Created in 1956, the Brafa is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious art fairs. Famous for the high quality and diversity of art displayed, the fair seems to have recently become increasingly important abroad. Of 133 exhibitors, 50 came from Belgium while the remaining 83 came mainly from France and Britain, but also the United States, Germany and Italy. It also attracted a growing number of international visitors, closing its doors on the 6th February with a record of 68,000 - 2,000 more than the 2019 edition. Convelio was present at the 65th edition of Brafa, below you will find our impressions and key results.
An eclectic mix
It is striking that many exhibitors are mixing styles, mediums and epoques in their booths. This year, the Belgian dealer-decorator Axel Vervoordt, who initiated this practice of showing a diverse collection of objects, exhibited archaeological pieces, 18th century furniture, 20th century design, ZERO and Gutai art. Grusenmeyer–Woliner also stood out by revealing a broad range of sculpture, archaeology, jewellery and decorative arts from South-East Asia, China and India. Many dealers took this further, presenting their “cabinet de curiosité” (e.g. Kunstkammer objects), Porfirius Kunstkammer (Neerijse) for instance, who transformed his booth in a museum from the XVI and XVII centuries, displaying precious man-made objects, scientific instruments and objects from nature and exotic places. Following the same concept, Finch & Co (London) and Theatrum Mundi (Arezzo) presented a contemporary version of the “Wunderkammer”, mingling curious, entertaining and provoking objects. Surrealist and symbolist artists displayed in many booths brought another facet to the Brafa’s syncretic ambience.For instance, the Francis Maere Gallery (Ghent) featured two noteworthy melancholic paintings from Léon Spilliaert. In another booth, Samuel Vanhoegaerden, selected an outstanding ensemble of James Ensor paintings. We also truly appreciated the “accidental art” we saw on the booths of Vrouyr and Artancient gallery; first a black Afghan rug enlivened by random splashes of red, then a damaged Romano-Cypriot marble table top made special by a lacing of cracks and small losses.
On the exhibitor side, many seemed satisfied due to the higher sales compared to previous editions. For most of them, the comments are glowing about the evolution of the fair and the quality of the visitors, which are increasingly international. For many, the potential of the most important fair in Belgium remains enormous and promising. All sectors have experienced remarkable sales levels, as evidenced by the selection below: • Samuel Vanhoegaerden (Knokke) flourished with the sale of his formidable set devoted to James Ensor, at prices announced between €50,000 at €700,000. • Very noticed by Guy Pieters (Knokke), several large-format drawings by Christo, preparatory to his packaging for the Arc de Triomphe scheduled for next September, have found buyers between €600,000 and €1.2M. • Great success also for Alexis Pentcheff (Marseille), who notably presented a very fine selection of post-impressionist paintings and a rare set of Nabis works (at prices sometimes reaching several hundred thousand €). Special mention should be made of a rare oil on cardboard dated 1894 by Pierre Bonnard (“Young sleeping woman”), which was acquired on the very first day. • Vrouyr Gallery (Antwerp) ceased an art deco carpet by Albert Van Nuffel and a kilim Bakhtar Shustar from Iran (circa 1900); Alexis Lartigue (Paris), from the Galerie de la Béraudière (Brussels), sold a bronze by Joan Miro (“Woman and Bird”, 1968), and a flamboyant “Red Circle” (2010) by Bosco Sodi. De Wit Fine Tapestries (Mechelen) sold 6 tapestries, while Charly Bailli sold the two most important pieces of her stand for approximately €500,000 each.
65th Brafa’s Guest of honour
This year instead of inviting an artist or an institution to be guest of honour, the organizers set a charity auction where five panels of the Berlin Wall were sold. The funds gathered went to organizations active in the fields of cancer research, integration of disabled people and cultural heritage. With €326,000 raised, the organizers exceeded their expectations: "We hoped to reach €25,000 for each of the segments and we are far beyond for each of them. The auctions were tight until their final conclusion. We have received offers from Belgium bidders but also from some based in Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and even from a university in the United States" said Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke, President of the event. We are looking forward to next years’ edition, which is sure to be even more successful, exciting and international!