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It’s nearly the start of the 32nd edition of TEFAF Maastricht (March 16-24), the world’s most prestigious art and antiques fair. Held once more in the Dutch city’s enormous MECC convention centre, exhibitors have left the building.

Only a temporary exodus, of course: today (Wednesday, March 13) is vetting day and all exhibitors are required to leave as 180 experts across 28 categories examine each and every item of stock on nearly 280 stands.

Planned exodus

Exhibitors plan this forced day off in advance: Oliver Moss and his team at Asian dealers Sydney L. Moss are in Cologne for the day while Old Master dealer Mark Weiss and colleagues from The Weiss Gallery are having a relaxing spa day. 

Back in Maastricht, Martin Levy, of H Blairman & Sons, told ATG that among the 279 exhibitors this year, Brexit is a dominant topic of conversation.  

“We all sat glued to our mobile phones during dinner last night as the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement came through,” he said. “Brexit is being talked about by everyone here, but mainly at the bigger political level, rather than in terms of direct impact on our businesses.

“All our EU and American colleagues seem to look at us with a degree of pity as our government and parliament flounders.”  

Journey preparation

UK exhibitors have been more exercised than usual about travel to and from Maastricht, due to the event’s proximity to the official Brexit date of March 29.

Rupert Maas of the Maas Gallery, arriving in Maastricht in his own van after a delay of three hours due to a French customs workers’ strike, told ATG it was “a great relief to be here”.

For an update on last night’s Westminster vote, Maas switched on BBC Radio 4 this morning “but then quickly turned it off. European exhibitors here at TEFAF consider Brexit to be a problem of our own making and that we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. I agree.”

Maas said the heartening news was that “TEFAF looks fantastic this year. I’ve seen some marvellous things and the quality is right up there. The British dealers, in particular the Old Masters stands, are looking really good”.

Levy agreed, commenting that "the fair is looking as elegant as ever, and the hotels are beginning to fill up with visitors from the US and elsewhere".

A clarion call from BADA

Meanwhile in London, construction began this morning on the pavilion for the 2019 BADA Fair (March 20-26) on the King’s Road, Chelsea. Later today, association members and fair exhibitors will receive a rousing communiqué.

“BADA 2019 provides a great opportunity to lift the spirits of the nation,” BADA chief executive Marco Forgione has written to members.

“Against a backdrop of political chaos and ineptitude it’s up to us forge ahead and look to lift the spirits. As one national newspaper article put it this week: 'Filling your home with works of art you love does more than just improve the décor – it can boost your mental health too'.”

Now a year old, the bada.org website has attracted record numbers of visitors in the past 30 days, Forgione writes, “despite all the political chaos”. 

Find out how the art and antiques market is preparing for Brexit.