Who would guess that the land of Tintin and the European Community headquarters would harbor a strong collecting culture? Now in its 54th year, the Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair (BRAFA) is drawing in the local and international crowds to its halls in the Tour & Taxis warehouse for a fair featuring an eclectic mix of artworks including antiquities, African art, continental furniture, jewelry, contemporary painting, and decorative arts. In short, there’s something here for everyone; an under-the radar repository of art and objects.
A case in point is Honourable Silver Objects, an Antwerp-based dealer that started off selling fine antique silverware and has gradually moved to a more eclectic mix of merchandise.
“Now we buy things we like from ancient to modern and in-between and hope our customers will too!” explains co-owner Theun van Beers.
Their booth epitomizes their erudite outlook with a large round table draped with a flawless 1920s suzani embroidery (sold on the first preview night), heaped with books and 19th century Danish crystal. A pair of mis-matched wingchairs—one of which had unusual eagle heads carved on the top of its front legs—added to the library feel.
Along the back wall an English Regency oak cabinet held a collection of 17th to 19th century ivories, and collectibles. Also featured in the booth were small scaled sculptures made of tissue paper in lush monochromatic tones of red, blue or gray by Korean Artist Jae Ko that have proved extremely popular. Since venturing in this new direction they have very aptly added Cabinet of Curiosities to their gallery name.
Reflecting Belgium’s 19th and early 20th century involvement in Africa there are quite a few dealers in African art at Brafa. Among them, Patric Didier Claes, who last year dedicated his booth to a million euro fetish object sculpture and this year had a moody gallery filled with (and selling) African masks and objects.
Alain de Monbrison showed a minimalist Mangbetu slit drum from the Congo and presented it atop an elaborate Dutch side table for a very daring juxtaposition.
A suite of 17 Bete half animal, half human masks from the Ivory Coast illuminated with pinpoint lighting made an impressive entrance at Galerie Serge Schoffel, yet another dealer specializing in Tribal Art.
A more 20th century mix of art and objects that exemplifies the discoveries one can make here was featured at Galerie Jean-Jacques Dutko from Paris. A three drawer Eugène Prinz commode with beautifully oxidized gilt handles and sabots was exhibited with an André Masson painting over it and a contemporary ceramic piece by British sculptor Matthew Chambers, along with a lamp by Bruno Romeda. It’s a very up-to-the-minute chic, eclectic look spanning the Art Deco period to today.
For the collector looking to make a discovery at either end of the market, Brafa should certainly be on their map. Even reception suite at Delen Private Bank, the principal sponsor of the fair, is a not to be missed study in museum quality mid-century furniture and paintings.
From august dealers including Steinitz and Axel Vervoordt to new dealers to the fair such as Antwerp’s 88-Gallery featuring the contemporary works of Brazilian brothers Fernando and Humberto Campana, this show will continue to attract intrepid dealers, decorators and those just waiting to find a new collecting passion.
Written by Alejandro Saralegui