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TEFAF 2010

The European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht 12-21 March 2010.

All Photos by Max-Nathan Punter

TEFAF is more than an arts and antiques show. It is THE EUROPEAN FINE ARTS FAIRthe most prestigious arts and antiques fair in the world. Dana Micucci writes in Veranda magazine (March/April 2006), “The Netherlands may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, but when it comes to art and antiques it leaves a big foot print. This industrious nation of seafaring merchants gave the West some of its first art dealers, auctoneers and affluent collectors. It claims some of the world’s finest museums, and it was the birthplace of many illustrious artists – Vermeer, Rembrantdt and van Gogh – to name a few. It is also home to The European Fine Arts Fair – the prestigious art and antique fair that takes place in the small Dutch border town of Maastricht. Beyond The Netherland’s historical, cultural and commercial prowess lies a distinctive Dutch character – rooted in a subtle combination of the cozy and cosmopolitan, the intimate and urbane, which permeates its ancient cities, Old Master still lifes and genre paintes as well as it’s deocartive antiques such as Delftware, pewter and glass. There is no better place than TEFAF to find such a stunning array of treasures so clealy imbued with the Dutch spirit”.

I would add to Dana’s words that vendors and buyers alike come from the four corners of the world – 82% of the participants are non-Dutch with 220 art and antiques representative checking-in from 15 different countries. Museum curators and trustees from 25 countries visited TEFAF in 2008 including the major American institutions, the Hermitage in St Petersburg, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Tate Britain in London and both the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Competition for a stall at the fair is fiercer than Olympic figure skating (and behind-the-scenes stories make Tonya Harding seem tame). For an antiques dealer, making the fair means they’ve made it! Only the best of the best are allowed to participate in the event. But this year TEFAF is doing something new. They recognize that it is difficult for new dealers to “make it’ into the show when competing against buisnesses which have been around longer than many nations. Thus, TEFAF has recently added The TEFAF Showcase for recently established vendors. These debutantes are allowed to participate in the Showcase strictly on a one-off basis, thereby giving young dealers the exposure of being part of a major international fine art event. TEFAF stall rentals typically run for rates equal to buying an ownership share in an NFL football team, but these debutantes are allowed to participate for peanuts. Their TEFAF costs aren’t as high as the big boys fees, thus their “needed profit margins” aren’t going to be as high. In my opinion, these are the dealers to watch. If you like their inventory, get their names and contact information and 6 months after the fair (once the post-TEFAF- euphoria wears off and their prices have floated back down to reality) give them a call about the item you’re interested in!

As you walk about the carefully decorated stalls look around – not just at the items for sell, the great floral arrangments and the innovative décor, but at the other visitors to the fair. See that guy over there – he’s a private buyer who just flew in on his private jet. Of course, unless you are a polyglot, you might find eavesdropping on the rich and famous to be a bit difficult. You’re as likely to hear English spoken as you are Russian, Chinese, Aarbic, French, Portugese, German, Dutch or Italian. It’s as if you’ve taken the worlds wealthiest citizens, thrown them in a Baccarat martini shaker and added copious quantities of cologne, silk ascots, and mink. The cocktail comes out tasting a tad Fitzgeraldesque, but with price tags included.

It’s this latter reason that I send you to the show. When you go to a museum you can’t touch the art, you don’t get to see the reverse of the painting and you certainly don’t hear how much money a Monet costs. But at TEFAF, you can do all these things. Entrance for 2 into TEFAF costs more than I spent on the pair of brass turn-of-the-century-Polish candlesticks I bought at a flea market in Gdansk which grace my table, but the cost is worth it. At 55E per person (it does include the stupendous fair catalog – eye candy itself) you might be wondering why I’m sending you there. Unless your budget is a whole lot bigger than mine you most likely won’t be doing any buying at the fair. Consider it a day out window shopping. But, oh honey, the window shopping is good. Down right Divalicious.

I always tell Diva Clients who are interested in learning about antiques to go to the museums. Study the art, study quality and then take that knowledge home with you and out to the flea market and apply it at prices that don’t rival the USA’s national deficit. This is why you go to TEFAF. You go to TEFAF to educate your eye so that you recognize quality (and while you’re there to try and hone in on a few free glasses of champagne). The worlds best antiques have been gathered in this one location (I cringe to think what insurance for the fair must cost). No where else (includng the world’s best museums – the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum, the Uffizi or the Met) will you find a collection of art and antiques this good in one locale… that is, until next year. For the fair has been held every March since 1975, recession or no recession.

Ben Janssens, Chairman of TEFAF’s Executive Committee, said: “There is no evidence that the jittery financial markets have discouraged art buyers and in fact the reverse seems to be true. Visitors said to me that they see no point in investing in stocks at the moment and prefer to put their money into art and antiques. What has also been encouraging is the increase in visitors from Asia including, for the first time, two groups totaling 20 people from mainland China.”

Dates for March 2011 are not yet available but typically TEFAF posts the next year’s dates within weeks following it’s current fair. This information, my friends, is key for you. It might be too late for you to catch a train or book a flight to this years TEFAF, but you will certainly want to add TEFAF to your 2010 calendar and while you’re at it go ahead and book the hotel. Hotels for 30 miles around book up a year in advance.

Just as TEFAF has vetting committees to guarantee the quality, authenticity and condition of the work (taking works of art that do not meet their high standards out of the dealers possession until the fair is over), I have a Diva Guarantee that will be the finest fine arts fair you’ll ever attend!

Until next time,

The Antiques Diva ™

All Photos by Max-Nathan Punter

Diva Note: REPRINT: Original blog post ran in March 2009

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