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For the first time, the annual BRUNEAF (Brussels Non-European Art Fair), which majors on tribal art, is joined by three other events: BAAF (Brussels Ancient Art Fair); BOAF (Brussels Oriental Art Fair); and Les Antiquaires des Grandes Civilisations.

Apart from Les Antiquaires, a traditional fair where all exhibitors will be under one roof at the Art Home, the other three events will be gallery trails, with foreign dealers sharing the premises of local dealers.
All the action takes place in the Sablon dealers’ district around tumbling Place du Grand-Sablon, home to the Art Home (which doubles as the headquarters of the Beaux-Arts auction firm).

While some dealers have expressed fears that this year’s expansion may dilute BRUNEAF’s appeal, and view the Art Home fair as unwelcome competition, BRUNEAF’s new President Patrick Mestdagh, who took over from event founder Pierre Loos last November, prefers to talk of ‘synergy’ between the events, with co-ordinated vernissages, opening hours and marketing.

The expansion also reflects a dynamic response from the Brussels trade to the increasingly successful Parcours des Mondes tribal trail in Paris in September.

“We’ve been through some tough times over the last two years,” acknowledges Mestdagh, “but signs are that 2005 will be better. Things seem to be brightening up. The public are more and more knowledgeable, and are investing.”

For all this year’s extra variety, tribal art remains Brussels’ mainstay, and BRUNEAF – now in its 15th edition – unquestionably leads the event. Its traditional Tuesday opening has been put back a day this year to avoid clashing with big tribal auctions in Paris.

Fifty exhibitors – half from Belgium – are taking part, with the art of black Africa to the fore, as befits Belgium’s colonial heritage. But BRUNEAF is looking to broaden its appeal: several dealers will be presenting Oceanic material, while Santa Fe’s Taylor Dale – like Joel Cooner of Dallas, back at BRUNEAF after missing 2004 – will be showing Eskimo sculptures.

BAAF, the first offshoot of BRUNEAF in 2003, will feature over 20 specialists in Classical, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities, including Charles Ede, Jean-David Cahn and Royal Athena. They will be joined this year by Galleria Serodine from Switzerland, New York’s Safani Gallery, and London’s Rupert Wace, who is showing a Hellenistic marble torso of a young male (3rd-1st century BC) priced at €95,000 (£65,000).

BOAF, which is new this year, will feature 20 Asian art dealers from as far afield as the United States, Hong Kong, and Australia – with early Tibetan repoussé work on display at Soo Tze Oriental Antiques from Melbourne. BOAF organiser Georgia Chrischilles, meanwhile, has an Indonesian gold necklace once owned by the Raja of Sikka (c.1600) priced at €100,000-150,000 (£70,000-100,000).

Les Antiquaires des Grandes Civilisations, one of three annual fairs at the Art Home, gets underway a day later than the other events, on June 9. It will showcase two dozen dealers specialising in everything from antiquities to 20th century art. Pre-Colombian specialist Santo Micali, of the Paris-based Galerie Mermoz, is co-ordinating the event and believes the fair will appeal to collectors who don’t have time to go from gallery to gallery. Christian Deydier, head of the French national dealers’ association, expects “all the top collectors” to be present, and hopes one of them will pay him €100,000 (£70,000) for a Western Han pottery figure of a kneeling court lady (c.100BC) which, he claims, “is worthy of Guimet”.