Looking for a new angle on antique interiors? March's TEFAF art fair is the place to go this spring. Alex Rayner reports. 

Maastricht, the picturesque medieval city in the southern part of The Netherlands, might not appear to be the best place to gather contemporary design inspiration. However, this spring, the European Fine Art Fair, or TEFAF, which was founded here in 1988, will prove once again that old works can give rise to intriguing, novel ideas.

The fair arose from the merger of two earlier sales events – one for antiques, the other for Old Master paintings. Over the following three decades, TEFAF may not have drawn quite the same level of attention as Frieze or Art Basel, yet it has maintained its reputation for Old Masters, antiquities and antiques, while expanding its scope to take in contemporary art, photography and 20th century design.

Between March 10th -18th, in a classical nod to the showrooming tendency among today's Instagram community, TEFAF has borrowed a recently restored 1653 group portrait by Bartholomeus van der Helst, titled The Officers of the Longbowmen's Guild, from the Amsterdam Museum.

The restoration job will actually be finished off during the fair's final days, when visitors will be able to view the conservators refreshing touches to this 365-year-old work. However, this isn't the painting's principal draw. TEFAF has also managed to locate the 16th century goblets, jewellery and other pieces of silverware shown in the painting, and will display these alongside the canvas, enabling visitors to draw design inspiration from an unlikely fine-art source.

Elsewhere, more modern TEFAF gallerists have borrowed a theme common in fine-art circles: the rediscovery and promotion of little-known, somewhat overlooked mid-20th century figures. Many of us could spot an Eames hanger or a Breuer chair in our friends' homes, yet fewer could identify the sensual, modernist furniture of the 20th century Polish-born Brazilian-based Jorge Zalszupin, whose pieces will be on show at Galerie Le Beau's stand within TEFAF's Showcase section.

Brazilian modernism and medieval silver may not seem like obvious design themes for 2018, however, when it comes to forward-thinking interiors, TEFAF shows you really can go back to the future.

TEFAF has appointed Quintessentially Netherlands as the fair's premier concierge. Contact tefaf@quintessentially.com or +31 20 723 4892 (available 24/7) to tailor your TEFAF experience.

Fancy a trip to TEFAF with some classic Member benefits? Quintessentially Travel has a suite of offers for hotels in The Netherlands. Please contact info@quintessentiallytravel.com to find out more.


Alex Rayner works for the fine-art publishers Phaidon, co-edits the art and fashion biennial Supplement, and contributes to The Guardian.