The Belgian capital, known as the crossroads of Europe for centuries before it became the seat of the EU, plays host to the continent’s most eclectic art bazaar January 19 through 27, when the 58th edition of the Brussels Antiques and Fine Arts fair (BRAFA) takes over the canal-side Tour & Taxis complex. The fair’s Byzantium-inspired design, courtesy of Volume Architecture, features an outré custom carpet by the french painter Julien Colombier – both nods to the international outlook espoused by the new BRAFA board chair, Harold t’kint de Roodenbeke, who is determinate to surpass last year’s record attendance.
« It gives a really massive impression when you enter », he says of the dramatic design. « It’s like a jungle of color against the hall of stands, which is quite classical. We like to play up the contrast. »
The participating galleries, in fields from archaeology to contemporary art and design, hold up their end of the bargain by delivering singular finds, from a terra-cotta Tlatilco goddess dated 1150-90 B.C. at Paris’s Galerie Mermoz to a 1998 throne-style steel couch fit for alien royalty by Marc Appart at Futur Antérieur. Of the 128 exhibitors, more than half hail form beyond Belgium’s borders. Eleven dealers, such as Alain de Monbrison, of Paris, and Jörg Schuhmacher, of Frankfurt, are returning after an absence, and 16, including Copenhagen’s Dansk Mobelkunst and Parisian antique map specialist Librairie Thomas-Scheler, are making their debuts. With guest of honor Théatre Royal de la Monnaie contributing themed tours and programming, the fair’s sweep promises to be nothing less than operatic.
– Sarah P. HANSON