“The fair has a very wide audience with very wide pockets.” Jamie Ede, the FT
Meetings finished, I detoured past the MECC to watch the art collectors arriving. Orange and white cones separated the limousines from the commuters on the Ring Road, diverted them down a clear corridor free of traffic. Red-jacketed valets pulled open doors and touched white-gloved hands to their top hats and smiled broadly. Well dressed couples, mismatched ages, emerged, squinted into the sunlight, stepped onto the carpets.
I edged closer for a picture and a better look, dodging hurtling towncars. No tourists, shouted one parked driver, waving me off with his hand over his head. I smiled and took the picture.
The 0.1% have arrived for The European Fine Art Fair.
I actually enjoy the annual show and the bustle of events around it, red flags deployed around town. TEFAF showcases the best in paintings, sculptures, collectables, antiquities, and drawings from around the world. Ordinarily, these works are out of sight in private collections, but for two weeks they become visible as they exchange among galleries and patrons. I like the energy of the whole ecosystem , detailed in Sarah Thornton’s book 7 Days in the Art World, which encourages the production of high-quality creative works and rewards the best artists.
In contrast, two commercial arts outlets are in trouble elsewhere in town.
The Dominicanen Bookshop, housed in a landmark church nave in the center of town, is closing because its corporate parent, Polare, has filed for bankruptcy. “Dominicanen gaat door; jij kunt helpen!” (Dominicanen goes on; you can help! with a purchase, a donation, a visit. The owner of Paradigit, a computer retailer, has rescued the Eindhoven store, and there are hopes for a similar rescue in Maastricht.
“As the situation became more precarious, we explore continuing as an independent bookstore…your heartwarming support helped us a lot and therefore we dare to ask you to help us make a go around,” pleads the store manager.
Both announcements have spawned Facebook groups hoping to save the institutions with thousands of Likes.
Two sleek, gleaming towncars parked in front of my apartment building. Bert at le Cle tells me that a directeur from The House of Dior has arrived for dinner at the restaurant downstairs. In Markt Square, the city hall glows with lights and music from the formal reception underway inside.
Do private collectors motivate and protect works that would otherwise never reach public exhibition? Can public arts venues survive without private patronage?
This balance and dynamic are on display across Maastricht this evening. It’s a funny world, limousines and Facebook pages, the ways the money flows and the arts subsequently evolve.