Museum treasures highlight BRAFA 2010

BRUSSELS, Belgium — The 55th Brussels Antiques & Fine Arts Fair launched Jan. 22 with a new green look, more than 100 dealers and a renewed optimism for the world economy. The fair was held through Jan. 31.

Held at the Tour & Taxis complex in the heart of Brussels, BRAFA (as it’s come to be called) had a distinctly organic quality this year, with panoramic forest panels guiding visitors to the entrance. Inside, a monumental wood and flora display was surrounded by tendrils and vines — even the carpet was green.

Christian Vrouyr, BRAFA’s secretary general, addressed a group of more than 100 invited journalists, designers and bloggers, proudly pointing out that all of the materials used to create the fair this year were recycled or recyclable.

The fair’s featured display this year was an exhibition of “The Treasures of the Museums of Liège.”

In June 1939, the Third Reich put up for sale at the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne, Switzerland, 125 major works of modern art which came from German public collections, on the grounds that these belonged to a “degenerate” form of art which was incompatible with Nazi ideology and aesthetics. Within a few weeks, many collectors and even whole cities had gathered the funds needed to buy these masterpieces. Among the competing cities was Liège, Belgium.

Liège, armed with 1,000,000 French francs (of which only 100,000 were actually spent) purchased nine amazing paintings by Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Paul Gauguin, Franz Marc, Oscar Kokoshka, Max Liebermann, Marie Laurencin, Jules Pascin and James Ensor. Eight of “The Nine,” were on display at BRAFA.

All the paintings are masterpieces by artists who were already famous at the time, and whose fame has not diminished: The Soler Family by Pablo Picasso, The Sorcerer of Hiva Oa by Paul Gauguin, Death and the Masks by James Ensor, Monte Carlo by Oskar Kokoschka, The Blue House by Marc Chagall, Portrait of a Girl by Marie Laurencin, Le déjeuner by Jules Pascin, Rider on the Beach by Max Liebermann and Blue Horses by Franz Marc.

Picasso’s The Soler Family was commissioned in 1903 by a Barcelona tailor. The painting was based on a black and white photograph, and so the faces of the figures — mother, father and four children with their dog — are flat and without expression. The family patriarch was not happy with the painting and asked Picasso for permission to have another artist add a wooded background. Still dissatisfied, the family sold the painting in 1913, and the new owner invited Picasso to restore his “first vision,” which he did.

For more information on the museums of Liège, go to

For more information of BRAFA, visit

Photos courtesy Mark F. Moran

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