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And nowhere is that show more significant than in Maastricht, setting for the world’s top art and antiques fair.

To prove the point, The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF), who organise the event, have just published a survey to show how much of an economic impact the fair has on the city.

The Art Fair as an Economic Force is the latest in a string of surveys and reviews that underline the importance of the fair and, significantly, provide some hard statistics on a market and its surrounding industry, whose often confidential nature can render such facts extremely hard to come by. The result is a replenished arsenal of information on which the media, among others, can build an up-to-date and factual picture of that market, raising its profile in the run-up to March in Maastricht.

So, with this in mind, how important is TEFAF to the city?

In a word, vital. The report, put together by noted experts Jeremy Eckstein Associates, goes into great detail about many aspects of its significance, but a few headline nuggets give a rough idea of the picture. Try these, for instance:

• The economic contribution of the fair to the area in 2002 was estimated at €8m and climbing.
• TEFAF has helped Maastricht become the second most visited city in the Netherlands after Amsterdam.
• Hotels enjoy up to 30 per cent more business during the fair, not least because the buying power of guests during that time rises significantly.
• The main local taxi firm employs 20 per cent more drivers during the fair, while in 2006 the local airport welcomed 195 private jets during the fair.

But what of the industries more directly linked to the art and antiques business? Here the report summarises the spend as follows:

• Stand decoration/presentation: €2.98m
• Additional security: €0.25m
• Special catalogues & advertising: €1.87m
• Packing and shipping to and from the fair: €2.67m
• Insurance attributable to the fair: €1.21m
• Associated travel, entertainment/accommodation: €2.82m

The report also goes into some detail about the impact of fairs globally, but this is really about the phenomenon that is Maastricht.

Of course, as with all things artistic, there are less measurable cultural benefits attributable to the presence of the fair, but this report is very much concerned with economics.

If one statistic impresses more than any other, it is Maastricht’s slice of the total spent on the fairs business globally by its exhibitors. The current global estimate, once all expenses have been totted up, is €32.07m – of that, €11.76m or 37 per cent, is spent on Maastricht.

The report, priced at €7.50, is available for order at www.tefaf.com.

By Ivan Macquisten