Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Hostess at TEFAF
Lisa Hulshof/ 24/ master’s student of Public Policy and Human Development/ works about 20 hours per week via food service and hospitality staffing agency Mise en Place/ earning around 10 euros per hour
“Where is the loo?” An older lady wearing a white fur coat approaches Lisa Hulshof. It’s Monday afternoon. The student is manning the Limburg booth by Chapeau Magazine and Maastricht Region, a consortium of companies and organisations including the province of Limburg, Dutch chemical company DSM, the municipality of Maastricht and Maastricht University.
“Straight ahead and after ten metres to the right”, replies Hulshof. “Anyone else would’ve asked me for the way to the lavatory, or the bathroom, or the ladies’ room”, she says a little later, chuckling. “‘The loo’ is posh British for ‘the toilet’.”
Posh people are not an uncommon sight at TEFAF Maastricht. At the same time, the diversity of visitors is what makes this annual art fair in MECC Maastricht a unique attraction. The fair is a pop-up museum showcasing the most precious jewels, old and modern paintings, works of art on paper, Russian icons, antique musical instruments, and even an eighteenth-century-style doll’s house from Groningen: The Anna Maria Trip Doll’s House.
Besides the way to the lavatory, people often ask Hulshof whether they’re allowed to take the current issue of Chapeau Magazine home with them (“certainly”). Chapeau Magazine reports on “the good life in Limburg and the Meuse-Rhine Euroregion” twice a month. The current issue is a special TEFAF edition which can be found in various places in the booth.
And then there are visitors who want to know where they can find 'the Rembrandt'. The Abduction of Ganymede (1635), to be precise. Rembrandt made a painting of this Greek myth in which Prince Ganymede is abducted by Zeus in the form of an eagle.
“At first I had no idea where it was. I sent them to the Rembrandt Association booth across from ours.” Hulshof has since learnt that the Dutch master’s painting is on view in the neighbouring booth by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.
When she has time, she checks out the fair herself. “Usually in the morning, when our booth is still quiet.” Today’s first drinks event is scheduled at three p.m. “The municipality of Maastricht has invited a number of guests. After that, there’s another drinks event by the municipality. We’re expecting a hundred guests for the Chapeau drinks at five p.m.”
Hulshof’s task is to make sure everything runs smoothly: offer people drinks, make small talk. She takes Observant backstage, where bottles of Spa water are stocked and wine is kept in large refrigerators. A little farther down is a platform holding two forlorn-looking armchairs. “They belong to a booth owner who couldn’t put them anywhere. Apparently they’re very antique.”
The first guests for the drinks show up: about fifteen volunteers from Maastricht who participate in neighbourhood living room projects are visiting TEFAF at the invitation of alderwoman Mara de Graaf (welfare, health, diversity). A sign saying “private meeting” goes up in the booth. The guests study the ancient work of art on the wall. “It’s from Het Loo Palace”, Hulshof told Observant earlier. Formerly a royal palace, the building is now a museum. It’s currently undergoing extensive renovations and will be closed until 2021. Many objects are being restored in preparation for the reopening. The restoration is a joint project between the museum and SRAL, a foundation for art conservation and research: another contributor to the Chapeau/Maastricht Region booth.
After a few days at TEFAF, Hulshof has gained more appreciation of various works of art. “At first I really didn’t get why someone would spend thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of euros on something that, well, isn’t worth that much money at first glance. But it’s become a bit clearer to me.”
The fair closes at seven p.m. tonight, “that’s when we put out the rubbish. Used glassware, bin bags: we put them out in front of the booth and they’re picked up.” Everything has been taken care of, down to the last detail.