BRAFA will be opening its doors this weekend, from January 29th to February 5th, 2023, at Brussels Expo. The decor will be filled with the signs of Art Nouveau, the theme chosen for this 68th edition, in a staging by Volume Architecture, which will be celebrating 20 years of collaboration with BRAFA this year.
The Fair is renowned for the range of specialities it presents to collectors and art lovers from all over Europe and beyond. This year, once again, it promises more than 10,000 artworks dating from Antiquity to the present day. Thirteen new galleries will be joining the regular exhibitors at the Fair. Each of the 130 participating galleries will be displaying their finest objects, skilfully laid out on stands which compete for originality and elegance. A real journey of discovery! Below, we have selected some exceptional artworks from amongst the different specialties.
To discover at BRAFA 2023
One of the key artworks of this edition is undoubtedly the painting by Jacob Jordaens entitled “Study of an Evangelist,” dating from the 17th century. Collectors can find the artist’s work, which is comparable to a sketching on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, on the Klaas Muller (BE) stand 4. Jacob Jordaens, together with Pieter Paul Rubens and Antoon van Dyck, was one of the “three masters” of 17th-century Flemish painting. Jordaens, who was strongly influenced by Rubens, nevertheless developed his own very characteristic style: realistic on the one hand, with a Caravaggesque style, and monumental and expressive on the other.
In classical sculpture, Desmet Gallery (BE), located on stand 31, will be exhibiting a beautiful bust by Luigi Valadier whose bronze work is exceptional. As a descendant of a dynasty of goldsmiths, he was a sculptor who was highly appreciated by influential families in Rome.
His clients included Pope Pius VI, as well as Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. He also received commissions from churches around the world.
Amongst the tribal works on display, visitors will be able to discover a remarkable statuette on the stand 7 of Dalton Somaré (IT). The Milanese gallery will be presenting a perfectly geometrical sculpture.
This is an early and classic example of a Kota guardian figure, which distinguishes itself from the corpus of Obamba reliquaries by the precision of its manufacture. The face is a sharp ellipse cut across by two broad bands of brass, which give the figure a severe and dreamy expression. Besides its impeccable pedigree, this sculpture can be considered to be one of the most expressive and purest examples of this style.
Equally unmissable is an exceptional service in vermeil de Paris by Abel-Etienne Giroux and Charles-Salomon Mahler on the stand 42 of Bernard De Leye (BE), in the period Empire style, which belonged to the Aligre-de Pomereu families.
It consists of 36 dinner plates, 8 square compote dishes, a large cutlery set composed of 234 pieces of serving cutlery and a ewer and basin completed by two pairs of coolers by Marc Jacquart in the same style and from the same period, and a large wine bucket by Martin-Guillaume Biennais from the service of Nicolas Pavlovitch Romanov, a future tsar.
The set is completed by a teapot and a pair of five-branch candelabra by Martin-Guillaume Biennais, as well as a wine nef, the latter having belonged to the Grand Duke Mikhael Pavlovich, the brother of the tsar. The set forms a very rare and homogeneous whole.
Jean Lemaire (BE), which will occupy stand 44, will be presenting a superb service in Chinese porcelain, composed of fifty plates (40 plates, 4 dishes, 3 cups…) dating from the 18th century, with coats of arms of great European families including ones of Frederick II of Prussia (1755) and of Louis XV.
Röbbig München will allow Meissen porcelain lovers to admire (stand 50) a pair of large lions, mounted on gilt bronze (Paris, Louis XV period, circa 1750), by Johann Joachim Kaendler (1706-1775) dating from 1748, as well as a set of four porcelain wall lights by Christophe Jünger (1736-177), Vienna, circa 1750-60.
Simon Studer Art SA (CH), stand 57, based in Geneva and specialised in Impressionist, modern and contemporary art, will be presenting a watercolour on paper signed by Joan Miró. Dated May 2nd, 1942, it belongs to the artist’s last period of production in Palma de Mallorca, before he returned to his native Barcelona. The European political climate had a significant impact on his works, which are populated by monsters and bewildered figures. Nevertheless, the presence of these disturbing creatures is sometimes interrupted by the appearance of the carefree world of childhood, of which he was undoubtedly reminded by his daughter Maria Dolors, who was 12 years old at the time.
Such is the case in this work, where we observe little girls playing with a skipping rope, their eyes raised towards the bird flying above them. The three figures are individualised, each with their own distinctive features. In addition to Miró’s famous stars, the composition is animated by various splashes of bright colours, reminiscent of the joy and vibrancy of childhood.
Also on the same stand is a work of museum quality by Johann Heinrich Füssli, also known as Fuseli (1741 – 1825), Lady Constance, Arthur and the Earl of Salisbury (from Shakespeare, King John, III, I) 1825. Oil on canvas 189 x 143 cm
In terms of Belgian art, stand (110) of Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery (BE) will be entirely devoted to one of the major artists of the CoBrA movement, Pierre Alechinsky. Approximately 30 works will be on display, dating from the 1960s to the present day. The centrepiece of the stand, and one of the artist’s most important works, is “L’or du rien,” which was first presented at the 36th Venice Biennale in 1972. It is the first time in 25 years that a panorama of this size and importance has been presented in a gallery.
Other galleries present at BRAFA will offer artworks by Pierre Alechinsky: Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke (BE), stand 32, with 10 works dating from 1950 to 1970, but also DIE GALERIE (DE), stand 78, the Maurice Verbaet Gallery(BE), stand 13, Galerie Boulakia (UK), stand 47, Galerie Jamar (BE), stand 91, Galerie Seghers (BE), stand 121, Rodolphe Janssen (BE), stand 36 and Galeries AB-BA (FR), stand 73.
In the design section which will host a dozen or so galleries, Gokelaere & Robinson (BE/FR), stand 35, will be displaying a marvellous screen created in 1953 by the Italian designer Piero Fornasetti. The designer was strongly inspired by Art Nouveau and placed ornamentation at the heart of his creations.
The sinuous lines, delicate drawings and trompe-l’oeil representation of panelling with architectural motifs give this screen a refined, decorative aspect, an essential quality of Art Nouveau artistic productions. The naturalistic decoration of this piece, with representations of birds and floral motifs, also evokes the English tapestries of the Arts and Crafts movement.
In the same section, a new exhibitor, Galerie Pascal Cuisinier (FR), stand 92, displays a remarkable desk, by Joseph-André Motte (Saint-Bonnet 1925-1990 Paris), from 1962, in Rio rosewood, leather and chromed metal. Another emblematic work on the same stand is a double pendulum wall lamp by Robert Mathieu, 1955, in black and yellow lacquered metal and polished metal.
A must-see at BRAFA : Stand 76 of Morentz gallery (NL) which is articulated on either side of a red spiral staircase by Georges Ferran, made for Axe, in polyester foam, steel and lacquer, France, 1971.
In the field of contemporary art, the Nosbaum Reding Gallery (LU/BE), stand 16, will be presenting a monumental work by Damien Roubaix inspired by Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica, which denounces the atrocities of war and fascism using the example of the bombing of the village of Guernica.
In 1955, a first re-interpretation of the work was created: a tapestry woven by Jacqueline de la Baume-Dürrbach, which was acquired by the Rockefellers and is currently on display at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Two other versions followed: the 1976 version, acquired by the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar, and the 1985 version, acquired by the Musée d’Art Moderne in Gunma. Deroubaix discovered the tapestry preserved in Colmar as a teenager. This piece would remain one of his sources of artistic inspiration and go on to mark a large part of his work.
BRAFA will welcome for the first time this year, in the jewellery section, the Dutch gallery VKD Jewels (NL), stand 109, that will be offering a rare bracelet by René Kern in yellow and white 18 carat gold.
The horse’s mane is composed of gold and diamond-set locks, whereas the forehead is carved out of lapis lazuli. Germany, circa 1960. Based in Düsseldorf, René Kern was the glamorous address for exceptional jewellery pieces in the 1960s and 1970s. His clients included German industrial giants, as well as the Shah of Persia and King Hassan of Morocco.
BRAFA will be held from Sunday, January 29th to Sunday, February 5th, 2023 at Brussels Expo in Halls 3 and 4. The Fair will be open every day from 11am to 7pm, with a late-night opening until 10pm on Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Every day at 4pm, BRAFA invites you to the stand of the King Baudouin Foundation (#131) for the BRAFA Art Talks. The full programme can be found here: Brafa Art Talks | Brafa Art Fair