#TBT: BRAFA Art Fair

Brussels 1.10.2020 In the evening of the first day of October a sad for the art lovers news came – the cancellation of the Brussels Fine Art Fair 2021 due to volatile COVID-19 pandemic context. (Images: @AnnaVanDensky)

The members of the non-profit organisation (organiser of the BRAFA Art Fair) held an Extraordinary General Meeting during which they decided to postpone the event to 2022.

The first ever BRAFA was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Galerie Louiza in 1956. Charles Van Hove and Mamy Wouters, the long standing President and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of Antiques Dealers, were behind the initiative to set up the salon. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’, as it was known then, followed in the footsteps of the fairs already held at Grosvenor House in London and at the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded those set up in Paris, Florence and Munich.

The growing success of the fair and the increasing number of participants meant that a location had to be found capable of keeping up with the event’s development. The range of art objects on display also continued to expand. From 1967 to 2003, the fair was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antiques dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antique Dealers could take part in the fair which was, at the time, a purely national event. The number of participants fluctuated between forty and fifty.

The first major change occurred in 1995 when Christian de Bruyn opened the fair to foreign antique dealers for the first time. The Belgian antique dealers saw this as a revolutionary step and they were right; in no time the fair had outgrown the Palais des Beaux-Arts and a new, much bigger location had to be found. In 2004 the Belgian Antiques Fair therefore moved to Tour & Taxis, a gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage situated in the north of Brussels, next to the Willebroek canal. Now that exhibition space was no longer restricted, the BRAFA actively sought to increase the number of participants. Having started with no more than twenty Belgian antique dealers it grew to incorporate about one hundred and thirty exhibitors from both Belgium and abroad in the space of a few years. The fair is now recognized worldwide as one of the leading international fairs in Europe.

BRAFA, or the Brussels Art Fair, is one of the longest running art and antiques fairs in the world and is organized every year by the nonprofit Belgian Antiques Fair Association.

The uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is the main reason for the postponement. BRAFA, which is traditionally the first top international fine art fair of the year, showcases 130 exhibitors on average, of which two thirds come from abroad.

Last year, the fair welcomed a record number of 68,000 visitors, collectors and professionals, including a significant number from neighbouring countries. The current health situation and its potential evolution this autumn and winter have caused serious concerns. New restrictions on intra-European travel related to coronavirus pandemic and the safety measures imposed by the authorities have only added to the fear of the organisers.

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