BRAFA 2024.
Photo: Olivier Pirard

Highlights from BRAFA Art Fair, Picked by Five Leading Names in Belgian Design

The 69th edition of the sprawling show opened in Brussels on Sunday with its signature mash-up of art and antiquities

When the 69th edition of the BRAFA Art Fair opened in Brussels on Sunday, its now signature mash-up of art and antiquities was tinged with Surrealist overtones. Nodding to the movement’s 100th anniversary this year, and celebrating the eerily dream-like paintings of Belgian artist Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), a scenography of fluffy clouds, trompe-l’oeil architecture and a woman upon a swing floated along the central corridors.

“At BRAFA, objects, art and furniture meet each other, and I think that this approach, not be pushed into one category, is very attractive today,” says Boris Vervoordt, director of the Axel Vervoordt Company founded by his father in 1969, which brings together art, antiques and interior design. Their own booth is exemplary of the multidisciplinary approach, juxtaposing a textural canvas by Mexican artist Bosco Sodi with a statement dining table by midcentury Brazilian designer José Zanine Caldas, all offset with deep terracotta-hued walls. 

BRAFA 2024. Photo: Olivier Pirard

One standout space came from first time BRAFA exhibitor Richard Saltoun—who has gallery spaces in London and Rome. Titled “Textile Pioneers”, the booth highlighted the post-war women artists who elevated the medium beyond the domestic and decorative, and included two wonderfully 3D wall-hangings by Croatian artist Jagoda Buić (1930-2022). 

Another bold statement was made by Samuel Vanhoegaerden Gallery, based in the Belgian seaside town of Knokke, whose single-artist booth of American Pop Artist Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) offered several of his soft-porn steel cut-outs; the colourfully enamelled Monica with Lichtenstein (Floral Wallpaper),1988-1990, swiftly sold for “in the region of €450,000”. Meanwhile, at Frankfurt’s Die Galerie, a trio of monumental, 1967 bronze sculptures by German Dadaist and Surrealist Max Ernst (1891-1976) were causing a stir. 

Marc Maison at BRAFA 2024. Photo: Olivier Pirard

The most talked-about booth of all, however, might be that of Parisian gallery Marc Maison, whose reconstruction of a never-been-seen-before, Art Nouveau room-scape by revered Belgian architect Victor Horta has attracted so many visitors that they had to restrict access. Created in 1903 and dismantled in 1975, the décor for a family home incorporates stylistically curvy wood panelling and a stained-glass roof, and is priced at €12 million. This piece of architectural history is likely destined for a museum—three of which have thus far expressed interest—but which pieces are Belgium’s foremost designers and gallerists eyeing up for their own homes?

Yayoi Kusama, Fire (3), (1952). Photo: Courtesy of the artist and STERN PISSARRO GALLERY

1. Vincent Van Duysen

The Antwerp-based architect is a master of pared-back interiors whose current projects span office spaces in New Delhi, homes from Bangkok to LA, and hotels in Portugal, as well as new collections for Italian design brand Molteni&C and Zara Home – both launching in May. His own collections include vintage furniture by the lines of Pierre Jeanneret and Eyre de Lanux, and contemporary art, from Nan Goldin to Yayoi Kusama. 

“I am a big fan of Kusama’s work,” says Van Duysen, who pinpoints the artist’s 1952 gauche and pastel work Fire (3), being shown at BRAFA by Stern Pissarro Gallery. Another piece that caught the architect’s attention is a 1960s centre table by Brazilian designer Joaquim Tenreiro (from Axel Vervoordt), created from the cross section of three trees. “It has a strong symbolic presence due to the circular shapes,” he says. “It is very clean and monolithic elements quite dear to me.”

François Pompon, Bust of André Leproust, (1904). Photo: Courtesy of UNIVERS DU BRONZE

2. Gert Voorjans

An interior designer well known for his colourfully eclectic interiors, Voorjans’ has brought his collector’s eye to London penthouses and German castles, and to hotels from Antwerp to China. From the BRAFA booths, he selected “a nice capsule” of five pieces that would work together in one room. Central to the scheme is the same Tenreiro table picked by Van Duysen, alongside a dramatically symbolic 19th-century painting by Charles Revel (Allégories de la Force et du Droit, c1872, from Segoura Fine Art) and a painterly 1920 carpet by Jaap Gidding (from From N.Vrouyr gallery). “He was part of the Amsterdam school who worked so freely,” says Voorjans. Color wise, the rug is a modern version of the painting.” 

The pieces are unified in their avant-garde spirit, adds Voorjans, highlighting a c1920 stool by Carlo Bugatti, the Milanese designer who combined unusual materials with decorative motifs. The piece from Galerie Mathivet combines copper, brass and delicately decorated and gilded parchment in the designer’s distinctive art-nouveau style. Lastly, a “beautiful something to discuss” is the “very cute” plaster bust of André Leproust (1904) by François Pompon (from Univers du Bronze). “It’s so poetic and friendly,” he says. “It has the softness and the kindness that we need today.”

Günther Ücker, Wind (1930). Photo: Courtesy of Boon Gallery

3. Boris Vervoordt 

Having opened the Axel Vervoordt Gallery in Antwerp in 2011, Boris’s BRAFA highlight is from an artist he also represents: 93-year-old Günther Uecker. The German sculptor and Group Zero-member is “the first artist that I invited [to show with us]”, says Boris. “He’s been active since the ‘50s; he still goes to the studio and works.”

Boon Gallery is showing the 2005 Uecker work Wind,  a canvas punctuated with a flurry of nails. “His gesture of nailing is a gesture of protection,” says Boris, recalling how as an adolescent Uecker nailed the windows shut in his home in East Germany to protect his two sisters. “The work has both an incredible sense of hope and an incredible sense of dealing with pain.” 

Ettore Sottsass's "Scalinata" limited edition, 1983. Photo: Courtesy of COLLECTORS GALLERY


The Brussels design gallery was founded by Kwinten Lavigne and Amaryllis Jacobs in 2014, and last year moved into a historic art deco building: Hôtel Danckaert. They commission architects and artists—including Georgian design duo Rooms Studio and Swiss textile designer Christoph Hefti—to develop furniture and objects. 

The pieces they gravitated to at BRAFA “highlight the symbiotic relationship between skilled craftsmen and visionary artists,” including a decorative silver basket created in 1910 by Viennese architect and designer Josef Hoffmann (from Kunthaus Kende); a pair of small polished brass forms, variously punctured and slashed, by Lucio Fontana in 1967 (from Robertaebasta); and a sculptural gold and diamond ring by Memphis Milano founder Ettore Sottsass (from Collectors Gallery). “Each piece reflects a harmonious collaboration,” they add. “Additionally, the inclusion of Man Ray’s modernist work [the 1935 photograph The Origin of the Species, from Galerie Sophie Scheidecker] demonstrates the timeless relevance of his creations.” 

Thomas Lerooy, Disclosure, (2019). Photo: Courtesy of the artist and rodolphe ianssen. Brussels

5. Muller Van Severen

The husband-and-wife design duo of Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen was founded in 2011 and their playful, minimalist furniture and lighting have since won numerous awards. Their BRAFA picks range from a 17th-century floral still life by Flemish painter Joris Van Son (from Klaas Muller) to a contemporary painting by Belgian artist Thomas Lerooy (from Rodolphe Janssen). “The duality in this work attracts me: it is attractive and repulsive at the same time,” says Muller of the surreal seascape, the waves being lifted to reveal fish and a pair of human legs. “In Lerooy’s work, there are many clashing extremes.”

Muller also loves jewellery: a gem-studded pair of Van Cleef & Arpels ear clips (from VKD Jewels) are “exceptional in colour, sophistication and unique appearance”, she says. “There’s so much power in a small object.”

Cover: BRAFA 2024.
Photo: Olivier Pirard


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