Among Stair Sainty’s offerings at TEFAF Maastricht is Francisco de Goya’s 2ft 5in x 2ft 1in (73 x 64.5cm) oil on canvas San Pablo, offered for a price in the region of £5m.

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It’s high time too, according to drawings dealer Stephen Ongpin. He recently completed an in-person exhibition at Master Drawings New York, attracting 500 visitors including international clients and East Coast museums. Results, he says, were at pre-pandemic levels.

The firm was among those that stood at Frieze Masters in London last autumn, the first major outing for many top-end dealerships after more than a year of online-only events. “Even though there were restrictions on who could come along and masks had to be worn there was a nice atmosphere,” Ongpin adds. “There is no substitute for putting a person in front of a work of art rather than a screen and galleries have been missing that.”

Next up for Ongpin and other drawings specialists is Salon du Dessin in Paris (May 18-23). It is followed by a wealth of summer events including TEFAF Maastricht (June 25-30), Masterpiece London (June 30-July 6) and London Art Week (July 3-8).

(TEFAF New York Fall takes place in early May but focuses on antiquities and Modern and Contemporary art).

Top-level changes

There are changes to upper-echelon fairs this year, from new dates to shortened runs. TEFAF Maastricht, once a sprawling two-week event, is now scheduled for just seven days including the preview. But whereas last year, as in 2020, top-tier dealers were starved of events to stand at, this year they are spoilt for choice. “I think we have plenty to choose from and we are doing TEFAF in June and have recently signed up for PAN Amsterdam in November,” says Toby Campbell of Rafael Valls.

“There are of course Masterpiece, Fine Arts Paris, Frieze Masters – not to mention the US fairs – so I don’t think we are struggling here.”

One hitch in the calendar is TEFAF and Masterpiece’s overlap, which has forced some dealers to make a difficult choice. Among them is London dealership Stair Sainty, which opted for the Dutch fair.

“We would have done both if they hadn’t moved,” says gallery director Thomas Smith. “Even if they’d been a couple of weeks apart we might have considered them.

“We were disappointed because good buyers come to Masterpiece. But Maastricht is an established fair and an Old Masters fair and it’s the one we’ve done the longest. It just seemed the obvious choice based on the paintings we have at the moment. The museums tend to go to Maastricht too.”

Dealer Charles Beddington agrees: “It has always been the best fair in the world for Old Master paintings and remains unrivalled. Hopefully the new date at the end of June will mean that Americans and Europeans can visit on the way to view the London auctions and London Art Week.”

Beddington will also stand at Fine Arts Paris (November 9-13), which he says also attracts a number of good Old Masters collectors.