A regular at the annual fair for more than 20 years, Matthiesen has dipped out on several occasions – in 2016 it was due to commitments to his charity, The Matthiesen Foundation – but he keeps coming back.
It is the major fair in his field of Old Masters, a fact which he acknowledges, and is the only one the St James’s gallery attends. But that doesn’t mean it ticks all the boxes. Matthiesen isn’t a fan of fairs at the best of times and feels that changes to TEFAF over the past few years have not been for the better necessarily.
“It was a smaller fair in the days when I started exhibiting there,” he says. “Now it’s much too large and too diffuse as a result.”
And with the pool of Old Master collectors apparently constricting, it’s getting increasingly difficult to make a stand-out sale. He adds that the classic visitor from the Benelux countries might go for the Dutch 16th and 17th century paintings but his mainly Italian paintings can feel like less commercial options in this environment.
But, Matthiesen says, his gallery’s works are “top of the range”, making them attractive to the raft of museums that appear in Maastricht.
And these are pictures that speak for themselves, to the point that Matthiesen “spends no time at all on stand design. I put up the pictures and don’t spend a lot of time with elaborate fabrics, which is the way stands seem to be going over the past couple of years.”
This year the gallery has a piece of prime real estate with a corner stand, previously the regular site of 19th century and Old Master paintings gallery Otto Naumann.
Matthiesen notes that the absence of the New York gallery and similar specialists such as Galerie Sanct Lucas is a shame for a fair trying to stay true to its roots as it diversifies.