedly picturesque and steeped in history, but if it was not
for TEFAF, most would probably never have visited.
This year 264 dealers from 20 countries will
exhibit at TEFAF and, as usual, by far the largest national
contingent are from the UK, with 75 exhibitors, followed by the
Netherlands with 39, Germany with 33, France with 29 and the USA
As many will know, the event that laid the
foundations for TEFAF was Pictura, which was started in
1975 with just 28 dealers and concentrated purely on Old Masters
and medieval sculpture. Some dealers who exhibited at
Pictura, such as Richard Green and Johnny van Haeften,
have stood at the fair since its inception, and Old Masters and
early works of art are still at the crux of the fair.
But it has now widened to include
disciplines such as furniture, design, jewellery, tribal art,
antiquities, illuminated manuscripts and Asian art, with Modern and
Contemporary art playing an increasingly prominent role.
Above: a view of TEFAF Maastricht in
Navigating the enormous fair can be tricky,
but it helps that the floorplan divides exhibitors into ten areas
by discipline: paintings, antiques, modern art, manuscripts,
classical antiquities, jewellery, design, the business
pavilion, Showcase and Paper.
TEFAF Paper is devoted to
works on paper and is housed in an annexe to one side of the fair -
it can be easy to miss, but make sure you make the effort to visit
as there are great things in this oasis of calm.
TEFAF Showcase, meanwhile, offers
younger dealerships a one-off chance to exhibit on a small stand.
This year, the lucky six are an even split of London and Parisian
dealers - from Paris, Eric Delalande (marine and scientific pieces
and Chinese objects), Lucas Ratton (African art) and Laurence
Souksi (Chinese snuff bottles) and from London, Patrick Heide
Contemporary Art, Sinai & Sons (19th and 20th century
decorative art and design), and Trinity House Paintings
(Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, Modern British and 19th century
While this is a one-off opportunity to
exhibit at TEFAF, 15 dealers have this year managed to move from
the lengthy waiting list to secure a stand in the main body of the
fair. One of these, the 20th century artists' jewellery specialists
Didier Ltd from London, has made the jump from Showcase
last year, while New York design dealer Jason Jacques was selected
for Showcase in 2009.
Two others have exhibited here in the past
but will return - Modern and Contemporary art super gallery
Gagosian of New York and London-based Asian art dealersRossi &
Rossi, who last took part in 1995.
Two of the newcomers join TEFAF
Paper - Galleri K from Oslo and Francesca Antonacci Damiano
Lapiccirella Fine Art from Florence.
Munich-based Kunstsalon Franke-Schenk join
the paintings section with Old Master and Impressionist works, and
two more German galleries, Galerie Ludorfffrom Düsseldorf and
Galerie Bastian from Berlin, both dealers in Modern and
Contemporary art, join TEFAF Modern.
The remaining five debutants are in
TEFAF Antiques - Amir Mohtashemi, London (Islamic and
Indian works of art), Galerie Kevorkian, Paris (Far Eastern and
Islamic works of art), Van Cleef and Arpels, London (jewellery),
Yufuku Gallery, Tokyo (Japanese art) and Gallery 1492, Paris
The second TEFAF Art
Symposium will also be held this year from 10-11.30am on
Friday, March 15, this year titled Rising Stars in the Art
World. Emerging Markets and Top Performing Artists.
Kicking off with a review of the global art
market during 2012, the symposium will look at the differences
between the emerging markets of China and Brazil and the arts
economist Dr Clare McAndrew will present the latest TEFAF Art
Market Report. For more information and registration see www.tefafartnews.com