TEFAF, The European Fine Art Fair, Invests in American Museums

  • MAASTRICHT, Netherlands
  • /
  • November 11, 2015

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Michel Witmer
courtesy photo

American art expert, Michel Cox Witmer, spearheads unique grant making program.

In an unprecedented move, ten American museums have been awarded grants from The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF).  TEFAF’s new grants program is the brainchild of art collector Michel Cox Witmer, who serves on TEFAF’s board.

These TEFAF grants mark a significant change in the way international philanthropy has traditionally worked, where American donors and their dollars have supported European museums.  For decades, numerous organizations have brought American money to European institutions, such as the American Friends of Versailles, American Friends of the Louvre, American Friends of the Uffizi, and many more. 

Now, for the first time, major museums like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Dallas Museum of Art, Saint Louis Art Museum, Philadelphia Art Museum, and others have had the honor of receiving grants from TEFAF.       

Witmer created this new program to fund specific projects in each museum, with the possibility of additional assistance for future projects. Each museum was awarded an initial $10,000. for a specific project.   Each museum is then eligible to apply for a TEFAF restoration grant of 50,000 euros (approximately $57,000) to be divided between two museums.  If desired, TEFAF is organizing fundraising trips exclusively for the museums. The museums pay only costs, with no profit to TEFAF, so they can sell the trips to their patrons as unique fundraising instruments.

Along with the project grants, restoration grants, and fundraising trips, each participating museum is also eligible for exclusive art history lecture programs from leading experts, provided at TEFAF’s expense.        

Widely recognized as the world’s finest art and antiques fair, TEFAF is held each March in Maastricht, the Netherlands.  During its 30 year history, TEFAF has grown into an enterprise that now showcases more than $10 billion in masterpieces, attracting major museum curators, private collectors and connoisseurs from all over the world.

It was the first fair to institute vetting, a system that involves 175 international experts in 29 categories who examine absolutely every work of art in the fair for quality, authenticity, and condition.

Most importantly, TEFAF was the first art fair in the world to cross check its art with the list of Nazi Art Theft, beginning the process of restitution of works of art to their rightful owners.            

While the exhibitors represent the world’s leading art galleries, the fair itself is a non-profit organization that has engaged in charitable activities globally for 29 years. 2014, however, was the first year that TEFAF funded programs in American museums. This program is slated for growth, with additional grants being made available for 2016.

TEFAF grants to U.S. museums:

The Houston Museum of Fine Arts

The Museum of Fine Art Boston

Art Libraries Society of North America

The Milwaukee Art Museum

The J B Speed Museum

The Parrish Art Museum

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art 

The Chicago Art Institute

The Carnegie Museum of Art

The Detroit Art Institute

Global art expert Michel Witmer has guided tours and given numerous lectures in the galleries of the Louvre, along with most of the world’s other major museums. In London, he worked with prominent artists Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol and lectured at London’s Tate Gallery and in Christie’s main galleries on King Street. Ultimately, he formed his own company for research and consulting for art collections of numerous Hollywood celebrities, along with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s collection at Buckingham Palace.

As the US ambassador to TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, Holland,) Witmer enjoys and shares his unique access to the very pulse of the global art market. Engaging, witty and informed, he has been a guest on Bloomberg Television in addition to appearances on CNN and NBC’s TODAY.

A Pennsylvania native (Franklin & Marshall, BA, Christie’s London, MFA) with homes in New York, Palm Beach and Paris, Michel Witmer offers an insider’s access to the thrilling and often mysterious world of the global fine art market.

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