The venerable 28-year-old Tefaf, Maastricht art fair is the latest to shake up the art market calendar by announcing today that it will launch two editions a year in New York, starting this autumn.
The European fair, which sells art from the ancient to the contemporary with Old Master paintings at its core, has joined forces with Artvest Partners, the New York art advisory firm that runs the Spring Masters fair held in May in the Park Avenue Armory. The Tefaf fairs will replace this event and the International Fine Art & Antique Dealers show, held at the same venue in October. Artvest and Tefaf have bought out this 27-year-old fair, run by Haughton International, for an undisclosed sum.
Michael Plummer, the co-founder of Artvest, says that there is a “missing component” in New York in terms of having a fair with the range and reputation of Tefaf. "My initial impression is that this is very good for New York to have a growing private secondary market base that is not orchestrated by the auction houses," says the dealer Elizabeth Dee. Another New York dealer said, however, that even the most die-hard collectors predict the market is cooling, making Tefaf's timing for a double expansion risky.
The original Tefaf fair in Maastricht opens next month (11-20 March), with 275 dealers showing. The New York events will be smaller—around 80 to 90 exhibitors each, according to Patrick van Maris, the chief executive of Tefaf.
Speaking today, Van Maris said that he has had an overwhelmingly positive response from dealers. Of Tefaf’s 75,000 visitors, approximately 2,500 were from the United States, he says, stressing the importance of this market to the fair organisers. “We thought very carefully about doing this and look forward to taking Tefaf’s DNA abroad.”
Some dealers were sceptical, however, particularly in relation to the venue. “There are too many fairs in the Park Avenue Armory and they all look rather alike. There can be a sense of lethargy when you walk through its doors,” says Guy Stair Sainty, a European Old Masters specialist and a long-time Tefaf exhibitor.
The other concern with a smaller version of Tefaf, Sainty says, is that “there won’t be enough of anything for anybody.” Plummer says that its design of the Armory building for the fairs, including opening up its first floor to galleries for the first time, will “dispel any doubts”.
The fair plans to divide its focus between the New York editions. The October event will focus on art from antiquity to the 20th-century and the May edition on contemporary and Modern art and design.
In 2013, Tefaf’s organisers announced that they were opening in Beijing, though ultimately found that this initiative “wasn’t right”, Van Maris says. Now that the Chinese economy is wobbling, that rethink looks smart. New York “is still the strongest and most stable economy in the world,” Plummer says.
Additional reporting by Anny Shaw