BRAFA, unearthing the art among the archeological
Tomorrow the 61st edition of BRAFA will open its doors to the public with 137 galleries from 17 countries vying for attention. Attendance for the preview days seemed a bit thin on the ground, overheard whispers suggested that some invitees were wary of the Tour & Taxi’s infamous Molenbeek location… But H A P P E N I N G was on site, bypassing the aisles of archeology, jewelry, primal art, classical art and design, to select our favorite modern and contemporary stands from the fair.
Our highlights from the Modern focused stands were:
- La Galerie des Modernes from Paris, presenting an impressive Valentine Prax, L’Ivrogne, and a never before seen portrait by Henri (Le Douanier) Rousseau depicting what is thought to be the artist’s first wife, Clémence Boitard. The small-format portrait is to be exhibited as part of a show focusing on the life and work of Rousseau next March.
- Geneva-based Bailly Gallery draws attention to oft-overlooked Academie Ranson artist Jean Souverbie, featuring a 1927 work Les Amazones. Elsewhere a Cubist-style 1912 Cathédrale de Nevers by André Favory is on display for €48,000.
- As is only appropriate, Belgian painters are highlighted across the fair. Galerie Jamar, Anvers, is presenting a beautiful stand full of works by Alechinsky, safe-seller Spilliaert and Panamarenko, little known to non-Belgian visitors.
- Frankfurt’s Die Galerie has on display La Mort d’Holopherne (1959) by André Masson with a €230,000 asking price, as well as a selection of CoBRA artworks.
- Located in prime view at the fair’s entry, London-based Aktis Gallery is presenting delicate works on paper by Chu-Teh-Chun and Zao Wou Ki alongside Porte in mahogany by Cuban sculptor Agustin Cardenas (1974).
Over on the contemporary side of the fair…
Contemporary galleries are rare at BRAFA, as the event prefers to focus on ancient art and archeology. According to Harold T’Kint de Roodenbeke, President of BRAFA, the fair has no interest in promoting the artists of tomorrow — that is left to the likes of FIAC and Art Basel in Europe. With that in mind, the contemporary galleries present in Brussels aren’t taking too many risks. But said stands are beautiful all the same, well thought out and full of high-quality art (if you are able to overlook a few questionable pieces). Here are our picks:
- Jablonka Maruani Mercier Gallery, Brussels, Knokke are presenting a series of works by Sherrie Levine which depict reinterpretations of emblematic Modernist art works as well as historic Middle Eastern art such as Detail of the wall frieze of the Ishtar Gate, c. 550 B.C and bronze African statues.
- At Albert Baronian Mode d’Espagnol (2007) by Wang Du is a standout piece.
- Galerie Boulakia, Paris, London, came with a piece by Christopher Wool, accompanied by Chagall, Alechinsky and a 1957 Mathieu.
- Whitford Fine Art, London, favours British Pop Art with a Clive Barker piece with a nod to Belgian Surrealist Magritte in Madame Magritte’s Pipe and Magritte’s Pipe, (1968)
- Late Lebanese painter Shafic Abboud is accorded an entire wall at the Brussels-based gallery Harold T’Kint de Roodenbeke. What a pleasure to see this oft-undervalued painter of the Seconde Ecole de Paris brought to the forefront.
- A little mention for Anvers gallery N. Vrouyr whose oriental carpet and textiles house presents the work of Javier Fernandez, creator of monumental monochrome pieces in synthetic silk on cotton the cinematic result is striking.
It is also worth noting the Patinoire Royale stand with an unmissable Jesús-Rafael Soto work. More cinematic works can be found upon entering the stand, including Yvaral’s 1970 Polychrome progression as well as a striking Erro piece Mao sur la Place de la Concorde (1980). A final nod to the nation’s darling boy Jan Fabre, the star of the stand at Guy Pieters Gallery, whose Sacrum Cerebrum works are presented in a blood red booth.
Le Douanier Rousseau, Portrait de femme au bouquet de fleurs, c. 1900-1903
Courtesy Galerie des Modernes, Paris
Wang Du, Mode d'Espagnol (2007)
Courtesy Albert Baronian, Brussels