WITH 58 stagings the annual Brussels Antiques
& Fine Art Fair, more commonly known as BRAFA, is Europe’s longest-running
antiques event but the latest edition from January 19 to 27 was the most
eagerly anticipated to date since it marked its tenth year at the spectacular
Tour & Taxis venue.
It did not let anyone down, looking as good as
ever and reflecting the efforts over the past decade to make this a fair of
international standing with not just dramatic presentation but an array of 128
exhibitors whose quality matches their style.
Indeed, this year it proved more international
than ever with marked institutional interest, including from American museums,
and, I hear, a productive visit from a leading American decorator as well as an
increasing number of Asian and Russian buyers.
However, no fair can defy the global economic
gloom and while many dealers reported excellent, some said “fantastic”, sales
there was a reticence from many private buyers to clinch a deal. But exhibitors
met many new clients and, in common with every other top fair, there is promise
Not that there was inconsiderable business achieved
on the stands, especially at the three preview nights but continuing throughout
the trading days. However, it is difficult to ascertain just how much since the
Dutch and Belgian buyers, who have a lot of money and spend a lot of it at
BRAFA, do not trumpet their purchases.
I was there for the first four days and did not
meet one downbeat exhibitor. But, as expected, Brussels played to its strengths
and most business was in the areas for which it is known.
The key field of tribal art was strong and this
must be one of the best fairs for this discipline. The stand of Brussels dealer
Serge Schoffel was, in my opinion, the best in the fair with a stunning array
of Bete masks dramatically presented (as we show here) and he sold six of the
18 at the fair, some to museums, with more business in the pipeline.
BRAFA has made a name for itself with antiquities
and with eight new specialist exhibitors the sector thrived, while medieval art
also made its mark with Belgian dealer Luc De Backker, who also stands at
Maastricht and Masterpiece, enjoying considerable sales, some to a younger set.
Fellow medievalist Nicholas Mullany from London
also had a good fair and although he did not sell quite as much as last year
saw new American museum interest and is anticipating fruitful after-sales. His
star piece, a sublime Virgin of the Intercession, is currently under serious
20th century design was buoyant as
was Modern Art, with the emphasis on Belgian artists. Adrian Mibus of Whitford
Fine Art of St. James’s was among those who described business as “fantastic”
and he sold mainly Belgian artists.
I think the fair could benefit from more
dedicated Asian art dealers but those who were there seemed to enjoy a positive
Overall, not perhaps the vintage outing for sales
we saw last year but any fair can only reflect prevailing economic conditions
and 2013 confirmed that BRAFA gets better by the year. This year’s gate of
48,135 was a record.
was the increased international interest and, most telling, I have not heard of
a single exhibitor who will not be back. The first international fair of the
year may not have been a blockbuster for all, but as far as I am concerned it
lived up to increasingly high expectations.