At the Tefaf fair in Maastricht, the hour of reunion between buyers and gallery owners


The entrance to the Tefaf fair, in Maastricht (Netherlands), on March 11, 2023.

For the official opening of the European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf), the great art and antiques fair in Maastricht, on Friday March 10, the spectacle looks a bit like that of a large French station surprised by a strike : the public has come en masse, an endless queue forms, visitors wait forty-five minutes in front of the locker room, and grumble. Like some exhibitors, impatient to finally unveil their treasures. And to sell them. It is in this city of 120,000 inhabitants, a little away from the major communication networks, that the largest global event of its kind has taken root and will attract, until March 19, tens of thousands of curious, amateurs, buyers from major museums and (very) wealthy collectors.

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The pandemic had led to an early closure of the fair in 2020, the 2021 edition was cancelled, that of 2022, in June, had a reduced duration. This time, things are back to normal and some 270 exhibitors from 20 countries are once again present, on the usual date. “Everywhere, in Paris, New York or London, the market has resumed”, we start happily in the queue. It’s time for reunions between gallery owners and clients – “So, dear, still happy with your Yoshida painting?” » – and between old regulars – “I sold my house in Venice, I needed countryside and I bought myself a 2,000 hectare estate in France. » We point to a solitary enthusiast who comes here at each edition to spend between 100,000 and 200,000 euros.

Once inside, after looking at a flower arrangement several meters high, we first notice the massive presence of many gentlemen in dark suits, earpieces clearly visible. No more question of reliving the incredible money of 2022, when thugs in suits and caps managed, in the middle of the day, to smash the windows of a British jeweler before fleeing on a scooter. Presumed loot: 27 million euros for the “Pink Panthers”, a group from the Balkans who have to their credit many other spectacular heists and a total loot of 450 million euros.

France, the best represented country

A lady asks to see a sumptuous choker enthroned in one of the windows of Van Cleef & Arpels and two agents immediately supervise the seller. The insurance sector seems, in any case, to have survived the shock: the company Axa XL is the main sponsor and partner of Tefaf, underlines Hidde van Seggelen, gallery owner and executive president of the event.

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