The BRAFA, or the Brussels Art Fair, is one of the art and antiques sector’s top 5 fairs worldwide. It is organized every year by the nonprofit Belgian Antiques Fair Association.
History of the Fair
Created in 1956, it is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious art fairs which has been held for over 60 years, famous for the high quality fine art, antiques, modern and contemporary art, and design. In 2018 it will mark the 63rd edition of the fair. BRAFA normally takes place during the last ten days of January. The first major art event of the year, it is considered a reliable barometer of the art market.
The first ever BRAFA was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Galerie Louiza. Charles Van Hove and Mamy Wouters, the long standing President and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of Antiques Dealers, were behind the initiative to set up the salon. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’, as it was known then, followed in the footsteps of the fairs already held at Grosvenor House in London and at the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded those set up in Paris, Florence and Munich. The growing success of the fair and the increasing number of participants meant that a new location had to be found. Between 1967 and 2003, the fair was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antiques dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antique Dealers could take part in the fair which was, at the time, a purely national event. The number of participants fluctuated between fourty and fifty.
The major change occurred in 1995 when Christian de Bruyn opened the fair
to foreign antique dealers for the first time. In no time the fair had outgrown the Palais des Beaux-Arts and a new, much bigger location had to be found. In 2004 the Belgian Antiques Fair moved to Tour & Taxis, a gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage situated in the north of Brussels, next to the Willebroek canal.The Tour & Taxis site, located in north Brussels where the Avenue du Port and Rue Picard meet by the Willebroek canal, covers 45 hectares. It takes its name from its original owners, the princely von Thurn-und-Taxis family. The master plan for the Tour & Taxis site was laid out by the Extensa Group, the owner of Project T&T. The Royal Depot already houses several companies, shops, restaurants and a spa while the Sheds and the Hotel de la Poste host major events. The location also guarantees easy access to galleries and museums — and Belgium is one of these countries which can boast of a rich cultural heritage. BRAFA regularly releases BRAFA City Guide for its guests, so that they could visit the most important exhibitions, concerts, performances and film screenings while staying in Brussels. Great progress has been made with the opening of new public spaces such as the Esplanade square and the park – the largest developed since the time of Leopold II.
In 2009, the name ‘Belgian Antiques Fair’ or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’ was no longer felt to reflect the scale and range of the fair, which was renamed BRAFA: the Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair. On 30 September 2009, the fair was placed under the High Protection of Her Majesty Queen Paola. Following a complete remodelling of the event in 2014, BRAFA is now synonymous with the title Brussels Art Fair.
BRAFA’s exhibitor selection process is rigorous, and all objects are verified by an international committee of experts before the fair opens its doors to the public. This enables visitors to buy with the greatest confidence. BRAFA is an exceptional showcase of high quality and rare pieces dating from the Bronze Age to the present day, covering some 5000 years of history. The fair attracts major art collectors, new buyers, and art lovers curious to see what is on the market.
Now that exhibition space was no longer restricted, the BRAFA actively sought to increase the number of participants. Having started with no more than twenty Belgian antique dealers it grew to incorporate about one hundred and thirty exhibitors from both Belgium and abroad in the space of a few years.
BRAFA 2018 Edition
In 2018, 134 leading galleries will participate following a strict selection process (40% Belgian and 60% foreign). 16 countries, such as Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Monaco, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Austria, Greece and the USA will be represented at the fair. Also, 20 specialities will be covered, including classical archaeology, tribal art, pre-Colombian art, Asian art, jewellery, silverware, coins, furniture and art objects dating from the Middle Ages to today, old and modern paintings, contemporary art and design, sculpture, ceramics, contemporary glass and porcelain, carpets and textiles, drawings, original cartoons, engravings, rare books, photography and autographs. This makes 10,000 to 15,000 objects are on show in total! 100 experts from around the world will be involved to verify the authenticity, quality and condition of the different objects on display.
According to Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke, the Chairman of the Fair, there will be fourteen new galleries participating out of a total of 134, and five returnees. The number of requests remains very high for the limited number of spaces available. The rotation is barely 10%, and there are frequent returns by exhibitors who like to exhibit on alternate years. There will participate a new exhibitor, specialising in Arte Povera, a domain seldom represented in previous years at BRAFA, another in modern British painting and sculpture, and a third offers a highly contemporary take on the curiosity cabinet… The inclusion of fourteen new galleries, all foreign and of international calibre, will add a new dimension to the fair and guarantee an overall quality unparalleled in Belgium.
Also, since 2016 BRAFA features a contemporary section that incorporates galleries representing the primary art market, something BRAFA previously lacked despite the numerous requests. The new section was introduced as the response to numerous requests in order to supplement the fair with a speciality it had not represented before. This way, BRAFA meets its goal to offer the broadest possible panorama of all art forms.
Also, in 2018 THE BRAFA Art Talks programme will be especially strong and varied. Speakers include museum directors, collectors and gallerists with diverse art-related specialities who address a wide range of topics. Among them will be Angela Rosengart, a Swiss gallerist and collector who grew up – quite literally – with the masters of 20th century art. From early childhood she accompanied her father, also a gallery owner, to the studios of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Miró, and many other now renowned artists. She built her collection within a foundation, and then a museum, in Lucerne. Today it is one of the largest collections of modern paintings in the world.
BRAFA talks will also welcome Dominique Szymusiak,Honorary Curator of the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, whose decisive approach has made the museum one of the most remarkable in France. The Tretyakov Gallery from Moscow is also on the programme. Léon Spilliaert will be the subject of a lecture given by Anne Adriaens-Pannier, Honorary Curator of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Michel Draguet, the Royal Museums’ current Director General, will speak on Magritte and contemporary art. Not to forget a voyage into the arts of Oceania in the company of Nicolas Cauwe, Curator of the Royal Museums of Art and History, or a discussion of the art of the Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities)…
BRAFA 2018 will also be welcoming one of the most renowned and influential contemporary artists — Christo. An emblematic figure of the New Realism along with his late wife Jeanne-Claude, he came to be known for “wrapping” of historic monuments and large-scale landscape installations. It is one of his historic work from the 1960s that will be presented at BRAFA.
All in all, BRAFA 2018 promises to be an intriguing and exciting journey across the centuries and movements in art. Definitely, worth your attention and a visit!
SPONSORS OF BRAFA
Since 2007, Delen Private Bank is the partner and main sponsor of BRAFA. The Chairman Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke, and Delen Private Bank share a common ambition: achieving a high-quality fair. The slogan underlining the harmonious cooperation between the above-mentioned partners is ‘Delen Private Bank, Supporting Fine Arts’, wherewith Delen Private Bank wishes to emphasise its aspiration to support fine arts, in order to maintain the cultural heritage for present and future generations.