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In the end CULTURA simply did not prove financially viable and, although the final staging last November proved successful as a trading fair, it did not hold out any hopes of long-term financial security.

This fair has always been plagued by financial uncertainty.

It had its origins in the mid-1990s as TEFAF Basel, an offshoot of the hugely successful TEFAF Maastricht. However, the association did not end amicably and from 1999 the fair broke all ties with TEFAF and continued as CULTURA. Nevertheless, right up until last year it counted many Maastricht regulars among its exhibitors.

Since 1999 the fair has relied on external funding to make it viable. In 2002 a sponsorship deal with the Swiss bank UBS, who are well known for their backing of art events, ended, but it was hoped that a new sponsorship deal could be clinched to take the fair through to a time when it was large enough at least to break even.

No such deal was forthcoming and CULTURA 2003 only happened thanks to a generous gift from a private donor, a prominent Basel citizen.

The board of CULTURA agreed to make a final decision at the end of March this year, and since no funding has been secured they concluded it would be irresponsible to continue with the fair and wound it up.

Hans Löliger, president of the CULTURA board of directors, said: “This has been a very difficult decision to make. CULTURA 2003 was an overwhelming success, but without further funding we cannot continue to organise this fair.”

London Oriental dealer Ben Janssens, an exhibitor at CULTURA and co-chairman of the fair, told the Antiques Trade Gazette last week: “It is very difficult to get sponsorship and we cannot rely on the generosity of individuals. The fair was too small to attract major sponsorship and all possibilities have been exhausted. We did not want to compromise and lower standards.”

The city of Basel was justifiably proud of CULTURA and local sources have been generous to the fair, but obviously civic pride could not financially sustain the event any longer.

CULTURA 2003 was probably the most successful to date for the 55 exhibiting dealers. The Antiquities and Egyptian Works of Art section was considered the finest in the world, but any suggestion that the fair could go it alone as an antiquities forum is countered by the fact that this one section alone could not provide the critical mass to stage a financially sound event.