The stars have aligned for art lovers and collectors this year, as Europe hosts five of the world’s biggest art fairs over the course of 2023. With world-class experts gathered under one roof, international art and antiques fairs offer culture vultures the perfect excuse for a European city break. Here are the key art fairs to have on your radar for 2023...

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Best European Art Fairs 2023


BRAFA

When? 29th January - 5th February 2023

European art fairs 2023
Fabrice Debatty

View our BRAFA preview here.

BRAFA (The Brussels Art Fair) is the first event on the international fairs calendar and, for aficionados, it’s a keenly anticipated annual favourite. ‘It remains one of the most enjoyable and important fairs of the year,’ says Alick Forrester of Willow Gallery, specialists in Impressionist and Post Impressionist art.

‘We’re committed to supporting the BRAFA team, and are very much looking forward to the 2023 edition.’ Beatrix Bourdon, the fair’s longserving managing director, explains that as a non-profit organisation they are there primarily for the exhibitors. ‘We could do mini BRAFAs in Paris, London or Amsterdam and see BRAFA as a brand, but that’s not our vision.’

Their vision is firmly focused on improving ‘the one fair’, she says. Crucially, ongoing ‘improvement’ has not been at the expense of this event’s main strength: its appeal to collectors in many different areas. From antiquities to tribal arts, medieval sculpture and works of art to bandes dessinées, 18th-century furniture to 20th-century design – as the fair’s chairman Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke says, ‘We must remain varied and diverse, and always retain the balance between the Old Masters and modern and contemporary art.’

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Known by the acronym BRAFA since 2009, the fair was founded in 1956 and held annually at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in central Brussels from 1967. After welcoming international exhibitors in 1995, the space became too small, and in 2004 a move was made to the Tour & Taxis industrial site around the old Gare Maritime. Last year, for its first post-Covid edition, BRAFA moved once again, this time to a hall in the Brussels Expo in the north of the city, which is where the fair will open its doors this month.

Brussels has declared 2023 Art Nouveau Year in the city, and the city’s rich Art Nouveau heritage will be reflected at BRAFA: the fair’s designers, Nicolas de Liedekerke and Daniel Culot of Volume Architecture, together with Beatrix Bourdon and Benjamin Zurstrassen, curator of the Horta Museum, have selected original Horta drawings to use in their carpet design for the aisles.

It won’t be at the detriment of that vital ‘balance’, however. ‘We’re not going to make the fair a whole Art Nouveau ensemble; that would be too much,’ say Nicolas and Daniel. ‘The goal is to show Victor Horta’s work in a different way.’ In a crowded field for excellence, look out for carpet and textile specialist Christian Vrouyr, Old Masters at Jan Muller, and Francis Maere for interesting Belgian artists.

Getting there

Direct flights from London Heathrow to Brussels take 1 hour 15 minutes, with return tickets starting at £138 with British Airways.

Book return flights for BRAFA

Where to stay

Brussels is a beautiful city, popular for tourists all year round, so there are plenty of lovely hotels to stay in. Prices for five nights start at £269 for nine nights, or for a bit more, you can stay at the highly reviewed Warwick Brussels - Grand Place or The Dominican.

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The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF)

When? 9th - 19th March 2023

European art fairs 2023
ANP / Alamy Stock Photo

The real thrill of TEFAF is the ‘excitement of the hunt’ according to an American couple who didn’t wish to be named. Serious collectors, they have been buying from dealers at the fair for many years and have noted that dealers want to offer surprises on opening day. ‘The fair’s ethos is about people who really care,’ they say. ‘Dealers who share the joy of connoisseurship, and there is a wonderful sense of camaraderie.’

The first fair at Maastricht was Pictura, founded in 1975; a biennial event alternating with antiques until 1985, when the two merged and were then taken over in 1988 by a consortium of dealers known as The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF). Nowadays TEFAF is no longer just Europe’s fair, but truly the World Fair, with the world’s best dealers offering the world’s best art.

Naturally, it not only attracts serious collectors, but also curators from all major museums with money to spend. Be warned; touring the fair is not an experience for the unfit – it’s impossible to see everything, and discipline and pre-planning are essential. On occasions, exhibitor numbers have exceeded 300, and last June’s first post-Covid edition included 280 exhibitors from 22 countries.

Getting there

Flying from London to Maastricht airport costs as little as £19.97 for a direct flight.

Book return flights for TEFAF

Where to stay

Accommodation prices start at £638 for a one week stay. Places such as Dormio Resort Maastricht Apartments and Designhotel Maastricht get very good reviews.

Find accommodation in Maastricht


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Art Basel

When? 15th - 18th June 2023

Art Basel

The line-up of world-class art fairs begins with Art Basel, a staple of the art fair world held annually since 1970. Art Basel showcases the very best of present modern and contemporary works, including emerging talents; this year, 289 galleries from 40 countries will present art in a range of media, from paintings and films to photographs, installations and sculptures, alongside a program of panel discussions with artists and curators.

During the same week, a number of secondary fairs are held in Basel and the surrounding region: Liste Art Fair, Volta Art Fair and Photo Basel are now established as permanent fixtures alongside the main fair.

Getting there

There are direct flights from London to Basel, and the journey lasts less than two hours. Jet off on the 14th June and return on the 19th of June so you can enjoy the entire fair. Return flights start at £146.97.

Book return flights for Art Basel

Where to stay

The are plenty of fabulous hotels, Airbnbs and self-catering accommodation in and around Basel. Prices start at £891 for five nights.

Find accommodation in Basel


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Masterpiece London

When? Masterpiece London has been cancelled for 2023

European art fairs 2023
Malcolm Park / Alamy Stock Photo

Masterpiece was set up in 2016 after the demise of the venerable Grosvenor House Fairs, but it was a new model rather than more of the same. Billing itself as ‘The International Fair for Luxury Antiques in London’ it had to tread very carefully, so that the inclusion of high-performance cars, fashion-label handbags, jewellery or limited-edition fountain pens and the like did not create the effect of a glitzy shopping mall where buyers of traditional art might feel uncomfortable.

By and large, this has been managed, and the presentation is both very stylish and effective. Michael Lipitch, a veteran specialist in 18th-century English furniture, who describes himself as ‘probably the oldest dealer still working’ in his field, says the focus on the highest standards means that the very best dealers need to be there, offering the very best that is to be found in this country.

William Agnew, sculpture specialist, agrees, and emphasises the equally high quality of the visitors: ‘Collectors, curators and new customers, they all come to the stand, sometimes unfortunately together – one never has enough time for each of them, but it’s exhilarating and exhausting and always worth doing.’

Getting there

Taking place in London, Masterpiece is a short walk from Sloan Square. Access can be gained via taxi, bus or the London underground. The event organisers have requested that visitors don't drive themselves to the fair as there is a limited amount of parking space that is reserved for disabled visitors.

Where to stay

If you aren't local, there are some great places to stay for the duration of the fair. The Z Hotel Victoria and Pestana Chelsea Bridge Hotel come highly recommended, and flats on Airbnb are available at reasonable prices.

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Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale

When? 21st - 26th November 2023

European art fairs 2023

For many years the Biennale held in the Grand Palais was one of the world’s leading decorative arts fairs. But over time it seemed to be less interested in sales and more a showcase for French culture. Disagreements among the SNA (the French national antiques dealers’ association) who organised it, and the strange decision to go annual but retain the name, only compounded the problem.

However, the recent merger with fast-growing Fine Arts Paris, founded in 2017, and the appointment of its organisers (who also run the specialist Salon du Dessin fair) has proved a great success.

France’s ’new flagship art fair’, celebrates art from antiquity to the present day. With over 17,000 visitors in attendance, the inaugural event ‘opened up promising perspectives’ for future editions according to Louis de Bayser, the highly respected drawings dealer who is the fair’s president.

Of the 86 exhibitors at the 2022 fair, 25 were from abroad; as Louis de Bayser adds, the objective is ‘to expand the fair’s global reputation and growth’ while boosting Paris’s renewed claim to be the centre of the international art market. In 2023 the fair will move to the Grand Palais Ephémère, and in 2024 it will finally return to the renovated Grand Palais itself.

Getting there

The fair is hosted at Grand Palais Éphémère in Paris, a 45 minute drive from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, just a 30 minute drive from Orly airport and just a 10 minute drive from the Orly airport shuttle. Although Orly airport is closer to the venue, you may struggle to get a direct flight on the dates depending where you are travelling from, whereas Paris Charles de Gaulle airport typically has direct flights to more locations. Flight prices start at £102 from London. Taxis, car hire, buses and underground services are all available, or if you get the shuttle, it's a 30 minute walk to the venue.

Book return flights for Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale

Where to stay

The central city location means there's plenty of accommodation options including luxury hotels and entire apartments to rent for your time in Paris. For more affordable options, consider staying just outside the city centre – there's plenty of transport links tpo get you to and from the fair!

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