Travel: Brussels

ART lovers and collectors will be bidding to indulge their passions at Brussels’ annual antique fair

Brussels is not just home to exciting museum subjects as Magritte and Hergé (the creator of Tintin) but until 29 January to Europe’s most inspiring collectors’ destination – BRAFA, the 57th Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair.

Featuring 122 exhibitors from 11 countries, no other fair in the world traces several millennia of art history – from antiquity to contemporary art – with pieces at affordable prices to the collector, academic and visitor.

Hide Ad

With its cobbled streets and stunning Flemish architecture, Brussels boasts the largest group of antique shops of any city. Yet in late January, it takes on an added dimension in the historic, former marshalling yard, Tour & Taxis, where BRAFA is located.

Dealers come from as far afield as Canada, as well as myriad European countries, bringing the finest pieces they have secured over the past year.

Several of the specialities are almost impossible to buy in the UK, notably tribal or primitive art, perhaps because they have traditionally appealed to German and Swiss collectors. Two to three decades ago missionary societies here sold the intriguing and often delightful pieces brought back by 19th-century Christians that they had stored since their return and little stock remains.

Among dealers offering tribal work is Brussels-based Adrian Schlag, whose pieces include an Angolan mask, from the 19th or early 20th centuries. Serge Schoffel is another important dealer.

Admirers of 18th-century furniture will welcome the return of Paris-based Perrin Antiquaires, while Mullany Gallery of London appeals to lovers of the Belle Époque.

Engravings, watercolours and antique gouaches are shown by Charly Bailly Fine Art and Galerie Grand Rue, both from Geneva, while Old Masters are shown by – among others – Copetti Antiquari from Udine in Italy.

Hide Ad

After the successful appearance of comic books two years ago, two sectors have emerged: antique wallpaper from Paris and icons from Brenske Gallery in Munich. Comics are still well represented, with three major exhibitors, which is apt as Brussels hosts the Belgian Comic Strip Centre at 20 rue des Sables (closed Mondays).

There is a significant increase in 20th-century decorative arts with the arrival of Yves Gastou and Oscar Graf, both from Paris, and Futur Anterieur from Brussels. Their works contrast well with the earthenware and porcelain exhibited by Marc Michot of Bruges, Lemaire and Ikodinovic, both from Brussels, and Art & Patrimoine from Ath, often one of the few ways to pick up unusual continental European pieces which are rarely found in Scotland.

Hide Ad

Medieval art can be exquisite and this year De Backker of Hoogstraten has excelled. Mullany has found a limestone and original polychrome piece c1450 from Burgundy.

Few realise the importance of the De Wit workshops in Mechelen which clean and repair the finest tapestries including those belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch and Hampton Court. They also sell a small number, which this year includes The Fountain of Love from a 1703-1770 Paris series in wool and silk.

Old jewellery includes a large earring from 1-2AD.

For novelty in household terms, do not miss the south German cutlery depicting Adam and Eve, dating from the mid-17th century, shown by Finch of London.

With oriental art and antiques fetching ever higher prices, there will be keen interest in the antique Japanese screens shown by Helena Markus of Milan. For oriental carpets and textiles, perhaps the world dealer, Galerie Vrouyr, from Antwerp will be present.

This year the King Baudouin Foundation has taken over from the Mayer van den Bergh museum as guest of honour. It honours BRAFA with an exceptional exhibition drawn from its 7,000 artworks. It includes canvases by Henri Evenepoel, Fernand Khnopff and Jo Delahaut alongside watercolours by Felicien Rops, silverware, sculpture and antique tapestries.

The visual setting for the fair is dramatic with Byzantine patterns on the carpets inspired by the pavements of Amiens cathedral which vie with origami, giant birds and kites suspended from the roof.

Hide Ad

Beyond BRAFA, spare some time to see the masterpieces in Antwerp cathedral, which include four works by Peter Paul Rubens.


BRAFA runs until 29 January, 11am-7pm, at Tour & Taxis, Avenue du Port, Brussels. Entry e20 adults, under-12s free (; return flights from Edinburgh with Ryanair ( from £24; Hotel Amigo, Rue de l’Amigo (, a sister hotel to Edinburgh’s Balmoral, has rooms in January from e200.