BRAFA in Brussels is one of the oldest and most prestigious fairs in Europe, and it is a favourite of ours here at the gallery, because it covers both historic and modern/contemporary art – and so allows us to showcase all aspects of our activity. We are bringing 24 works, covering more than 400 years of artistic endeavour. Among the modern works is a set of four pieces by Lucio Fontana, all of them exercises in the ‘spatialist concept’. We have two of his so-called ‘slash paintings’, one black with three diagonal cuts, the other a warm shade of ochre with a single vertical slit. Then there is a pair of ovoid bronzes termed Natura. Their shape suggests hazelnuts or ungerminated seeds – but they too have the signature slashes which, given their metallic surface, makes them look like giant sleigh bells.
The last of the Fontanas is a Teatrino – part painting, part miniature stage-set. A tree-like structure emerges from the frame, which is set forward of the blue canvas so as to cast a shadow. The canvas itself is punctured with a series of holes that resemble the wandering trajectory of a small planet. So, though the work is stubbornly abstract, it is hard not to read it as a kind of stylised landscape
Our selection for BRAFA contains several Old Master landscapes that still need a pretext to be presented as such. They include Biblical scenes en plein air by Cornelis Massys (The Ascent to Calvary), by the ‘Master of Female Half-Lengths’ (The Flight to Egypt) and by Jan Brueghel the Younger (The Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man). A pair of panoramas by Pieter Gijsels depict scenes from classical mythology: the death of King Salmoneus and the fall of Icarus. In both paintings we see the title characters falling dramatically to their deaths while (to quote the English poet WH Auden on a different Icarus painting) ‘everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster’.