Christo (no surname required) – the king of monumental land art – is guest of honour at this year’s annual Brafa Antiques & Fine Arts Fair, held once again at Brussels’ striking Tour & Taxis, an industrial architectural gem located just north of the city. In honour of the occasion, the artist will bring his Three Store Frontsinstallation out of storage: an artwork created with his wife Jeanne-Claude following their emigration to New York in 1964 and inspired by the gigantic scale of Manhattan’s architecture. At more than 14m wide x 2.5m high, it will be the largest work ever shown at Brafa, which runs from January 27 to February 4.
The appointment of Christo – who is best known for wrapping architectural and geographical landmarks from Berlin’s Reichstag to a selection of Floating Piers at Italy’s Lake Iseo – was the fulfilment of a dream for Brafa chairman, Harold T’Kint de Roodenbeke. “We knew that a major Christo retrospective was being planned in Brussels so we used all our resources and imagination to arrange a meeting and propose the idea to him,” he says. “Everything fell into place quickly as Christo had a very specific idea of what he wanted to present to us. He is so enthusiastic and charming – truly a great man of the art world.” The major retrospective T’Kint de Roodenbeke refers to is: Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Urban Projects, at the ING Cultural Centre Mont des Arts Kunstberg, Place Royale, until February 25.
Christo’s choice of presentation at the art fair invites collectors to witness his unique approach up close. “He was clear that he wanted to exhibit a key work from his artistic journey and this appealed to us,” T’Kint de Roodenbeke says. “His decision was not to ‘wrap the fair’, as one might expect, but rather to allow us to enter into his universe and understand the trajectory of this engaging artist.”
Of course, the fair – one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious gatherings of art, jewellery, furniture and antiquities (priced from €1,000 up to €4m) – will feature standout pieces from a number of renowned artists. Alexander Calder’s abstract Fat Red Boomerang – a gouache on paper that is signed and dated from Galerie Fleury – is one such treasure. Then there’s Anish Kapoor’s Mirror Glow Bronze (Cobalt Blue), a wall-mounted sculpture in reflective bronze and lacquer from Gladstone Gallery that is so reflective, it is a cascade of selfies waiting to happen.
The fair has done a commendable job in shifting its focus to become a destination appealing to collectors of modern and contemporary art as well as those in search of antiques and Old Masters – and there’s an impressive smattering of modern paintings among the exhibits this year, including René Magritte’s 1931 L’Oracle at Boon Gallery and Marc Chagall’s 1980/81 Les Mariés dans le ciel de Paris at Galerie Boulakia.
Tastemaker Axel Vervoordt’s gallery, meanwhile, will showcase Intimation, a shimmering wall hanging in aluminium and copper wire by the highly respected Ghanaian artist, El Anatsui. Perhaps the most intriguing collectable to be had, though, is a Soviet space suit (also know as the Sokol kv2 suit) made by NPP Zvezda for Russian cosmonaut Gennadi Strekalov during the 1990 Soyuz tm 10 mission, on sale at BRAFA with Theatrum Mundi gallery. One could say this all adds up to a stellar show.