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 Kong.
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 committee.
"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 museum.