The Best the World Can Offer

by Lily Hoagland

*lr_Daxer28112013T123022In a time when Christie’s is breaking records with every auction and the art world keeps inflating its economic bubble with outrageous sums, the European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) offers the genteel civility of impeccable standards. TEFAF has established itself as the place where galleries display their finest art and antiques. Sellers often save their treasures throughout the year so that they can show them first at the fair. Understandable, since the international crowd that attends is chock-full of serious collectors and connoisseurs.

Every major American museum is represented at the event, which speaks highly of the historical aspects and provenance of the pieces displayed. The strong relationship between the museums and the fair—aside from the desire to offer the best possible art—comes from the foundation behind the fair, the European Fine Art Foundation, which funds projects in American museums. This is a reversal of most relationships in the art world, where many countries automatically turn to America to underwrite everything.

Michel Cox Witmer, the U.S. ambassador of TEFAF and member of the foundation’s board, says he is looking forward to a very busy year ahead. “A few years ago, we began funding some projects in museums, including restoration of art in the Denver Art Museum, Worcester Art Museum, and others. This year, we will be funding more projects than ever. We are doing great work that I like.”

Between the foundation’s work and the allure of the fair, the event attracts a high caliber of clientele and turns them into devotees. Each year, thousands of fresh flowers decorate the displays of sculptures, jewelry, objets, and paintings, and each year the attendance swells. From Ancient art to Old Masters to modern works, the pieces that fill TEFAF can be stunning in their breadth and quality. “The moment that you enter TEFAF, you have the immediate sense that you are surrounded by the world’s best,” attests Witmer.