The Brafa has started again! The great art fair of Brussels, one of the greatest in Europe. And Museologue was invited to the exclusive viewing before the official opening. Art, design, jewelry, antiquities, and only two eyes to see it all. Luckily, my camera supported me to record all these impressions. Come along and get to know Brafa 2016, art lover!
Spotify tip while reading this post: Faded by Alan Walker
Is Brafa fun without buying anything?
Imagine this: a museum with 137 completely different rooms. A light impressionist room, followed by an abundantly decorated Romantic room, and then a discovery age room featuring phrenology artifacts. Yum, don’t your brain just love this?
Then you enter a room flanked with fancy shiny jewelry shimmering in various colors. And that room leads you to the next, where Hiroshige offers you a glimpse of 19th century Japan. Beautiful!
Missing some contemporary input? No problem, Brafa offers you plenty of confrontational nude and technological weirdities. Or want to go back further down in time? Then immerse in one of the various ancient sculpture gallery stands and watch the minimalist lighting do its magic.
Is Brafa only for rich people?
Think that art fairs are only for the wealthy? For doing extravagant purchases? Wrong! Not only are there art pieces for prices lower than that of a new car, you can find pieces for € 1500 and up. A few months of diligence could get you a nice sketch or painting.
An art fair is also just worth it to visit and enjoy without buying. It is a fantastic way to see art pieces that you would otherwise never, ever, see. They are “stuck” in private collections or galleries and many will be bought only to supplement other private collections, often. Not to see the public light again for years to come.
That’s why art fairs like the Brafa, where only high quality galleries expose, are a great chance to see great work.
What are the best pieces at Brafa 2016?
The best pieces are those that have a story. Some are extremely rare, others are by well-known artists. The history of an art piece, who owned it before, whether it has been exhibited, it all crafts the story and its value. Some highlights are shared on the fair’s website, but after seeing the pieces in reality I’ll be honest to say that on photo they do not transmit even half of their power. No matter how well the photo is!
Finally, there are the pieces that just catch the eye based on personal taste. My favorites were first the gigantic mantelpiece they just placed inside the fair. How cool! And how majestic if you could have this at home. I was also very impressed with seeing so many Hiroshiges in a row. It’s so cool how drawings that are almost comic book-ish, still convey so much atmosphere. Japan in the rain, love it.
What was the best gallery at Brafa 2016?
Of course I have to be boring and responsible and say all of them are cool in their own right. But that would be bla bla, won’t it? Of course I have my preferences! The galleries that put much effort and attention to their presentation carry away most of my admiration. Those that are well curated, either minimalist or abundant, as long as they are thought through to the detail. If they surprise us with the pieces or the presentation, too, extra bonus points. And then there is the one magic touch, that of the friendly gallery representative, NOT a given!
So these were my personal favorites, the galleries
Boon (Bernard Buffet, sigh)
Tanakaya (Hiroshige and Japanese masks)
Guy Pieters (marmer brains on fire, yeah!)
Dutko (ephemeral, planet-ish sculpture types, love, love)
Finch & co (alligators and other exoticism)
Sanderus Antiquariaat (oh mother, those maps in centuries-old leather books)
And if I have to end this list it would be with La Patinoire Royale (deceptively cool).
And oh yeah…
Brafa takes place from 23 through 31 January in the Tour&Taxis near the city center of Brussels. It does not feel very massive and has a certain warmth, although that is partly thanks to Mark Colle, the master ‘floral composer’ who worked with Dior and other fashion houses. He provided Brafa with true floral sculptures, with winter flowers to fit the season.
The art fair is on walking distance from Gare du Nord and there are shuttle busses (although I didn’t see them). Or take a tram and get out almost in front of the building. You can purchase a tram ticket in the tram for € 2,40 with the driver, or continue on your ticket from the metro if you have one.