A melting pot of international art and culture
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS © MAASTRICHT MARKETING
Maastricht is the Netherlands’ most European (and cosmopolitan) city, located at the heart of where the country meets Germany and Belgium. From the moment you set foot in Maastricht, you feel a unique energy and dynamism of history, art and culture. “And when TEFAF – one of the biggest and most influential art and culture fairs – lands in the city, you can feel an extra layer of chic,” says Leontien Mees, managing director of Maastricht Marketing.
The name Maastricht comes from the Latin ‘Mosae Trajectum’, meaning ‘crossing over the Meuse’, which refers to the bridge over the river that the Romans built here around the first century AD. The city has been inhabited ever since, and today, it is the city in the Netherlands with the largest number of different nationalities among its inhabitants.
“All these international influences from then and now are visible in the historic buildings and elegant houses, where you will find a rich variety of architectural styles from the early Roman period to the Maastricht Renaissance.” It also brings a whole lot of art and culture, which can be witnessed during the annual TEFAF (14 to 24 March).
Theater aan het Vrijthof. Photo: Alina Frieske
TEFAF & the city
Founded in 1988, TEFAF is a not-for-profit foundation which runs three fairs internationally in Maastricht and New York, as well as a programme of initiatives designed to enrich the global art community. TEFAF is one of the most influential and dynamic arts organisations in the world. Each year in March, TEFAF Maastricht provides a showcase for around 275 leading international dealers. In the MECC, the main exhibition hall for TEFAF, visitors can indulge themselves in 7,000 years of art and art history. “One of the highlights is an original 18th-century doll house, exhibited by John Endlich Antiquairs,” reveals Mees. Koopman Rare Art brings another unique piece: The Shield of Achilles by Philip Rundell. And you certainly must not miss the portrait of Frédéric Maurice de La Tour, the 17th-century Governor of Maastricht, exhibited by The Weiss Gallery.
The exhibition in the MECC is far from the only highlight. Before, during and after TEFAF, the city of Maastricht is buzzing with expositions, art installations, theatre and music. Take the visual arts haven the Bonnefanten Museum, for instance. Besides their own amazing collection, the museum is running the exposition Someone in my house by American artist David Lynch, which can be visited until 28 April.
Bonnefantenmuseum. Photo: David Lynch
One of the most famous places in Maastricht is the Vrijthof square in the middle of the old city. Throughout the year and especially during TEFAF, this is the place where you find everything from amazing food and drinks, to performances at the Theater on the Vrijthof, where during TEFAF there are various dance and classical music recitals, including shows by the South Netherlands Philharmonic and the Maastricht Conservatory.
Across the theatre on the Vrijthof you will find another of Maastricht’s historical gems: the 11th-century Basilica of Saint Servatius, named after the first bishop of the country. This is one of the oldest churches of the Netherlands. Besides the amazing chapel, the basilica also holds a treasure room, containing the shrine in which Saint Servatius has his final resting place.
Just around the corner there is a vibrant shopping centre with well-known high street shops, as well as independent boutiques. There, you will also find Dominicanen, the most unique book shop in the world, situated in the former Dominican church. “Even if you are not out looking for books, it is an absolute treat to stroll through the store and drink a cup of coffee there.” Strolling through the cultural quarter ‘Sphinx kwartier’ and the Frontenpark are also an absolute must.
“Maastricht and TEFAF create special encounters between people with a love of art, culture and the beautiful things in life. And they can fully enjoy themselves during, before or after their visit to the TEFAF.” The city and surrounding region are always brimming with high-profile exhibitions, theatre and music productions, breathtaking dance performances and special events. “The perfect place to relax and enjoy culture, art and life.”