Art Brussels 2015 Brings Solid Sales to the European Capital
European artists in the mid-price range reigned supreme.
Brussels has slipped into its fresh identity as Europe’s new art hotspot with ease, as blue chip New York galleries such as Gladstone, staple Paris names like Nathalie Obadia, and even hip Antwerp spots like Office Baroque all set up shop in the European capital.
The art fair Art Brussels, which closes today, is similarly enjoying international attention: “Art Brussels has largely contributed to the formation of Brussels’ reputation as a hotspot for contemporary art,” managing director, Anne Vierstraete, said at the fair’s opening press conference, where she and artistic director Katerina Gregos also announced that the fair will move to a new location in the city center next year (see The Top Booths at Art Brussels 2015).
While it’s great that artists are moving to Brussels, exhibition spaces are opening, and non-profit artist-run locations pop up in the districts Ixelles and Forest, it’s perhaps worth mentioning that the establishment of a so-called “wealth tax” in France also contributed to the shift, with a wave of French collectors relocating to Belgium.
The international crowd flocked to the city on Thursday night for a slew of openings: from the alt-fair Poppositions (see Alain Servais Announces Major Collectors Show at Poppositions Art Fair in Brussels), the stylish swarm shuffled between MOT International and the cluster of galleries that houses Elizabeth Dee, Mon Chéri, Sorry We’re Closed, and Jan Mot, among others.
Later on, Dior designer Raf Simons and his entourage were spotted at Sterling Ruby’s show at Xavier Hufkens, all but the designer clad in pieces from their collaborative collection (see Raf Simons Turns Sterling Ruby’s Art into Haute Couture in New Dior Documentary).
The next day, collectors such as Gil Bronner, Michael and Susan Hort, Fatima and Eskander Maleki, Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Haro Cumbusyan, Mimi Dusselier, and Anita and Poju Zabludowicz perused the halls, at the slow-paced preview that felt decidedly à la Belge.
Justifying its reputation as the fair for young discoveries, the best sales were noted amid the mid-price range. Young Paris dealer Jérôme Poggi sold seven works during the preview, and was enjoying more attention as the fair proceeded, with his curated booth of works by Faycal Baghriche, Julien Crépieux, Wesley Meuris, and George Tony Stoll, ranging from €3,000 to €15,000.
Further down the aisle, in the PRIME section, James Cohan Gallery from New York sold Bill Viola’s Fire Martyr to a Belgian family foundation (new clients for the gallery) for €190,000, and Xu Zhen’s painting Under Heaven – 1136NH1409, to another collection for a price in the low six figures.
Many exhibitors brought works by Belgian artists, as collectors tend to opt for local names. Michael Zink of Berlin-based gallery Kromus + Zink noted, “So far this has been the most successful Art Brussels for us in the three years we’ve taken part. The quality of the exhibitors and work presented, really attracted the right buyers. This year we reached a different level of collectors.”
The gallery sold a large landscape drawing by Rinus Van de Velde to a Swiss collector. A complete set of murano-glass vessels priced at €69,000 by the 24-year-old Tchechenian artist Aslan Gaisumov together with his video and a set of works on paper went to a Dutch collector. Three paintings by Gregory Forstner priced at €16,500 each went to collections in France and Luxembourg. The gallery also sold works by Dutch artist Marcel van Eeden (see artnet Asks: Master of Noir Marcel van Eeden).
Kristof De Clercq Gallery did well with a solo booth by Belgian artist Honoré d’O, which also won the fair’s prize for best solo presentation—along with Germaine Kruip, presented by G262 Sofie Van den Velde. Kristof De Clercq sold works by d’O mostly to private collectors rather than institutions, for prices ranging from €3,000 to €15,000.
In the DISCOVERY section, however, exhibitors were still trying to gauge Belgian preferences. First-time exhibitor Tomio Koyama Gallery from Japan reported good inquiries but slow sales. “For us, it’s a case study in Belgian taste,” said gallery director Yuko Nagase. “We realized that Southeast Asian artists had not been represented at the fair before.” Among other artists, the gallery offered clay objects by Takuro Kuwata priced just over €20,000, which seemed congruent with the fair’s mid-price scale.
And in the established PRIME section, Geukens & De Vil gallery from Antwerp almost sold out the entire solo project by Jaromír Novotny, priced from €4,500 to €10,000.
Representatives from institutions from all over the world, including the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, the Serpentine Gallery in London, and Kunsthaus Zürich arrived at the weekend, making their own discoveries (see Art Brussels Powers Ahead as European Sales Platform for Young Artists).
No one seemed particularly moved as word of the fair’s new location for 2016—the historic Tour & Taxis building in the city center—reached exhibitors. It remains to be seen how the arrival of New York’s Independent art fair next year will shake things up (see Independent Art Fair Heads to Brussels).
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