Patrick van Maris is leaving Tefaf after five years: but has he left the fair in too much flux?

Tefaf Maastricht 2019
Photo: Mark Niedermann

Melanie Gerlis

Melanie Gerlis is the art market editor-at-large at The Art Newspaper and author of Art as an Investment

Patrick van Maris may be leaving Tefaf, but his relatively short five-year tenure as chief executive has been particularly active. The launch of two US fairs—and Tefafs subsequent and protracted lawsuits with their co-founders Artvest, which concluded last April—have been the most headline grabbing. But its arguably the flagship fair in Maastricht that has seen the greatest change.

Before Van Maris ripped up the rulebook, the application process for the fair was essentially “if youve shown here for a couple of years then you automatically qualify for the next edition”. In an increasingly competitive mixed-category art fair environment—with Londons Masterpiece and Frieze Masters upping the ante—Van Maris made everyone apply each year. “No other fair in the world had such a system,” he says. “It didnt mean that those dealers who werent selected werent any good, but if your aim is to show 7,000 years of the best, sometimes you have to change the mix.”

Most significantly, the Modern art section received a necessary upgrade for 2019, while other in-vogue segments such as tribal art and design were also boosted. “The art world was changing so quickly, we had to reflect that,” Van Maris says. And so blue chip contemporary galleries such as Pace, Sprüth Magers and Simon Lee became unexpected Maastricht 2019 exhibitors as a total 40 new galleries came in and 33 went out of the MECC doors.

But by adopting a process more like the other fairs on the circuit, Van Maris also opened up the stately Tefaf to the increasing, inevitable gallery churn experienced by other events. This years Maastricht merry-go-round isnt quite as breakneck as the last, but still, there are 30 incoming galleries and 24 who are not returning, including the three 2019 newcomers named above. The Modern section now boasts the likes of Lisson and Galleria Continua, while stalwarts Wildenstein and Gisèle Croes are back after a break (in the paintings and antiques sections respectively).

There are so many fairs in so many interesting places that you find a reason to go to one and then assess whether or not to go back
Chris Craig, sales director at Bastian Gallery

But Van Mariss replacement cant assume they will all be back—at this years Talking Galleries conference in Barcelona, Greg Hilty, the artistic director of Lisson (which is exhibiting in Maastricht for the first time this year) made the point that once a gallery is established “they can go to a fair one year and then not for three more”—though the Frieze London and Art Basel fairs remain on most exhibitors must-do lists. Even younger dealers are preserving optionality. “There are so many fairs in so many interesting places that you find a reason to go to one and then assess whether or not to go back,” said Chris Craig, the sales directoRead More – Source