For its 68th edition, BRAFA, Europe's longest-running antiques fair, returns to its regular slot at the start of the year: 29th January to 5th February at Brussels Expo at the Heysel.
Known for being one of the most eclectic art and antiques events of the year, featuring specialist dealers across many genres including Old Masters, fine furniture, jewellery, porcelain and silver, it's no surprise that BRAFA is hotly anticipated amongst aficionados. Particularly strong on tribal art, BRAFA is also an ideal hunting ground for collectors of Belgian art and design, including jewellery.
In the years since the first fair opened in 1956, BRAFA has built a reputation for excellence – founded on strict vetting of all items by experts from around the world, including specialists from the Art Loss Register, which allows collectors to buy with confidence.
Whatever your taste, there will be exceptional and extraordinary works of art at every turn. And when the doors of the vast Brussels Expo open on Sunday 29th January, this year's visitors will be greeted with over 10,000 works presented by 130 galleries from 15 different countries.
BRAFA 2023 highlights
Galerie Tamenaga (Paris-Tokyo-Osaka)
French symbolist artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916) is perhaps best known for his dreamlike pastels, many of which explore themes of religion and spirituality. But a childhood spent on the family estate in the Medoc, instilled in him a love of nature and the countryside, which found expression in more naturalistic works such as this flower study, Vase de Fleurs. Such studies, typically of simple posies arranged by his wife, were a favourite theme for Redon from the 1900s until the end of his life.
Galerie Mathivet (Paris)
2023 is Art Nouveau year in Brussels and, along with a small exhibition at the fair dedicated to the movement, you can expect a strong showing of Art Nouveau design amongst the dealers. A case in point is this elegant and unusual sofa, designed by Eugene Vallin c1900, offered by Galerie Mathivet. The slender lines of the soaring cathedral-like back paired with the organic shapes of the legs, which are suggestive of a tree with powerful roots, are typical of the cabinetmaker's work.
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Galerie Bertrand De Lavergne (Paris)
This Chinese polychrome figure of a golden pheasant on a rock is from the Qianlong period (1736-1795), c1750-1770, comes with a prestigious provenance – from the famous Nicolier gallery, known until 1995 – the date of its closure – as the most important French gallery specialising in ceramics – and is sure to excite collectors.
De Wit Fine Tapestries (Belgium)
Featuring a red deer with impressive antlers looking at a doe hiding among foliage enlivened with flowers, this marvellous large-leaf verdure tapestry is typical of the exceptional works that visitors to the De Wit stand have come to expect. Although the location of production for this work isn't known, large-leafed verdures such as this one were woven in virtually all production centres in the southern Netherlands, and two similar works can be seen at The Art Institute of Chicago, both of which are attributed to the Oudenaarde production centre.
Dr Lennart Booij Fine Art & Rare Items (Amsterdam)
This elegant ceramic vase, c1889, by Emile Gallé (1846-1904) will sit alongside decorative works by Lalique and Picasso at Dr Lennart Booij Fine Art & Rare Items. Fired with a Japanese glaze and highlighted with a decoration of enamel and gold, this early Art Nouveau vase was probably first exhibited at the Paris World Exhibition of 1889 and has come from a private collection.
D'Arschot & Cie (Belgium)
This beautiful silver ecuelle is among a number of wonderful items on the D'Arschot & Cie stand this year. Covered ecuelle (small soup bowls or cups) are very rare in Liege silver production and this example is one of the oldest known. Made in 1702, during the reign of Louis XIV, it bears the coat of arms of the Barons de Warnant, probably that of François Guillaume Baron de Warnant (1670-1711), canon of the noble Chapter of Saint Lambert in Liege. The work on the lid features remarkable radiating ornamentation, consisting of appliqué decoration, enhanced by engravings, and bordered by gadroons: three key types of decoration used by silversmiths in the early years of the 18th century.
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