• Anna Meinecke

"An art fair is not an amusement park."

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Art fair TEFAF. Patrick van Maris has made a name for himself at Sotheby's auction house. Since 2015 he has been CEO of TEFAF, which will take place from 10 to 18 March in Maastricht. The fair has long been known for its concentration on old masters and antiques. How does he succeed in opening up to a wider range of styles? And how is he preparing for the collectors of the future?

Perhaps painting from the 17th century does not really fit into the expansive loft. Perhaps there is simply too little on offer for first-class works of art of this time. Perhaps it is simply more sensible to diversify one's own collection with contemporary positions. The fact is that the art market and its players have changed. If the art fair TEFAF wants to defend its outstanding position, it must adapt to a new atmosphere.

For well over 100 years, TEFAF dealers have been showing old masters and antiques - but more and more contemporary art is now being presented. He is very much in tune with demand, says Patrick van Maris, CEO of TEFAF. But instead of opening up indiscriminately to trendy genres such as contemporary African art, the fair preserves its brand core as the world's most exclusive department store. Serious in appearance, demanding in offer.

Van Maris insists that the fair does not need a new strategy. Excellence remains the highest maxim and unifying element even with a broader range of styles. van Maris does not comment on market trends, but he trusts the new generation of art collectors. If he were to make a prognosis, it would probably be that quality would still prevail even if buyers scan interesting works of art with an app or discover them for themselves on the Instagram account of a pop star. The TEFAF doesn't want to be cool, it wants to be outstanding. How does she do that?

private wealth Mr van Maris, how do you compare TEFAF with other major art fairs?

Patrick van Maris The TEFAF is the Davos of art. People are coming for a few days. They meet other people interested in art and talk about art. For real art collectors and museum curators, TEFAF is the most important event of its kind in the world. When I talk to the people who are there for the first time, they all say the same thing: It's great - it's like entering several museums at once. Only one can buy the things as well! The sheer size of the TEFAF in combination with its high quality standard makes it something very, very special.

pw The TEFAF is known above all for its old masters and antiques. Now you are increasingly opening up to a wider range of different genres. How do you ensure continuity in the enforcement of your standards?

PvM Your question suggests we should change the concept of TEFAF. Our strength lies in the fact that it is absolutely clear what TEFAF offers and how it works. Our offer covers 7000 years of art. We try not to specialize in one category. It is important to us that our customers can move across the different genres. We actually offer everything at our trade fair. What makes the TEFAF particularly competitive compared to other fairs is the vetting - the precise, prior verification of the art shown.

pw How does it work in concrete terms?

PvM We have a vetting committee. For two days, 160 to 200 jurors from all over the world will examine every single piece that will be on display at TEFAF. For example, they check the authenticity of an object and whether restoration work has been carried out on it.

pw Are there any other special features?

PvM The TEFAF scores with comfort. 275 dealers offering all genres in one place - that's convenient. Customers first become interested in a certain piece and then discover something completely different. Cross-Collecting is an interesting field. The concept of eclectic collecting is important for this. (Art lovers make use of different genres and then put them together anew; editor's note). This is exactly what the TEFAF stands for.

pw Many observers had already written off the market for old masters. Was that a misjudgement?

PvM The market for old masters is even quite strong. All you have to do is check out the latest sales in New York. It's a very high price to pay. What only one buyer paid for the Leonardo - that was a world record. (In November 2017, the painting "Salvator Mundi", created around 1500 and attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, was auctioned for 450 million US dollars.

pw But is there still enough high-quality material for collectors from the genre of alten Meister?

PvM You know, in the 17th century there were 3,000 painters in the Netherlands alone. That's quite a lot. Important paintings appear again and again. Dealers must of course inform their customers about this. What is interesting, however, is that the Leonardo was auctioned off at a contemporary art auction. The taste of customers has changed. That is why it is so important that the TEFAF unites different genres.

pw How is TEFAF adapting to the needs of a new generation of collectors?

PvM Especially the younger generation of collectors wants to know for sure that an object is really what it is sold as. Whoever buys from us should be able to be sure. Transparency and trust are incredibly important. Ensuring this is our focus, hence the vetting system. Collectors also benefit from the dialogue with dealers. They help explain art and understand its historical value. A visit to TEFAF can therefore also be instructive. We would like to develop a corresponding study programme with the University of Maastricht. With this project, however, we are only at an early stage.

pw How do you assess the increasing overlap between art and pop culture? I'm thinking about the appearance of rapper Drake during Art Basel in Miami.

PvM You have to be a little careful. An art fair is not an amusement park. Most organisers are very careful in this respect. The events must match the core concept of the trade fair. For TEFAF we are thinking more of symposia - for example on topics such as restoration or investment.

pw How do collectors prepare for a trade fair visit?

PvM A collector should always ensure that he is well informed. In the course of my career, however, I have learned that people who spend their money on art know exactly what they want. Perhaps one problem is that buyers - unlike in the gallery - feel competition. Nevertheless, purchase decisions should never be made hastily. But my experience teaches me that when someone strikes quickly, he's always after the work of art. ®


Don't miss it - cool side fairs.

"There is now a growing public for art and an exponentially increasing number of artists who want to market their works. The development of secondary trade fairs is therefore positive for both sides," explains Annette Doms, Managing Director of ICAA Strategists: "I find off trade fairs such as Scope (New York, Basel, Miami Beach), VOLTA (New York, Basel) or LISTE (Basel) interesting. They offer space for smaller, commercial galleries with art from all areas, but have the same intentions as the larger fairs.

In contrast, a new trend is the emergence of dissident art fairs such as the Supersimétrica Art Fair in Madrid or the Poppositions in Brussels. They focus more on non-profit institutions than on commercial galleries and put the - always curated - art program up for sale. Surprisingly different, Moving Imgage art fair (New York, Istanbul) presents convincingly good

Video art, experimental films, and time-based installations."


Author: Anna Meinecke

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