Issue Number: 94
As the world’s leading art dealers and curators flock to The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, the quality of the work on offer is higher than ever, says Miriam Kramer
From its humble beginnings some twenty years ago, The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in the Dutch city of Maastricht has become the outstanding event of its kind. Annually, it attracts more than 200 exhibitors and some 84,000 visitors. Museum curators and serious private collectors wouldn’t dream of missing it. And, although the event is famous for its Old Master paintings, there are works from all fields, including prints, sculpture, classical antiquities, illuminated manuscripts, textiles and glass.
Aside from its location, one of the main reasons for TEFAF’s success is that the fair is run by dealers for dealers, and their primary concern is to maintain the high quality of the works on offer. As executive committee member Johnny Van Haeften, a London-based specialist in Dutch and Flemish paintings, observes, ‘We understand the problems and requirements of our colleagues better than independent fair organisers.’
TEFAF is a non-profit organisation and ploughs all of its revenues back into promoting the fair. With an increasing number of visitors each year and consistently buoyant sales, the formula seems to work. London-based Asian art dealer, John Eskenazi, who co-curated the Royal Academy’s ‘Chola’ exhibition, helped to found the fair in 1987. He showed at TEFAF for its first decade and is returning this year. ‘It’s become the best fair in the world, largely because of the quality and range of the dealers,’ he says.
For anyone who longed to take home one of the pieces in the ‘Chola’ exhibition, he is offering a Chola bronze from an old European collection, in addition to rare Ghandara material – Buddhist art of Hellenistic influence.
Every object is vetted for authenticity by a committee of experts, and it has been said that every item is of museum quality. The most expensive picture this year is Jacques-Louis David’s The Anger of Achilles, 1825 (above), the last picture he ever painted (he died in front of it), and his last history painting in private hands. London dealer Stair-Sainty is offering it for approximately €9 million (£6m). Another outstanding work is on Van Haeften’s stand: Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s depiction of A Winter Landscape with the Massacre of the Innocents, for around £1.75m. For those with more modest means, a pair of Roman gold earrings is offered for around £2,000 at Charles Ede.
Even if you only window-shop, the Maastricht fair is a treat for the eyes. Exhibitors are approachable and happy to talk about their offerings. And – unlike at museums – you are free to touch most of the exhibits.
TEFAF, Maastricht, The Netherlands (+31 411 64 50 90; www.tefaf.com), 9–18 March