BRAFA, or the Brussels Art Fair, is one of the longest running art and antiques fairs in the world and is organized every year by the nonprofit Belgian Antiques Fair Association.
The first ever BRAFA was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Galerie Louiza in 1956. Charles Van Hove and Mamy Wouters, the long standing President and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of Antiques Dealers, were behind the initiative to set up the salon. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’, as it was known then, followed in the footsteps of the fairs already held at Grosvenor House in London and at the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded those set up in Paris, Florence and Munich.
The growing success of the fair and the increasing number of participants meant that a location had to be found capable of keeping up with the event’s development. The range of art objects on display also continued to expand. From 1967 to 2003, the fair was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antiques dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antique Dealers could take part in the fair which was, at the time, a purely national event. The number of participants fluctuated between forty and fifty.
The first major change occurred in 1995 when Christian de Bruyn opened the fair to foreign antique dealers for the first time. The Belgian antique dealers saw this as a revolutionary step and they were right; in no time the fair had outgrown the Palais des Beaux-Arts and a new, much bigger location had to be found. In 2004 the Belgian Antiques Fair therefore moved to Tour & Taxis, a gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage situated in the north of Brussels, next to the Willebroek canal. Now that exhibition space was no longer restricted, the BRAFA actively sought to increase the number of participants. Having started with no more than twenty Belgian antique dealers it grew to incorporate about one hundred and thirty exhibitors from both Belgium and abroad in the space of a few years. The fair is now recognized worldwide as one of the leading international fairs in Europe.
The organizers of the fair have always worked hard to improve the quality of the participants each year, while striving to retain the event’s individual character and its reputation for eclecticism and friendliness. As well as becoming increasingly international, the fair has also embraced growing numbers of exhibitors of modern and contemporary art. In 2009, the name ‘Belgian Antiques Fair’ or ‘Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique’ was no longer felt to reflect the scale and range of the fair, which was renamed BRAFA: the Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair. On 30 September 2009, the fair was placed under the High Protection of Her Majesty Queen Paola. Following a complete remodelling of the event in 2014, BRAFA is now synonymous with the title Brussels Art Fair.
7 CHAIRMEN SINCE 1956
- Charles van Hove (1956-1967)
- Georges Baptiste (1967-1970)
- Christian de Bruyn (1970-2000)
- Jan De Maere (2000-2005)
- Grethe Zeberg (2005-2009)
- Bernard De Leye (2009-2012)
- Harold t'Kint de Roodenbeke (since 2012)
LIST OF PERSONALITIES WHO HAVE INAUGURATED BRAFA
- 1971 H.R.H. Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
- 1972 Mr. Maurice Naessens
- 1973 Baron Philippe Roberts-Jones
- 1974 Countess Evrard de Limburg-Stirum
- 1975 Mr. Pierre Solvay
- 1976 Minister Leo Tindemans
- 1977 H.H. Prince zu Hohenlohe-Langenburg
- 1978 H.R.H. Princess Marie-Astrid of Luxembourg
- 1979 Minister Demaret
- 1980 Mrs. Marie Laforêt
- 1981 Academica Maurice Rheims
- 1982 Mr. Guy Donnay
- 1983 Mr. Alain Delon
- 1984 Minister Paul Hatry
- 1985 Mr. R. De Maeyer
- 1986 Baroness Lorène van Eyll
- 1987 Mrs. Catherine Deneuve
- 1988 Mr. Karl Lagerfeld
- 1989 Mr. Jean-Claude Brialy
- 1990 Mrs. Françoise Fabian
- 1991 Baroness Philippine de Rothschild
- 1992 H.H. Prince de Ligne
- 1993 Mr. Jean Piat and the Compagnie Claude Volter
- 1994 H.R.H. Prince Laurent
- 1996 Mr. Francis Van Noten
- 1997 Doctor Togo
- 1998 Baroness Dora Janssen
- 1999 Baron Albert Frère
- 2000 H.R.H. Prince Laurent and Mr. Pierre Bergé
- 2001 Viscount Etienne Davignon
- 2002 Mrs. Fanny Rodwell
- 2003 H.R.H. Duke de Bragance
- 2005 H.R.I.H. Archduchess Rodolphe of Austria
- 2008 H.R.H. Prince Philippe and the Princess Gesine Doria Pamphilj
- 2009 H.M. Queen Paola and H.R.H. Princess Astrid
- 2011 H.R.H. Princess Mathilde
- 2012 H.R.H. Princess Astrid and her daughter H.R.H. Princess Maria Laura
TOUR & TAXIS AND ITS HISTORY...
The Tour & Taxis site, located in north Brussels where the Avenue du Port and Rue Picard meet by the Willebroek canal, covers 45 hectares. It takes its name from its original owners, the princely von Thurn und Tassis family.
Under Hapsburg rule, Bergamo-born Frans von Thurn und Tassis was appointed Postmaster General, and his whole family became involved in organizing postal services between European cities such as Madrid, London, Vienna and Amsterdam, with Brussels at the centre of the network.
At the end of the 19th century, the City of Brussels bought the land and used it to develop its new distribution centre, which became a crossroads of commerce and development. The now historic buildings that served as offices and logistic buildings for the new port and the Belgian railways were built between 1902 and 1910 on a plot of marshland.
In the late 1980s activity ceased, the buildings fell into disuse and the land was largely abandoned. There were several projects to restore the site, but none really took off.
When Project T&T bought the site in December 2001, Tour & Taxis finally saw its new future take shape.
The site’s success lies in its multifunctional nature, for its design combines housing, offices, shops, amenities, leisure and cultural areas. Its development is leading to the creation of a whole new neighbourhood in Brussels!
The master plan for the Tour & Taxis site was laid out by the Extensa Group, the owner of Project T&T. The Royal Depot already houses several companies, shops, restaurants and a spa while the Sheds and the Hotel de la Poste host major events. Great progress has been made with the opening of new public spaces such as the Esplanade square and the park – the largest developed since the time of Leopold II. The first apartments (115 units) were built in 2016 and the next residential buildings are currently being designed. Both the Brussels-based Ministry of Environment and the Flemish Administration have chosen to relocate to new environmentally-friendly office buildings at Tour & Taxis.
The development of urban industry initiatives such as jewellery making, mushroom growing, bee keeping and urban farming on the site makes T&T one of the most innovative projects ever actualized in the city of Brussels.