The time has come to celebrate contemporary art in this month of April dedicated to the modern art scene, especially with the Art Brussels fair, pulling all kinds of initiatives in its wake. Collectors, enthusiasts, gallery owners and journalists are in the starting blocks. We’ve reviewed this week’s must-see venues for you.
With its new visual image, Art Brussels will open to the public on Friday, 21 April, after a first day reserved to VIPs. Three days to showcase a selection of Belgian and international galleries and artists with clout on the art market. It’s true that the Belgian collector is fond of discoveries and won’t hesitate to make bold choices. In fact, this is why Art Brussels appeals so much to foreign visitors. There, they are sure to find emerging artists, in addition to the big names of the artistic scene, a selection of the most recent art trends and many discoveries. Exhibiting for the second year in the spaces of Tour & Taxis, the fair, which this year celebrates its 35th edition, has been given a major facelift. Two ladies joined the selection committees: Tania Doropoulos, artistic director at Timothy Taylor, London and New York, and Eva Birkenstock, director of Kunstverein für dir Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf.
Arranged under the theme of From Discovery to Rediscovery, the fair is subdivided into three sections: Prime, where 109 galleries are representing artists of international fame. Discovery holds 30 exhibitor-galleries introducing recent works (2014-2017) by emerging and lesser-known artists. And Rediscovery, with nine galleries, is dedicated to art from 1917 to 1987 by avant-garde artists who were under-recognised, underestimated or forgotten. Among others, Raoul Ubac & Reinhoud d’Haese will be shown at the Laurentin Gallery booth or Léon Wuidar at Rodolphe Jansen. Let’s emphasize the 18 solo presentations, i.e. 18 spaces reserved by as many galleries to introduce the work of a particular artist.
Entitled Mementos: Artists’ Souvenirs, Artefacts and other Curiosities, the flagship exhibition at the heart of the fair brings together objects and artefacts from the personal collections of a diverse group of artists, who all are represented by galleries taking part in Art Brussels 2017. These objects give us an alternative perspective on the passion of collecting, one which attaches high emotional or sentimental value to objects and is defined by individual (hi)stories and memories. We interviewed the two curators, Jens Hoffman and Piper Marshall, last Saturday.
A preview of the Venice Biennale: Dirk Braeckman, who will exhibit in the Belgian pavilion in Venice, is presenting a wide range of photographs from the Sisyphe series (2005) in the Stibbe lounge, one of the art fair partners. There will be conferences on this 57th edition of the Venice Biennale. The artist Michel Manzoni, whose work was shown by Archiraar and Société, will be the focus of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation stand.
New York art buzz
Independent, the New York art fair launched in 2016, will once again deploy in the spaces of the Vanderborght Building, in Brussels’ historic centre. Its arrival last year had considerably altered the profile of this spring week dedicated to contemporary art. 70 international galleries will be represented, with a decline in the participation of Belgian galleries or galleries with a branch in Belgium compared to last year. Running from 21 to 23 April, with a VIP showing on the 19th, Independent is strengthening its anchoring in Europe.
The little one to watch
Poppositions is being offered the best rooms in the ING Art Center. More than just a fair, this fresh initiative aims to take an independent and critical position. More than ever, this 6th edition is an exhibition organised by a curator, rather than a succession of white stands. From 20 to 23 April, you will find works by unknown artists gathered by 21 galleries, exhibition spaces and artists initiatives, with a VIP day on the 19th.
Established in 2010 in Paris, YIA Art Fair (YIA stands for Yesterday is Aujourd’hui) now consists of four events in Europe: Maastricht, Brussels, Basle and Paris. Set Avenue Louise last year, it opens today at the Square, in the Mont des Arts. It will feature the works presented by 45 international galleries.
Contemporary art and antiques
The new one is Art Sablon, created by Jonathan Kugel and Joana Balavoine. Recently arrived from London where he already created an event linked to both antiques and contemporary art, Jonathan Kugel represents the sixth generation of antique dealers whose family gallery is located on Quai Anatole France in Paris. The young Parisian collector Joana Balavoine has always been interested in both contemporary creations and ancient treasures discovered in specialist dealers. In Brussels antique dealers’ district, contemporary artists are invited to exhibit in antique shops. During three days, from 20 to 23 April, the public can visit the Grand Sablon streets to witness this clash between eras and artistic styles.
OFF and OFF OFF
Many exhibitions and other essential events have been organised around this bustling art week. Great buzz from the OFF programme promoted by Art Brussels, which includes tours of semi-private venues or collections. Note that the Recollection Art & Fashion exhibition on the top floor of the Belfius Tower can be visited by appointment only (www.belfius.com/art). Belfius bank has become the fair’s main sponsor. Maison Particulière, which will definitively close its doors on 30 April, five years after being founded, is worth a visit. The Vanhaerents Art Collection is open from Thursday to Sunday during Art Brussels. An opportunity to discover the Man in the Mirror exhibition. At Eté 78, three couples of collectors – Carine and Michel Bienfait-Baudson, Frédérique and Thierry Genicot-Van Leuven and Catherine and Renato Casciani – are jointly presenting a selection of works from their collections.
As for venues managed by artists or curators, we will visit Maison Grégoire, Uccle, No. 105 Besme, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Komplot or White Circle, to name but a few. Most museums and art centres in Brussels align their programming during the month of April. For example, The Absent Museum exhibition at WIELS, a stone’s throw away, the Vincen Beeckman exhibition at the Fondation A, and two doors down, Frandisco at BRASS, SYNC! – focusing on artistic practice in collectives – at Iselp, the Prix Marcel Duchamp 2016 at the Hangar H18, showing last year’s four prize winners, i.e. Kader Attia, Yto Barrada, Ulla von Brandenburg and Barthélémy Toguo. More about that later. The Halles Saint-Géry and IMAL – Center for digital cultures and technology have also put together compelling exhibitions which will run long after this insane week of April comes to an end.
On the subject of awards, don’t miss the BelgianArtPrize, in Bozar, with Edith Dekyndt, Denicolai & Ivo Provoost, Otobong Nkanga and Maarten Vanden Eynde as finalists in the 2017 edition. As for the ING Public Prize, it will be awarded on 19 April in the Horta Hall of the Centre for Fine Arts. This means you can still visit the exhibition and vote for your favourite artist.
In the series of OFF OFF exhibitions, in other words those not mentioned on the Art Brussels website, the Shelters exhibition set in LaVallée spaces, close to Tour & Taxis, has been put together by the La Montagne collective (www.lamontagne.pro). A must-see at Charles Riva, a Frank Stella exhibition which will run until February 2018 (www.charlesrivacollection.be). Or, the exhibition of the Brussels photographer Vincen Beeckman at the Fondation A, a venue dedicated to contemporary photography which will be the subject of a forthcoming article (www.fondationastichting.be).
Friday night fever
The 23 Brussels art galleries taking part in Art Brussels will open their doors on Gallery Night on Friday 21 April, from 6 to 9 pm. Chances are other venues will capitalise on the enthusiasm of art lovers to stay open later too. It should be noted that Aeroplastics, which is not exhibiting at Art Brussels this year, has relocated from Rue Blanche to a temporary space in a former school, at 186 rue Washington.
So, now you know. Comfortable footwear a must!