The event currently takes place over 10 days (this year March 10-19) at the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre (MECC) where it has run since 1988.
Despite almost universal agreement that it remains the world’s premier art and antiques fair, many dealers argue the fair could be dramatically improved.
Proposals for change were posed in the name of keeping the fair “competitive” and “exciting” as it enters its fourth decade.
Exhibitor Robert Bowman of Bowman Sculpture told ATG: “The fair needs to remain competitive. We should be looking to move the fair to a place that is an international communications centre such as Amsterdam.
“The TEFAF brand is the strongest in the art world, but in a world of instant gratification Maastricht is a difficult place to access.”
Berlin or Amsterdam
It is not the first time that a change of venue has been proposed (Brussels and Paris have been mooted as possibilities) but keeping the fair in the Netherlands would preserve its Dutch identity.
“There is a large Dutch contingent here, strong in many of the fields,” said Old Master dealer Patrick Matthiesen.
“Berlin for me would be my top choice as a hip new place, but Amsterdam is a big city, there’s more for visitors to see there. A move would shake the whole thing up.”
Old Master dealer Fergus Hall, meanwhile, called the recent success of the new TEFAF New York “proof of concept” that the brand can be moved without losing its essence.
When contacted by ATG, a TEFAF spokesperson said only that “there are no plans to move TEFAF Maastricht from Maastricht”. The organisation is understood to have recently renewed a contract to use its existing venue for another three years.
For some, remaining in the same place is the right choice.
Old Master Johnny van Haeften, who said that he was “implacably opposed to moving the fair”, has stepped down from the TEFAF executive committee (he remains on the board of trustees) to make way for younger people to join with fresh ideas.
He added that “the Maastricht authorities are aware the infrastructure needs to be addressed. But moving would be a big mistake.”
Rare books and maps dealer Daniel Crouch concurred. “It would be catastrophic. It would lose its magic.” However, he agreed the fair could benefit from a trim in terms of length and scale. The fair currently hosts more than 270 international dealers and the 10-day run crosses two weekends. It’s a formula that has remained the same for decades and with a perceived fall in visitor numbers this year some feel that the 30-year-old event is ripe for change.
“The fair length should be shortened to one weekend and possibly have fewer exhibitors,” Crouch says. “The board is aware of its problems and are willing to listen. The fair does have a chance to modernise.”
Dealers' Views: Should TEFAF move from Maastricht?
YES:“Every fair has a lifespan and it should be kept fun for the collectors who come to visit. I believe the lease is running out in three years’ time in Maastricht and if I had a choice I would vote for a move to Amsterdam”
Adam M Williams
NO:“Maastricht is a strong location. It has traditionally worked. The fair was a success, and it helps to be away from distractions and auctions in major cities. Why fix what’s not broken?”
Lewis Smith, Koopman Rare Art
YES:“Amsterdam would be the better option, if it is an option. A slightly smaller fair, in Amsterdam, with fewer exhibitors, and high(er) quality objects would be preferred. A slight ‘fair-fatigue’ seems to have set in. I would like to see more masterpieces and fewer other works!”
Additional reporting by Laura Chesters