BRAFA, short for Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair, is one of the longest running fairs in the world and is organized every year by the Belgian Antiques Fair not-for-profit association. The first ever fair in 1955 was held in the Arlequin Hall of the Louise Gallery. This initiative to set up a “salon van antiquairs” was taken by Charles Van Hove, for many years the President, and Ms Mamy Wouters, Vice-President, of the Belgian Royal Chamber of Antiques Dealers. This first Belgian Antiques Fair or “Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique” copied the example of Grosvenor House in London and the Prinsenhof in Delft, but preceded similar fairs set up in Paris, Florence and Munich.
As the fair became increasingly successful and more and more antiques dealers wanted to take part, the need arose for a hall on a scale that could meet this growing demand. The range of art objects on display also continued to expand. Between 1967 and 2003, the fair was held in the ‘Palais des Beaux-Arts’ in Brussels. Up until 1994, only Belgian antique dealers who were members of the Royal Chamber of Antiques Dealers took part in the fair. It was a national event. The number of participants in the ‘Palais des Beaux-Arts’ varied between forty and fifty. The first major development occurred when the then President Christian de Bruyn opened the fair to foreign antique dealers for the first time in 1995. The Belgian antique dealers saw this as a revolutionary step. The fair had outgrown the ‘Palais des Beaux-Arts’, and a new location was sought. In 2004 the Belgium Antiques Fair moved to the Tour & Taxis industrial site in the Noordwijk district of Brussels alongside the Willebroek canal: a true gem of Belgian industrial architectural heritage. Now that an ample exhibition space with a huge capacity was guaranteed, the Antiques Fair purposely sought to significantly increase the number of participants. Having grown from twenty Belgian antique dealers at the outset to around one hundred and thirty participants from both Belgium and abroad, the last few years have seen the Antiques Fair become an international fair on a European scale.
The Antiques Fair works hard to increase the quality of the participants each year, but always with the aim of retaining its own individual character. As well as this internationalisation, over the years the fair has also embraced modern and contemporary art. The name “Belgian Antiques Fair” or “Foire des Antiquaires de Belgique” no longer reflects this development, and the fair was renamed BRAFA or Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair in 2007. The Belgian antique dealers have resolutely secured their position in the 21st century. The Belgian Antiques Fair not-for-profit association was placed under the High Protection of Her Majesty the Queen on 30 September 2009.