Art Dealers Are Steaming Mad That TEFAF Will Hold Onto $8,500 in Fees, Even If the Fair Is Cancelled

"It's pure and simple swindling," a trade organization said.

Colnaghi’s stand at TEFAF in Maastricht, 2018. Courtesy of TEFAF.

This article has been updated to include corrections and a statement from TEFAF.

A group of exhibitors at next year’s European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht (TEFAF) is outraged at the fair’s cancellation policy, detailed in an email sent on December 4.

The fair, according to the policy, will hold onto an amount totaling €7,500 ($8,500) for “expenses and other contractual obligations,” even if the event is cancelled after December 15.

Dealers are now up in arms. At least 30 exhibitors have withdrawn, with one calling the policy “scandalous,” according to French trade association CPGA (the Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art).

TEFAF, currently scheduled for March 12 to 20, 2022, faces an uncertain future as the Northern Hemisphere heads into winter with the rise of the new Omicron coronavirus variant.

TEFAF, however, says none of this should be a surprise.

“TEFAF’s cancellation policy is not new,” an event spokesperson told Artnet News. “It has remained consistent since Maastricht applications were submitted as early as July of this year. The email communication issued December 4 was simply a reminder to our exhibitors of their agreed-upon commitments. In the case of cancellation, TEFAF will reimburse or not invoice the majority of costs associated with exhibiting at the fair.”

Still, not everyone is happy with the policy.

“It’s pure and simple swindling,” the organization told Le Journal des Arts. (It declined to offer further comment to Artnet News.)

Entrance of TEFAF Maastricht 2017. Courtesy Tom Postma Design. Photo by Mark Niedermann.

Entrance of TEFAF Maastricht 2017. Courtesy Tom Postma Design. Photo by Mark Niedermann.

The art-fair circuit saw numerous hiccups as it sputtered back to life this year, with numerous events being canceled amid renewed pandemic surges.

The organizers of Frieze Los Angeles cancelled their delayed 2021 edition outright, and in September, New York’s Armory Week was two fairs lighter than originally planned—both the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair and 4heads Portal/the Governors Island Art Fair opted not to proceed with their events. Most recently, ahead of Miami Art Week, Volta Miami cancelled its inaugural edition.

Across the pond, Frieze London went forward as planned in October, but the concurrent art and design fair PAD London was cancelled. Similarly in Paris that month, FIAC took place, but smaller satellite fair Salon Galeristes decided not to go ahead.

Most fairs have refunded dealers for events that have not taken place.

TEFAF’s 2020 fair was one of the first to be affected by the pandemic, closing four days early after a dealer from Italy tested positive.

As more cases emerged in the following days and weeks, dealers lambasted fair organizers for not cancelling the show outright. The 2021 edition was subsequently pushed from March to September, before being cancelled altogether.

Correction, 9/15: An earlier version of this article stated that TEFAF’s cancellation policy was new. In fact, it was an existing policy. The fair’s statement to dealers of December 4 was a reiteration of that policy. We apologize for the error.

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