This year, Holland will glory in another part of its past with a 12-month-long celebration marking the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn's birth. His works, painted during Holland's Golden Age in the 17th century, will be seen in museums, in Rembrandt's remarkably well-preserved birthplace, and in neighborhoods where he grew up and worked.
And every year, the Dutch host one of Europe's largest and most prestigious and successful art and antiques fairs, The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF). Each March, dealers, museum curators, and art lovers from around the world gather to see museum-quality pieces, all for sale. The show enlivens the already spirited town of Maastricht, Holland's oldest city, recently in the news as the European Union's birthplace. Dutch connoisseurship is seen here in million-dollar paintings, sculpture, and antiques. Educated, well-dressed consumers throng the aisles, taking it all in. TEFAF is the place to see the best of everything from just about everywhere.
At TEFAF, Maastricht gallery owner Robert Noortman shows art in a spacious and centrally located space that befits his stature as a show cofounder and leading art dealer. He displays art ranging in price from $2,500 to $45 million, the cost for a recently sold Rembrandt. To celebrate TEFAF, this elegant man throws an annual party at his castle for a few hundred special friends. "I couldn't change the menu even if I wanted to," he says. "Guests tell me they want the same Dutch-style food every year."
Noortman says Holland has always combined sophistication with homey pleasure. (Indeed, he and his wife, Angelique, personally prepare some of the food for the popular party.)
"Our country is so small, we share an intellectual closeness to all the world. We're a land of plenty, and plenty of tolerance, and because of that , we've always looked outward," says Noortman. "There's no place on earth quite like the Netherlands," he adds. "And gezellig is a big part of who we are. A nice way to live, ya?"