PwC & TEFAF Art Fair

Interview & Photography by: Mart Engelen


A conversation with Jac Veeger, tax partner at PwC and initiator of the PwC TEFAF event in Maastricht, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this spring.

Mart Engelen: You are organising the TEFAF event for the fifth time this year.
How did it all start?
Jac Veeger: I got the idea of organising the PwC TEFAF event some six years
ago when I was a guest at a party given by Rob Noortman, the famous art dealer
and founder of Noortman Master Paintings, during the TEFAF. It was a brilliant
evening and I met a lot of interesting people. He organised these events in his castle
‘Kleine Mot’ close to Maastricht, just over the border in Belgium. Very intimate,
informal, relaxed, a perfect atmosphere for networking. I organised the first TEFAF
event for PwC together with Rob and his wife Angelique and we were able to use
their castle as the venue, which was great. Later on, after Rob died, I continued the
tradition and organised the event with his successor, his son William.
ME: After five years organising the TEFAF event, what do you think is the secret
of its success? Why have you continued to organise it for five years in a row?
JV: I think the secret is the setting. You have to travel to the beautiful city of
Maastricht; that in itself is an undertaking. People who have made the effort to
spend a day and a half or more in Maastricht, outside their normal day-to-day
routine, are in a relaxed state of mind to start with. They come to Maastricht to be
in the city in early spring to enjoy the TEFAF, the world’s leading art and antiques
fair. And ahead of that, to set the mood, there is a dinner with excellent food and
drink, wine and entertainment and – most important – interesting people that
you really enjoy spending an evening with. Again, the atmosphere is relaxed and
informal. It is a simple formula, but maybe that is the beauty of it.
ME: Exactly what is the relationship between business, or wealth, and art?
JV: There has always been a strong connection between business, or entrepreneurs,
wealth and art. Wealth needs art and vice versa. Why? Entrepreneurs, wealthy
individuals, often develop a passion for art because it offers a way to express yourself
and to connect to a world outside your own world of business and day-to-day life.
A distraction, an escape so to speak. A lot of people need that. That’s why people
get interested in collecting art, and once you start, it gets addictive, you can’t stop.
ME: Has it changed over the last decades, this relationship between art and wealth?
JV: What certainly has changed are the volumes. I read somewhere that the total
art market was estimated at about US $65 billion at its peak in 2007 and has now
fallen back to approximately US $50 billion. These are volumes that are in no way
comparable to the volumes of, say, 50 years ago. This means that the players at
the top of the market have become bigger because prices have gone up. In fact,
some artists can no longer be afforded by museums but only by ultra-rich buyers
or investors and that’s a pity. Another change is globalisation: new art coming
from China, India and Africa, but also places such as Iran and conflict zones like
Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. Art markets like that have emerged thanks to people
who had a vision and started sourcing art under difficult circumstances, pioneers
like Jean Pigozzi, the heir to a French automotive fortune and his curator Andre
Magnin, who discovered and funded a score of African artists. And Mr Poddar
(from the Indian Poddar family) who buys work from artists from difficult conflictaffected
areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq; art often produced at risk
to the artist’s life.
ME: Is there also a financial gain from collecting art?
JV: I don’t think the primary driver for collecting art should be making money or
buying it as a form of investment. You should do it because it’s fun and you develop
a passion for its beauty. Having said that, there are, of course, good examples of
collectors who have been very successful in creating value with their collections.
Francois Pinault, advised by Mr Segalot, and Mr Cohen, the American hedge fund
billionaire. But there is no gain without risk, especially as the contemporary art
market has proven to be quite volatile in recent years. Sales collapsed after the fall of
Lehman but are now picking up again.
ME: Being an art collector of sorts yourself, what do you think should be done to
promote emerging artists? And in that light, what do you think of the trend in the
Netherlands to cut public expenditure on art and culture and the increase in VAT
on art?
JV: I think everything should be done to create a level playing field among artists
and to create an environment that makes it easy for artists who are just starting out
to enter the art market. In that respect, of course, the increase in VAT from 6% to
19% does not help. And this not only applies to artists but also to small galleries
that are really being hit by this change, which is not good for those just starting
out. So, on a personal note, I am against the government measures currently being
contemplated, cutting back on art and culture and the increase in VAT on works
of art. But, having said that, I think it will happen and we will have to live with it,
although there are plenty of tax-planning opportunities. I also think that artists,
galleries and cultural organisations will have to become even more resourceful,
innovative and entrepreneurial in finding funding for their activities. I have
no doubt that artists will manage to survive, as they always have done. Wealthy
collectors, galleries and dealers intermediating between the artists and collectors
will play an important role in that development, no doubt.