BRAFA 2021 Launches Multi-Venue Format in Response to Pandemic

Feb 02

BRAFA 2021 Launches Multi-Venue Format in Response to Pandemic

We visited BRAFA a few years ago when we were in Brussels (see our post) so were curious what this international art fair was doing this year considering the pandemic and that it has never been postponed or canceled in its 65 year history.

We found BRAFA’s strategy to be an innovative solution to the current challenging environment for physical events. Their approach was also much different than the digital-centric models launched by other major art fairs over the past year.

BRAFA decided to go forward with a live, in-person experience but with a multi-venue format, called BRAFA in the Galleries’, which featured 129 art dealers spread across 14 countries and 38 cities, January 27 – 31, 2021.

The new initiative was designed to “invert the concept of their event” as BRAFA put it.  As people were not able to attend its traditional large-scale gathering, the organizer brought the event to them via “a multitude of smaller BRAFAs in different cities”.

Exhibitors that were confirmed for BRAFA 2021 were invited to present an exhibition in their own gallery.  Some galleries chose to do this in conjunction with other exhibitors.  The only conditions were that all exhibitors had to be open for the same dates and times and were in strict compliance with Covid-19 measures in their local area. 

BRAFA coordinated the program and handled the promotion.  As part of the visitor marketing, they invited each exhibitor to produce a short, personalized video of their exhibition, which they indicated would be “widely used to promote the event”.  The videos were between one to three minutes and we saw some very engaging, high production value videos in their portfolio such as this Theatrum Mundi video.

The organizer used an aggressive strategy across major social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.  We saw more than 100 posts in our Facebook News Feed alone in the four weeks leading up to the event and over 80 different videos on social platforms making it one of the most robust portfolios of video assets we have seen deployed for an exhibition on non-organizer owned media.

While BRAFA in the Galleries was a live, in-person initiative, the organizer modified their website as a “support platform for this initiative”.  Each participant had their own page, where they could feature artworks and contact info.  Visitors were able to search the exhibitors by specialty and location.

The organizer also added maps to the website which could be downloaded for the main cities with large concentrations of galleries (Brussels, Paris, London, Geneva, etc.) to help visitors navigate the exhibitions.

The importance of organizing these physical exhibitions at this time was powerfully articulated by Harold t’Kint de Roodenbeke, BRAFA’s chairman.  “These past few months were a potent reminder of how important direct and personal contact is in our relations. Between a collector and a work of art, between a buyer and a dealer. Our trade is profoundly human because it is founded on emotion first and foremost. We hope that this initiative can reestablish this link, in an environment and under conditions that respect the measures in force in the various countries.”

BRAFA financed the entire operation with the support of their partner, Delen Private Bank.  BRAFA in the Galleries “reflects our desire to support our partners through difficult times, as does our decision not to charge exhibitors for participation in this initiative,” said BRAFA’s chairman.


Image: Stock photo used for illustration purposes only, not part of BRAFA.

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