Before TEFAF Maastricht’s early closure on March 11th, the art world was readying itself for a season of fair hopping. Then came the worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions, leaving emptied museums and galleries to reflect on what a future without in-person visits could look like.
Many art fairs have pushed on with an online edition and with TEFAF Online only a few weeks away, regulars of the fair will be wondering what to expect from the fair’s digital initiative.
First, we must remember that TEFAF isn’t like other art fairs. Whether at the MECC in Maastricht or the Armory in New York, art collectors and curators regard TEFAF as a pilgrimage for the passionate. Over the course of the first few days, most will make multiple visits, take their time to greet their favored dealers, before wandering the alleys, searching for special works and taking in the many surprises and treasures on show. As exhibitors, we often hear that several hours, or two days, won’t suffice. Quality works are not the exception, they’re the norm.
Online, such abundance can quickly become overwhelming and result in endless scrolling. To set itself apart in the digital fair landscape, TEFAF has considered its foundational values when showcasing artworks of world-class quality that cross centuries and specialties. So, for the launch of TEFAF Online, its almost 300 dealers have been challenged to pick just a single work to display, vetted by one of the 27 dedicated vetting committees.
Each year at the offline fairs, galleries showcase many works but there’s always one highlight that steals the show in every booth. This concept will best provide the online fair-goer with the same enthralling and focused experience.
The relationship with the dealer will, as in the offline edition, be emphasised and facilitated as much as possible. Inquiring should be as easy and as personal as walking onto a booth and greeting the exhibitor. Participating galleries will invest time ensuring their artwork is thoughtfully presented and illustrates the quality of their research, taste, and connoisseurship.
The end of business-as-usual is the beginning of TEFAF reimagining itself. This October sees the return of the fair in a new format, with almost 300 show-stopping highlights exclusively online — plan ahead, take a moment, and browse the fair knowing that dealers can’t wait to show you their chosen work and start a conversation.
Laura Kugel, member of the TEFAF Board of Trustees