TEFAF’s 2015 edition held in Maastricht featured 275 dealers bringing some of the best old master works and antiquities from across the world. Yet this year significant changes were made to draw the fair more in line with contemporary art fairs.
This was immediately evident from the entrance hall which had been elegantly hung with translucent white sheets of fabric with hundreds of white roses in glass vials suspended from the ceiling, clear evidence of TEFAF taking notice of the Instagram presence enjoyed by fairs such as Frieze and Art Basel. Further inside, the canteen from previous years was replaced with neat little sushi and tapas bars integrated into the main drag of the fair.
The works on display continued to include some modern art which has been a feature since 1991, with much success, and there were also selected contemporary works, including a handful of high quality Basquiat’s and Kiefer’s. This year there was also a new section called Night Fishing curated by Sydney Picasso featuring the work of 8 artists: Tony Cragg, Georg Baselitz, Cristina Iglesias, Wolfgang Laib, Nam June Paik, Mark Manders, Markus Raetz, and Richard Deacon. Nonetheless, it should be noted that major contemporary galleries including Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian also briefly flirted with the fair, but neither returned the following year.
Interestingly this year Art Basel Hong Kong clashed with TEFAF. Art Basel has claimed that it was unaware of the exact dates of TEFAF when organising the Hong Kong edition of the fair, but understandably this has met with some scepticism. This clash has forced some galleries to miss one or the other whilst others have been severely stretched by the demands of attending both simultaneously. The overlap of dates suggests that either Art Basel are confident that their collectors are not interested in the work on offer at TEFAF, or they are taking a directly competitive stance. Either way, next year the schedules will be rather more harmonious with no clash of dates expected.
Speaking to artnet news James Roundell, founding director of Dickinson and chairman of TEFAF’s modern committee said “The strength of Maastricht is the continuous nature of what’s here. We shouldn’t seek to be a cutting-edge contemporary fair to rival Frieze or Art Basel but we should show the continuation of art.” Whilst TEFAF are right to focus on what they do best, selling top quality old masters and antiquities, they are indeed right to be taking notice of the commercial opportunities that contemporary fairs are so successively capitalising upon.