Every March, the art and antiques world gets ready for the most important show of its kind in the world: TEFAF – The European Fine Art and Antiques Fair. Held in Maastricht, Holland the show attracts over 80,000 visitors from around the world including private and institutional collectors, curators, art historians, dealers and people who just love to be part of the excitement that TEFAF generates. Participating dealers never disappoint, buying and saving exceptional pieces to bring to the show and its extraordinary visitors. The results of this show provide a barometer of the business as a whole.
TEFAF was first organized in 1975 with just 28 dealers of fine art and antiques. Today, there are 260 dealers from 16 countries representing every category imaginable. The Fair is organized in “sections”: paintings, drawings and prints; antiques and works of art; modern art; classical antiquities and Egyptian works of art; illuminated manuscripts, rare books and maps; haute joallerie; design; and “showcase.” Organizing the floor plan by “sections” makes it a lot easier to visit the show – the largest of its kind anywhere!
One of the main reasons that TEFAF has earned such prominence worldwide is its “vetting” process; a system of rigorous scrutiny as to the quality, condition and authenticity of a particular object. The vetting committee at TEFAF is the largest and strictest of any show. There are 29 specialized vetting “committees.” These “committees” include exhibiting and non-exhibiting dealers, art historians, restorers and academics. All objects are “vetted” before the opening of the show and any item not approved by the vetting committees is removed. This process “protects potential buyers and creates an atmosphere in which they can buy with confidence.” TEFAF Maastricht was also the first fair to introduce The Art Loss Register (ALR) in 2000. The ALR checks whether an object appears on the list of stolen art.
TEFAF Maastricht’s success helps charitable causes. In recognition of the relationship between TEFAF and the city of Maastricht, TEFAF recently made a sustantial financial contribution to the renovation and expansion of the Museum aan het Vrijthof. Since 2005, TEFAF has supported cancer research through a special Chair of Oncology at Maastricht University Medical Center www.kankerikhelp.nl/isupport.com. TEFAF also supports Europa Nostra, the pan-European Federation to protect and celebrate Europe’s Cultural Heritage and landscapes www.europanostra.org Its support of the Prince Claus Fund’s Cultural Emergency Response Program has helped to enable the restoration of the library and archives of the Nesin Foundation in Istanbul which was flooded in September 2009. In addition to housing the library and private archives of Aziz Nesin, the Turkish writer and satirist, the Foundation is a home and education center for homeless orphans and young people www.princeclausfund.com
Visiting TEFAF may be the main focus of a trip to Maastricht in March, but there is a lot to see and do in addition to the show. Maastricht is the second oldest city in the Netherlands and the first settlement in Holland by the Romans. With a population of 120,000 people, it is a vibrant city with many fine restaurants and shopping. Every Friday a large farmer’s market is held at the Markt Square; visit the Basilica of Saint Servatius, with its tomb of Saint Servatius, the first bishop of the Netherlands in Vrijthof Square; and in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwe-Plein (OLV square) don’t miss the Derlon Museum Cellar for its Roman finds from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th century. The town center is cobblestoned, so ladies…don’t wear shoes with high heels!
If your interest is museums, then don’t miss the Bonnefantenmuseum, www.bonnefanten.nl/enl . Located in Maastricht’s “Ceramique” neighborhood, it is the foremost museum of Old Masters and contemporary art in the province. There is an emphasis on 16th and 17th century Flemish art, including major works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. Medieval sculpture, early Italian paintings and an exhibit of Maastricht silver are also highlights of the museum. Next door is NAL Maastricht, a new architecture museum intended to “become a showcase and an experimental laboratory for a new European spatial design.” The Natuurhistorisch Museum boasts the remains of enormous Mosasauriers and Giant Turtles. The name Mosasauriers comes from the discovery of the fossil remains in the late 1700’s found in nearby Saint Pietersberg caves, close to the Meuse River which runs through Maastricht. The Spaans Gouvernement museum contains period rooms with 17th and 18th century furnishings, including furniture, silver, porcelain, pottery, glassware and paintings. Located in Vrijthof Square, The Museum aan het Vrijthof, a "historical house" will exhibit the best of five centuries of Maastricht's art, decorative arts and design when it re-opens in mid 2012.
Other places of interest to visit are the Saint Pietersberg Caves and Kazematten. The Caves are actually a local marlstone mine with over 20,000 passages dug out over centuries. During WW II, the Dutch stored their national arts collections there. Take a boat from the city center to visit the caves. The Kazematten, a network of bunkers from which soldiers fired at invaders, is on the west side of Maastricht. A must visit is the World War II Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial located just six miles from Maastricht. It is an incredibly moving experience… the final resting place for 8,301 Americans who lost their lives to defeat the Germans and a monument inscribed with the names of 1,722 Americans whose remains were never found or identified. It is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands.
Of historical note is the death in 1673 of the famous musketeer, Lieutenant-Captain Charles de Batz-Castelmore, better known as d’Artagnan, during the siege of Maastricht by the armies of the French King Louis XIV. Another point of historical importance was the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, leading to the creation of the European Union and the Euro.
Maastricht is the southernmost city in Holland and is just a half hour by car from Belgium and Germany. By train you can reach Amsterdam or Brussels in 1 ½ hours. There is a direct train to Liege, Belgium and their fabulous new train station. From there you can take trains directly to London and Paris as well as other destinations.
For Show Information:
Bonnefanten Mseum: www.bonnefanten.nl/en/
Natuurhistorisch Museum: www.nhmmaastricht.nl/engels/index.html
Spaans Gouvernement: www.museumspaansgouvernement.nl
Museum aan het Vrijthof: www.museumaanhetvrijthof.nl
Saint Pietersberg Caves: www.vvv-maastricht.eu/day_out/grotten_sint_pietersberg.html
More Information: www.holland-travel-guide.com/maastricht-attractions.html