Travel Spotlight

What to Know About TEFAF Maastricht


This year, TEFAF Maastricht is scheduled for Saturday, March 9th through Thursday, March 14th. The annual New York show will take place May 10th to 14th. Learn more here.


For art and antiques lovers, The European Fine Art Foundation—better known as TEFAF—is as mind-blowing and mandatory an experience as Burning Man is for West Coast tech groupies. Featuring over 270 dealers annually, the event takes place each March in the Netherlands city of Maastricht, in the southeastern corner of the country near the German and Belgian borders.

“It’s like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, plus the Rijksmuseum—but everything has a price tag,” says Mitchell Owens, the American editor of The World of Interiors, who co-hosted a special-access Indagare Journeys trip to the fair with me this past spring.

For a few days, not only do the world’s most important collectors, dealers and curators gather in the small Dutch city to meet with potential buyers, but they also share their latest, most exciting fine art and antiques discoveries with each other, in a state of harmony and collegial camaraderie that is hard to imagine until you have experienced it.

It’s this connoisseur-to-connoisseur mingling that gives TEFAF such a sense of community, as well as an air of exclusivity—to the point that those who have not been before can feel too intimidated to consider attending. However, as I discovered on our Indagare Journeys trip, a true passion for the arts and insider know-how are the keys to access.

Founded as a nonprofit in 1988 by a small group of dealers in Old Masters and antiques, TEFAF is known as the place where museums go to shop. It earned this moniker because it has the highest concentration of the world’s top dealers, and every item exhibited is vetted by a committee of curators and experts, so provenance and authenticity are never in doubt. Dealers, who tend to be obsessive treasure hunters—à la academic or aesthetic Indiana Joneses—save their rarest finds to display here. Museum curators and private collectors come to snap them up, yes, but also to see these most sought-after pieces and learn how they were procured, because they know that after appearing at TEFAF, many spectacular objects may disappear from view for years, once they go into museum storerooms or cloistered private homes.

“TEFAF really sets the standard in the industry and for every visitor,” says sixth-generation Parisian antiques dealer Laura Kugel, a fair board member. “It is a place where you can discover amazing things that really open your mind.”

Melissa’s Guide to TEFAF: What to Know

WHEN TO GO

In 2024, the fair will be held from March 9th to 14th, but it is during the two preview days (reserved for VIP collectors) before the fair opens that there are fewer crowds and when some of the choicest acquisitions take place.

WHERE TO STAY

The best hotels, such as Château St. Gerlach, a lovely Relais & Châteaux property outside of town, and Derlon, in town, are booked a year in advance by regulars. I also recently scouted Kruisherenhotel, an amazing property located within a former 15th-century monastery. Indagare can assist with bookings, but note there are usually four-to-five-night minimum stays required.

FAIR STRATEGY

Spend time chatting with the august dealers who proudly display their favorite wares and can impart their expertise. Given there are almost 300 dealers with booths spread across 150,000 square feet, it is best to map out your specific areas of interest in advance—whether that is jewelry, antique silver, Chinese porcelain or mid-century furniture—and visit those areas on the first day; then, wander and discover other dealers the second day.

DRESS CODE

The VIP cocktail is no longer black tie, but fairgoers tend to be serious collectors whose style could be described as stealth wealth traditional. Think: Chanel suits on women, and jackets and ties for men. Comfortable shoes are also a must.

BEYOND TEFAF

The historic town of Maastricht offers a few musts like the Basilica of St. Servatius (the largest Romanesque church in the Netherlands) and Kookhuis aan de Maes, a treasure trove for all things kitchenware and cooking (located in a former bank building). Further afield, Aachen in western Germany boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Aachen Cathedral, the first cathedral in northern Europe, which holds the relics of Charlemagne and William the Conqueror, and Antwerp is now a must-visit for Axel Vervoordt’s Kanaal (a mini “city” for design, outside Antwerp) and the newly renovated Royal Museum of Fine Arts, aka KMSKA, in Antwerp’s Het Zuid district.

To inquire about an Indagare Journey to Maastricht in 2025, email insiderjourneys@indagare.com. To learn more about the fair, listen to Episode 20 of Melissa’s podcast Passport to Everywhere, available to stream below.

Scenes from TEFAF 2023

“It’s a jolly fair. Yes, it’s a very serious fair, but there is a sweet spot between distinguished and delight.”

Mitchell Owens, Art Editor

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