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Created out of the former restaurant area, it adds a new aisle, big enough to accommodate an extra 10 stands to a fair which Christian Vrouyr, the general secretary of BRAFA, described as two to three times oversubscribed.

The fair, which has 137 predominantly Belgian and French exhibitors across a range of around 20 disciplines, opened to the public for a nine-day run on January 23-31, preceded by three days of private views.

Asked at the private view where he placed BRAFA in terms of an art fair world ranking, Vrouyr said: "We are not too concerned about where we are. It is not the Tour de France, no one gets a yellow jersey. Let's just do what we think is good."

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A view from the isles of the BRAFA fair in Brussels.

In response to a question about whether the recent terrorist events, which had disrupted life in Brussels, would deter potential visitors, Vrouvy said it might. There were concerns, he felt, but added: "Most people think that life goes on. All you can do is take extra [security] measures." Only one exhibitor had decided not to stand at the fair as a result of the terrorist alert, he said.

Was the organising committee promoting the fair to countries in the Far East or the US? Vrouyr said they hadn't actively promoted in those areas - yet.

"We are concentrating very much on Europe, on the Netherlands - it was not always very easy to get people from there and now we feel that they are coming - on Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Italy and the UK.

"We are building up slowly and steadily. It is quite a heavy budget if you want to do everything at the same time. When you are very steady then you can say let's go to another country where we don't have so many contacts."

Europe is BRAFA's visitor heartland with countries such as the Netherlands and Germany augmenting the all-important domestic market.

Given this, it is no surprise that early European works of art and ethnographica, traditional strong Belgian fields, are much in evidence here along with a roster of Antiquities specialists that is an increasingly strong BRAFA sector, drawing quality exhibits and pulling in collectors.

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This 2ft 7in x 3ft 3in (81cm x 1m) oil on canvas of 1959, ‘Mouvement’, by the Tournai-born artist Joseph Lacasse, priced in the region of €85,000, was an early sale for London dealer Whitford Fine Art at BRAFA.

There were a number of early sales at BRAFA. Belgium's Axel Vervoordt sold most of the furniture on his stand on opening night and Brussels Tribal Art specialist Didier Claes sold 22 pieces on the first preview day.

Paris dealer Christophe Hioco, a specialist in Indian and Himalayan works of art, sold three major pieces on opening night, while Brussels Galerie Lamy's preview sales included a 19th century silver sabre.