NEW YORK – On 21 October The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) will open for the VIP preview of its first New York edition at the Park Avenue Armory. Long heralded by serious collectors as one of the world’s most popular and well-respected fairs, TEFAF has taken place annually in the Dutch city of Maastricht since 1988. The highly anticipated New York edition will be the first extension of the fair outside the Netherlands and will offer fine and decorative art from antiquity to 1920; a sister event focused on art and design from the 20th century will take place in May 2017, also at the Park Avenue Armory. I spoke with TEFAF CEO Patrick van Maris about his goal to bring “the DNA of TEFAF Maastricht to New York.” Read on for a summary of our conversation.
EM: You joined TEFAF in 2015. Were plans for a New York edition in the works when you started?
The idea for TEFAF to explore opportunities abroad has always been there, since before I began. In my role as CEO I began exploring opportunities everywhere, and in that exploration saw lots of places. I found that New York was ideal. It was not the only place we looked, but it very quickly became clear that New York was the place to be – and is the place to be – for our exhibitors and collectors. It’s the right moment.
EM: What has challenged or surprised you about organising a fair in the US as compared with Maastricht?
Not much has been surprising after we picked New York. It was so clear that New York was the place to be that we organised the same way we do in Maastricht. At the end of the day, we select based on quality. We have an extremely detailed vetting process. But since we are visiting we will look very carefully at what we are presenting to ensure we are careful and present only high quality works. We want to show respect for participating in New York and for our participating American galleries.
EM: What do you hope TEFAF New York will bring to the New York art fair landscape?
PVM: There is no doubt that we have very good time slots on the New York calendar. The first fair will take place in the autumn, when there are not many other fairs happening and at the right time given the sales at the auction houses. Maastricht is unique because we offer 7,000 years of art, but in these two New York fairs we are bringing that DNA to New York. By doing so we are also creating a window to Maastricht. We are very keen for the American audience to experience our fair in New York, but to also get them to Maastricht. The fairs are very different, so we hope people will want to visit both.
EM: How do you hope TEFAF New York will set itself apart from other major New York fairs? Do you think your vetting process is part of what separates TEFAF from other fairs?
PVM: Vetting is part of it. It is always good for buyers to know that an intelligent group of connoisseurs have looked at the objects. But simply people will enjoy fantastic art. There is safety and security in the TEFAF reputation and vetting process with the reputation of Maastricht. But people who come will enjoy fantastic art. This will make it memorable. Also we are using the Armory’s historic rooms, which has never been done before. Other fairs have used the Drill Hall, but never before the historic rooms, which will really make a unique experience for viewing great art.
EM: The autumn and spring TEFAF fairs focus on different periods of art history. How do the two events relate to and react with one another?
PVM: The New York editions will have their individual identities. The only thing that is the same is the strong selection committee and vetting process. The decision to make the spring fair more focused on art of the 20th century is based on the fact May is very busy in New York with Frieze and with the auction houses’ big sales of Modern and Contemporary art. And because logistically we could not fit every type of exhibitor in the Armory all at once, this was a natural split. Certain exhibitors will come to both editions and bring everything to both, but this is logistical. We also hope that by dividing it this way, visitors will be interested in coming to both. By presenting the fair beautifully we hope that people who buy in one category in the fall will come in the spring out of curiosity.
Sotheby's Preferred is delighted to partner with TEFAF Maastricht and TEFAF New York for VIP access. TEFAF New York opens to the public on 22 October 2016 and runs through 26 October 2016.
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