My article “Where Museums Go to Shop for Rare Works of Art” appears in Smithsonian magazine. Here’s the lede:
Over the centuries, the Dutch city of Maastricht, which juts out like a finger along the Netherlands’ southeastern border with Brussels, has hosted several invaders. The Spanish took over in the late 16th century; the prince of Orange conquered the city just north of half a century later; and then it belonged to the French on-and-off through the end of the 18th century. More recently, the Nazis took the city in 1940, only to cede it four years later.
For 10 days each year, a different sort of foreign contingency descends on the city. These invaders are wealthy–several land in private jets at Maastricht’s airport–and they depart with spoils. But unlike previous antagonists, these visitors pay for their loot. They’re high-profile shoppers, who attend The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), which traces its roots to 1975 and just concluded this year’s festivities.
TEFAF, a fair that is open to the public and costs €40 to visit, is essentially “a museum in which you can buy the objects,” says Mark Roglan, director of the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who has bought about a dozen works in the eight years he’s been coming to the fair. “Everything is negotiable.”