At last Thursday’s opening of the European Fine Arts Fair in Maastricht — generally regarded as the world’s top art and antiques clearinghouse — visitors could hear Americans speaking French, French speaking German, Germans speaking Italian, Italians speaking English — and the Dutch speaking seemingly anything that came their way, all in the name of selling the best antiques and art currently on the market.
"Each fair has its own flavor," said contemporary arts dealer Anthony Meyer, one of an increasing number of modern and contemporary dealers expanding the scope of this traditionally Old Masters heavy gathering. "Here is a treasure atmosphere. The works are eye candy."
While more subdued than in recent years due to world events — with dealers gritting their teeth behind the smiles — this year’s TEFAF still proved to be a major draw for the world’s richest collectors. Fewer Americans than usual were active opening night, but by the next afternoon, dealers from almost every specialty agreed that Europeans have not abandoned the art market.
Lily Safra arrived from Paris on her private jet and quietly made the rounds in a modest black suit. (While inspecting an Egon Schiele drawing at Richard Nagy’s popular stand, she also snapped up his set of four Hoffman fauteuils.) Paris dealer Ariane Dandois and her daughter Ondine de Rothschild were also in the crowd, as were a scattering of decorators. And uncounted other buyers cautiously but surely picked their way through 200 stands dealing in Old Master paintings, antique furniture, objets de vertu, jewelry, clocks, silver, carpets, porcelain and wine.
"The mood of the fair can vary from stand to stand," said Rachel Kaminsky, managing director of London’s Colnaghi gallery, who had several million-dollar 17th-century Dutch paintings — TEFAF’s traditional strength — among her offerings. "This is my sixth year and I thought the crowd last night was as good as I’ve seen. People were really looking and asking."
But were they buying?