TEFAF have announced that they are in discussions with Sotheby’s about the possibility of launching a high-end art fair in mainland China next year.
Although details of location and exact date
have yet to be announced, they hope the first TEFAF
Beijing, organised via Sotheby's Joint Venture and the
state-owned Beijing GeHua Art Company, will be the first such
Western-organised fair in mainland China as opposed to Hong
It would also be a first as a collaboration
between an art fair and an auction house, more often seen as rivals
rather than colleagues.
The announcement follows the news in
September 2012 that Sotheby's had signed a ten-year joint agreement
with GeHua Art Company, part of the media conglomerate GeHua
Cultural and Development Group, to become the first international
auction house in China - previously they had held auctions in Hong
Kong but were prohibited from holding auctions in mainland China
unless they had a Chinese partner.
While Sotheby's have clearly invested
heavily in Asia, TEFAF have also made no secret of their desire to
court the Chinese market. In September 2011, a team of TEFAF
representatives visited China, organising a press conference and
cocktail reception for Chinese collectors at the Dutch ambassador's
residence in Beijing and a second event in Shanghai, to encourage
more buyers from mainland China to visit the Maastricht fair.
"TEFAF Beijing 2014 would represent
a ground-breaking collaboration between a leading international
auction house and the world's most important art and antiques
fair," said Ben Janssens, chairman of TEFAF's executive
"It has always been TEFAF
Maastricht's aim to be responsive to global trends in the
art market. We feel now is the time to further develop our presence
in China, one of the most important art markets."
Mr Janssens said that TEFAF had made great
efforts to explore the market in China in recent years.
So when and where could it be? Various dates
and locations have been suggested but nothing confirmed as yet.
However, it seems likely that the fair's
timing will not be too close to TEFAF
Maastricht's March 14-23 run, nor will it clash with the
major June fairs season in London, where many of TEFAF's
participants also exhibit.
A direct clash with Asian Art in
London in November would also be unwise, so an early
autumn date in September or October seems likely, although it is
unlikely to conflict with Fine Art Asia in Hong Kong
from October 4-7.
As for the location, although unconfirmed,
one strong possibility is the planned Beijing Freeport of Culture
within Beijing's Tianzhu Free Trade Zone.
The freeport's 83,000 sq m tax-free storage
facility, next to Beijing's airport, should be complete by the
middle of next year and is expected to be used for art exhibitions
and auctions. It is being developed jointly by Euroasia, the Swiss
holding company behind the Singapore Freeport, which opened in
2010, and Beijing GeHua Cultural Development Group.
Part of Sotheby's agreement with GeHua was
that they could make use of the part of the freeport controlled by
GeHua, who would not allow any of Sotheby's competitors to hold
auctions or selling shows there.
Having said that, the GeHua agreement also allows sales to be
held outside the freeport, as happened with Sotheby's inaugural
Beijing sale on September 27 last year, which took place in a