AS MOST ART LOVERS NOW RECOGNISE, Maastricht’s annual TEFAF (The European Fine Arts Fair), although only twenty years old, has established itself as the world’s leading rendezvous for all who buy, sell or comment upon fine art, rare antiques and classical antiquities. Visits in recent years have noted some very intriguing heraldry in the illuminated manuscripts on show, as well as in, as might be expected, the many portraits offered for sale, so William Hogarth, as last year, has been asked to spend a couple of days there and to report on what would interest our readers. His notes on what he sees and the observations made by the exhibitors he interviews will be published in April.
sugar bowl with arms of Guylemin
Although TEFAF is now a major destination fair no serious art buyer wants to miss, its origins were humble. It began life as the Pictura Fine Art Fair in 1975 with 28 exhibitors specialising in Old Master paintings and medieval sculptures, and was held in the Eurohal in Maastricht, a modern building that has since been demolished.
S.J. Phillips

Sugar bowl with arms of Guylemin
“The Eurohal was on the banks of the River Maas and was a large concrete and glass barn which I think had a corrugated iron roof because when it rained or hailed the noise was indescribable,” recalls Johnny Van Haeften, a leading specialist in Dutch and Flemish Old Master paintings who is a former chairman of the paintings section of TEFAF and still a member of the fair’s executive committee.
picture of Charles Grant, Vicomte de Vaux
David Mason of the MacConnal-Mason Gallery, London, which specialises in 19th and early 20th century European paintings, says: “In the early days it was like a provincial fair and there was not much business. It took time to establish it and bring in customers and it was certainly not like it is now with private jets flying into the local airport and the hotels in Maastricht full.”
The clientèle was less sophisticated then and Raphael Valls, the London-based Old Master paintings dealer, remembers selling a painting depicting pigs to a buyer who liked it because he was a leading manufacturer of sausages . “The fair was much smaller and more provincial and our most expensive painting was £5,500,” says Valls. “Even by the early Eighties our average price was about £2,000.”
Pictura expanded steadily and in 1985 merged with another fair called Antiquairs International to form the Antiquairs International and Pictura Fine Art Fair at the Eurohal. “It became obvious that this title was a bit of a mouthful and so in 1988 it was renamed The European Fine Art Fair and moved to the MECC,” says Van Haeften. “The word ‘The’ was used to emphasise that there was and is no other fair like this.”

Charles Grant, Vicomte de Vaux
“At first it was uphill work with relatively few visitors. On one occasion when it snowed and the motorways were closed, so few people came that the dealers played boules in the corridors of the fair. But it evolved and we tried to make it international right from the beginning because we felt that if we got international dealers they would bring international clients and that is what happened.”
arms of the Corner and Barbarigo families
The first TEFAF in 1988 had 97 exhibitors and attracted 17,672 visitors. Over the next five years international interest in the fair rose steadily as new sections for modern and contemporary painting and contemporary jewellery were added and by 1993 40,364 people came to see 158 dealers’ stands. In 1994 visitor figures rose dramatically to 61,452 when TEFAF hosted a loan exhibition of treasures from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
López de Aragón

Arms of the Corner family and the Barbarigo family
The fair went from strength to strength, selling Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Young Man for $4.8 million in 1996, the year that it changed its name to TEFAF Maastricht. Catering facilities were improved, the design was radically changed and a series of important studies of the art market launched by TEFAF received widespread publicity. On 16th March 2006 the fair received its millionth visitor and total visitor numbers last year were a record 84,020, an 8 % increase on 2005. As such popularity could threaten TEFAF’s reputation for quality and exclusivity, entrance prices have been raised for 2007 to reduce visitor numbers.
Illuminated manuscript with arms of Yves du Fou
This year TEFAF will have a spectacular new design and 219 of the world’s leading dealers will exhibit paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, classical antiquities, illuminated manuscripts, textiles, porcelain, glass, silver and other works of art. The total value of the items shown, excluding the contemporary jewellery section, will be well over $1 billion.
Maastricht’s central position in Western Europe, intelligent marketing of the fair and the organisers’ rigorous insistence on quality have all played a key part in TEFAF’s success story. “Today it is unrecognisable from the fair 20 years ago,” says Van Haeften. “A lot of people who visit TEFAF come with the specific intention of buying. From the visitors’ point of view where else can you see so many dealers from all over the world? You can cover the entire art market in a single day.”
Heribert Tenschert Antiquariat

Histoire Ancienne with arms of Yves du Fou
TEFAF Maastricht 2007 begins on 9th March and ends on 18th March.
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