Visitors in the reconfigured entrance section of last year’s BRAFA.

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MUCH of the activity in the art world this month is centred across the pond in New York, as discussed last week (ATG No 2274).

Much, but certainly not all.

The first major fair of the year in Continental Europe, the BRAFA Art Fair, gets under way at the end of this week for a nine-day run from January 21-29, preceded by an ‘exclusive viewing’ vernissage on January 20.

This Brussels event has a long provenance. Starting out back in 1956 as the major fair for Belgian antiques dealers (Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique), it first opened its doors to foreign exhibitors in 1995.

The major change came in 2004 when the event moved from the centre to the much larger Tour & Taxis exhibition space, a renovated former industrial complex, in the north of the city.

This enabled it to expand and take in many more exhibitors and it now runs to 132 dealers. The majority hail from Belgium and France but other European countries are represented, notably the UK with nine exhibitors, half a dozen from Germany and another seven from Switzerland.

Even with the move to the expanse of the Tour & Taxis and a remodelling of the available entrance area last year to take in more stands, BRAFA is now at capacity.

As president Harold t’Kint Roodenbeke explains: “While we have a rather long waiting list, it is not currently possible to welcome more galleries without sacrificing a certain level of comfort, or accepting smaller stands, which is not what we want.” The organiser’s stated aim is not to do more but to do it better, improving the quality of the event on several levels.

A new visitor to BRAFA will find a fair that offers a broad mix of disciplines. These span traditional specialities such as early works of art, furniture, ceramics and silver, through to antiquities, Art Deco and Art Nouveau and other objets d’art.

A large number of dealers bring paintings in a range that covers Old Masters, 19th century, Modern and Contemporary and around half a dozen dealers showcase Asian art. About a dozen exhibitors also bring tribal art, a Belgian market speciality, and a couple show comic strip art, another understandable favourite in the land of Hergé and Tintin.

Thirteen new exhibitors join the BRAFA roll-call this year, eight of them from Belgium. Four of the new names are bringing Contemporary art, which appropriately will help to beef up this sector in a year when the fair’s decoration is themed around kinetic art and honours the Argentine Op and Kinetic artist Julio Le Parc, a pioneer in this field.

Le Parc will himself be present and four of his sculptures will decorate the fair.

Other regulars on the programme at the fair include the BRAFA art talks, a daily selection of lectures sponsored by the Roi Baudouin Foundation.

Much more practical information about the fair and about the individual exhibitors can be found on the newly revamped website.