Today is the opening day of TEFAF 2014 (March, 14-23). TEFAF Maastricht is pre-eminent in the global art and antiques market but never stands still and is always looking for ways to strengthen its position further. The Executive Committee’s decision to create a specialist section for works on paper in 2010 was typical of this positive and innovative approach. TEFAF had always exhibited great drawings, watercolors, prints and photographs – the rare and recently re-discovered Michelangelo drawing sold by Jean-Luc Baroni of London to an American collector in 2002 was a spectacular example of this. But by creating TEFAF Paper the Fair brought in fresh exhibitors and so shortened the waiting list of strong candidates which had existed for years.
Eighteen of the 19 dealers who took part in the first TEFAF Paper were new to the Fair. “I was expecting to have to wait for years, as most people have to, to get into the Fair,” says watercolors and drawings dealer Stephen Ongpin, who has a gallery in London and who exhibited at TEFAF Paper for the first time in 2011. Establishing TEFAF Paper widened and strengthened the range of works on sale at the Fair.
Alongside Ongpin in the wonderfully relaxing atmosphere of TEFAF Paper – which is up some stairs away from the rest of the Fair – are specialists in antiquarian books and manuscripts, photographs, limited edition prints, watercolors, Old Master and modern drawings and Japanese works on paper. It is an eclectic mix which attracts all kinds of visitors who are not necessarily specialists in these areas. Ongpin sold a Sean Scully watercolor to a Swiss buyer who was looking for a present for his son to congratulate him on closing his first big financial deal. The Mayor of Maastricht bought a drawing from Ongpin as did a Dutchman in his early twenties who was visiting TEFAF for the first time. “Most buyers are from continental Europe and some are Americans but there is no typical age group,” says Ongpin. But what is hugely important to him is that most of his sales are to people he has never met before. “On each of the three years I have exhibited at Maastricht I have sold 10-12 works,” he says. “All bar three or four of them were to people who were new to me so we are talking about 30 collectors who I had not come across previously.”
The loan exhibitions of works on paper from major museums have become an annual part of TEFAF Paper and have proved hugely popular with visitors The fragile nature of these drawings, prints and watercolors means that they are rarely on show even in their home museums and so their appearance at TEFAF Paper is something very special indeed. The Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, both in Amsterdam, and the Fondation Custodia in Paris loaned precious works for the first three shows and this year the National Graphic Arts Collection in Munich will lend 35 drawings for an exhibition entitled Timeless Beauty. “There is no doubt that these bring people to the Fair,” says Ongpin. “I remember in 2012 when the Fondation Custodia was showing works from the Fritz Lugt Collection, an English client of mine came to Maastricht. He had never been to the Fair before and he came specifically for the loan exhibition.” The relationship between TEFAF and museums is a close and important one – representatives from more than 220 institutions came to the Fair in 2013 – and the TEFAF Paper exhibitions have further cemented this bond.