The first chapter of the new ‘BRAFA in the Galleries’ initiative finished last Sunday on a positive note. The concept clearly appealed to a large number of collectors and art-lovers who could rediscover the gallery trail for a few days, while keeping to the rules currently imposed. The story continues as the event extends not only into next weekend but beyond, both in Belgium and abroad, and of course on the BRAFA website.
Reactions included the following: ‘Like taking a breath of fresh air’; ‘a rediscovery of the pleasure of gallery presentation, exchanges and conversations’; wonderful to ‘welcome the public back to our galleries’. These are just some of the comments made during the event, both by visitors ‘thrilled to see art in the real again after so long’ and gallerists ‘fed up with viewing rooms and other online initiatives!’. ‘This initiative really boosted our morale, providing motivation at the most difficult period of our gallery’s history’, said one gallery owner, while another couldn’t believe that ‘no other international fair had thought of creating a similar event so well-adapted to the circumstances!’.
The main aim of this initiative was to support the galleries that participate in BRAFA by re-establishing their connection with the public, which has suffered a lot in recent months. This aim has been reached, the more so because as one participant said ‘it enabled BRAFA to remain visible and active, and to set itself apart in a creative way from its competitors’. A colleague in London said: ‘I was immediately taken with this initiative, which didn’t settle with transposing the fair into digital space, instead creating an additional, far warmer dimension, and a strong feeling of community among organizers and participants’.
It is clear that after long months of cultural drought, there was a widespread desire to reinitiate vital dialogue between people bound by the same passion and rekindle the emotion that only direct contact with physical works of art can inspire. In many domains, the current crisis has clearly benefited the digital world, but in the art world, it seems to have highlighted the latter’s limits: the atmosphere of a fair or gallery simply can’t be transposed into pixels, however many are involved…
Without a doubt, the towns with a large number of participants attracted the largest numbers of visitors to the galleries, because they could be visited on the same ‘tour’, notably thanks to the maps available on the BRAFA website. The attendance was strong wherever it was permitted in compliance with COVID measures, more particularly in Belgium (Brussels and Knokke-Heist) and in France (Paris).
Elsewhere, and particularly in towns or countries going through a lockdown or strict restrictions, the event principally played out on the BRAFA website, which offered far more material than during previous editions, with over 950 artworks viewable, and which was also restructured to simplify use and navigation. However, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the galleries concerned, as the following comments testify. In Switzerland, Grand-Rue Gallery (Geneva) sold several works from their exhibition ‘Sir William Beckend’s Grand Tour’ composed of gouache landscapes of 18th century Europe; As to Galerie Von Vertes (Zürich): « We thought BRAFA in the Galleries was a fresh and honest concept. The reactions from our clients were extremely positive: they weren’t overwhelmed with the selection that was shown and were happy that they had the opportunity to visit galleries live in different countries. They welcomed the opportunity to look at art in person instead from a screen. We have created new contacts and received several inquiries: the BRAFA in the Galleries experience offered us the possibility to reach out to new clients in a new way ».
BRAFA in the Galleries continues!
The show goes on… wherever this is possible, and more particularly in Belgium, France and Italy, participating galleries will continue to welcome collectors and art-lovers. Also, in many other cities, galleries remain open (Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Marseille, Milan, Nagoya, New York, Ghent, Rome…). Prior to your visit, kindly check the sanitary regulations currently in force in your country.