Brussels Expo, the event’s new home since last year, is a large venue set out over two adjoining halls and plenty of display space was available for the 130 exhibitors, 35% of which came from Belgium and 65% from outside the country.
They seemed pleased not only with the venue but also its good parking facilities for visitors and many also expressed satisfaction at being back in the fair’s traditional time slot (last year’s BRAFA was moved to June).
As several exhibitors pointed out, the late January/early February staging is the date that BRAFA’s clientele have come to expect and put in their diaries and it also makes it the first major European fair in the annual calendar.
Visitors included collectors, museum curators, decorators and art lovers who had come from all over Europe as well as from Japan, Mexico and the US.
“Many young people were in attendance this year, as well as families, which proves that art is of interest to all generations. We received many compliments about the quality and beauty of the fair. It was a great achievement”, said Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke, BRAFA’s chairman.
Among the UK exhibitors the Stern Pissarro Gallery sold works by Marc Chagall, Raoul Dufy, Paul Jenkins and a painting by Yayoi Kusama priced in the mid €400,000 range.
Whitford Fine Art sold its Joseph Lacasse oil on canvas Dominante Bleue from 1955-6 priced in the region of €130,000. Other highlights included a Lynn Chadwick sculpture, Stairs, from 1990, priced in the region of €400,000 from Osborne Samuel Gallery.
BRAFA features galleries across a wide range of different disciplines and sales were made in many categories from the outset.
In the field of tribal art Dalton Somaré from Italy sold one its highlight exhibits, a Punu mask from Gabon from the late 19th/early 20th century.
The Galerie Claes from Brussels sold a Benin bronze Edo panther dated to the late 19th century on the first evening and concluded a dozen other deals in the €12,000-40,000 range.
Galerie Desmet from Brussels sold a pair of 16th century carved sgabello chairs priced between €30,000-40,000 and Dei Bardi Art, a Brussels gallery specialising in Haute Epoque works of art, sold a Renaissance marble tondo by Domenico Gagini for a price in the region of €40,000.
Among the silver specialists, D’Arschot & Cie from Brussels sold a lady’s tankard in parcel-gilt silver dating from the late 16th century as well as a series of four early repoussé, engraved and chiselled bowls from Bruges, c.1721-23.
Sales at Galerie Bernard De Leye from Brussels included one of its highlights: a Viennese wine cooler from 1782 by the master silversmith Ignaz Joseph Würth fashioned with two lion skins encircling the body with their tails forming the handles.
Among the fine art, Francis Maere Fine Arts from Ghent sold Figure, a stone sculpture from 1966 by Eugène Dodeigne; a work in ink on paper by Christian Dotremont from 1972, Le temps est une harpe qui joue toujours autrement la même chose, priced around €100,000 and a still-life by Rik Wouters, Intérieur aquaforte, c.1911, for a figure in the region of €300,000.
Art Nouveau acclaim
In acknowledgement of the Brussels Capital Region’s initiative to make 2023 The Year of Art Nouveau, BRAFA had adopted this stylistic movement as the fair’s theme (the carpeting drew inspiration from designs by Victor Horta, one of the leading names in Belgian Art Nouveau).
Among several galleries focusing on this field was Thomas Deprez Fine Arts from Brussels.
The gallery’s early sales included a silver jardiniere, Faisans et Raisins, by Philippe Wolfers which was priced in the region of €18,000, while the Fondation Roi Baudouin made the acquisition of an ensemble of chairs by Horta which will go to the Musée Art & Histoire in Brussels.
Florian Kohlhammer from Vienna, a specialist in Jugendstil and Art Nouveau, found a buyer for the black and white glass vase designed c.1911 by Josef Hoffmann for the Johann Loetz Witwe glassworks that was previewed in ATG No 2576 for a price in the region of €16,000.