Maastricht is considered to be the oldest town in the Netherlands. If you look at a map of the Netherlands you will see a little bubble sticking off of the southeast corner of the country and that is primarily the province Limburg and that is where you will find its capital Maastricht on the Maas river about a 2 ½ hour train ride south of Amsterdam. Limburg is bordered on the south and west by Belgium, which is only a couple of miles from Maastricht and the east by Germany, which is about 15 miles away.
Most of the year it is a university city of 125,000 with medieval architecture, many historical sites and a regional shopping center with streets full of shops from name brands to the quaint, but for two weeks every year in the middle of March Maastricht becomes the world center of art for galleries, museum curators, collectors and other lovers of art. The European Fine Art Fair or TEFAF features 275 of the world’s top galleries and last year it welcomed 75,000 visitors from more than 60 countries and again this year one of them will be me!
Many of the dealers stay at the Crown Plaza hotel, but at $495 a night I have opted for the less expensive Hampshire Design hotel. Reasonable rooms can be had for the opening day and the first weekend, but you need to book early. If you can get a ticket from one of the dealers to the opening or “Vernissage” it is incredible, but to experience this incredible show it is much easier, less expensive and less crowded to come the last weekend.
If my first breakfast at the Hampshire Design Hotel in Maastricht is any indication of how things are going to go I am excited. Just checking everyone out was interesting. Imagine how the world’s finest and most sophisticated art dealers dress for the opening of the most important art show in their year.
The best part of the breakfast was sitting at a table next to several people obviously connected to the show. I was able to strike up a conversation with Britta Fischer who has been attending the show for 28 years. Britta is currently responsible for Public Relations for TEFAF in Germany. A man joined us that Britta introduced me to as Michael Plummer and when we parted Michael gave me his card and told me to send him an email reminding him of our conversation and he would put me on his VIP list in New York. Some of you may know that this year TEFAF has started two smaller scale New York shows with one in the fall and one in May. As I was riding up the elevator I glanced down at the card and saw Michael Plummer, Managing Director TEFAF New York. I am already having fun in Maastricht and I haven’t even left the hotel yet.
Last year I asked a dealer what it might cost someone to have a booth in Maastricht. He told me that with all the preparations including advertising, shipping and insurance for the art, airfare and the two week stay in Maastricht for him and his employees plus the cost of the booth came to at least 100,000 euros and some dealers spend more. Two years ago my favorite painting was a Van Gogh that he painted in Paris in 1887 that was priced at 70 million euros and last year it was a Matisse painted in Nice priced at 19 million euros. I do not mention money because it is the most important thing, but rather because it is a significant part of the scene in Maastricht. The best of the best is not cheap.
Well I am about to jump in one of the beautiful new courtesy cars provided by BMW to transport people to and from the fair. Their motivation is simply to showoff the new models and I for one am impressed. You can see one above parked in front of my hotel.
I wonder what I will see this year? Stay tuned for the next blog.
Don’t forget you can click on the pictures and blow them up.