These Are the Top 10 Booths at Art Brussels
The revamped fair offered a host of highlights.
The 34th edition of Art Brussels previewed yesterday in its new location after 17 years, the former industrial site Tour & Taxis. But the makeover of the fair didn’t only extend to its premises.
Managing director Anne Vierstraete and artistic director Katerina Gregos have also revamped its contents, with a welcome reduction of the number of exhibiting galleries to 141 (over 50 less than the previous year). “We wanted the fair to have a more human scale,” Vierstraete told artnet News. “And we also wanted to redefine and to fine tune the categories of the fair,” she added.
Following this line of thought, the Young section of the fair has been discontinued, so that presentations highlighting young and experimental artists and showcasing works produced between 2013 and 2016 are now all gathered in the Discovery section.
There’s also a whole new section called Rediscovery, aimed at spotlighting works produced between 1917 and 1987 in solo presentations by under-appreciated or overlooked artists. This new addition confirms that the raging market trend of recuperating artistic figures of the various avant garde movements, modern, and early contemporary periods shows no sign of abating (as seen in similarly-oriented and highly successful sections like Spotlight at Frieze Masters, or Back to the Future at Artissima).
Most collectors and VIPS in attendance—including, of course, Alain Servais—had also been spotted perusing the booths at Independent the day before, and, unavoidably—perhaps even unfairly, considering their different remits—everybody tended to make comparisons between the older, more established fair and the new addition to the local scene.
The most common comments mentioned that, despite being more central in this new location, Art Brussels is still not central enough compared to Independent, which is, truly, in the heart of the city. Other critical voices expressed dismay at the (still big) size of the fair, compared to the tightly curated 70 galleries of Independent. Other still simply claimed that the selection of galleries and layout at Art Brussels were more traditional, and therefore less exciting.
It’s true that the bigger selection demanded more digging, but there were a number of outstanding presentations at the fair, 10 of which we highlight for you here.
1. Sorry We’re Closed, Brussels
Sébastien Janssen’s gallery delighted with its curated, all-green presentation titled “Green doesn’t sell.” Challenging the established notion among dealers that green artworks don’t perform well, Janssen offered a huge portion of works in green hues—with prices ranging from €2,500 to €140,000—by a multifarious group of artists, from Arte Povera member Piero Gilardi and Color Field painter Thomas Downing, to hot young things like Sam Falls, Yann Gerstberger, and Eric Croes. Truly kooky and funny.
2. Galerie Bernard Ceysson, Saint-Étienne, Luxembourg, Paris, Geneva
The gallery presented a dynamic dialogue between the French painters Claude Viallat and Bernar Venet—representatives of the Supports/Surfaces movement, which began in the south of France around the 1960s—and young New York painters from the new abstraction movement, including Sadie Laska (with works for €10,000), Trudy Benson, Lauren Luloff (with prices around €9,500), and Chris Hood. By the end of the first hour of the preview, a fantastic canvas by Benson, displaying a phenomenal textural play, had sold for €22,000.
3. Arcade, London
There was something simultaneously soothing and uplifting about the simplicity of the booth of London gallery Arcade, exhibiting at the fair for the first time because of the interest that Belgian collectors have in the two artists showcased, Caroline Achaintre and John Finneran.
Achaintre—who works across a range of mediums including ceramics, textiles, and watercolors, and is currently the subject of a show at Brussels non-profit art space c-o-m-p-o-s-i-t-e—was showing a large tapestry of hand tufted wool, priced at €24,000. Meanwhile, the young American artist Finneran had three recent large paintings and a small one on display—for prices ranging from €4,000 to €14,000. Finneran’s works, which depict figurative bodies becoming geometrical abstractions, combine art historical references from the last 500 years and transform them into radiant, vibrant paintings.
4. Lyles & King, New York
The infant New York gallery (active only since 11 months) Lyles & King made its European debut with a two-person presentation by the artists Chris Hood and Phillip Birch. Hood’s multi-layered pictorial explorations (he paints the backs of the canvases and lets the paint seep through) provided the perfect backdrop for Birch’s hilarious yet ominous sculptural forays into sci-fi and body horror.
5. unttld Contemporary, Vienna
At the main section of the fair, another young gallery (this one just two years old) convinced with a solo presentation devoted to the artist Caroline Heider, who uses reproductions of photographs as raw material for subtle interventions in the form of folds and collages (prices from €6,200 to €9,400) that are as haunting as they are poetic. The results might appear like a fetishization of a vintage aesthetic, but Heider’s conceits are based on exploration of the works of philosophers Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Gilles Deleuze, so there’s more substance to them than meets the eye.
6. Barbara Seiler Galerie, Zurich
Along with Arcade, one of the best booths at the Discovery section was Barbara Seiler’s solo presentation of Cécile B. Evans, who—despite having developed her artistic career between London and Berlin—is actually Belgian. Evans presented a number of LCD screen-based works, some of which feature animations that are being produced for her upcoming project for the DIS-curated Berlin Biennale, which opens this June.
As Seiler told artnet News, this series of works by Evans—with prices ranging from £3,000 to £8,000—explore “what makes humans human.” The artist is fond of showing the insides of her hi-tech displays, their circuits, the electric cables that animate them, as if to show that they are vulnerable beings with needs. Instead of feeling cold and inorganic, Evan’s technology-as-sculpture installations feel poignant, almost poetic.
7. Richard Saltoun Gallery, London
Part of the Rediscovery section (that isn’t really a section per se, as its booths were unfortunately all scattered across the fair, which made it lose punch), Saltoun presented a booth dedicated to one of the founders of British minimalism, Bob Law, with a selection of works with prices between €5,000 and €200,000.
Law enjoyed a moment in the limelight during the 1960s and in 1970s thanks to his (almost) blank Nothing to Be Afraid works, only to find himself falling out of favor with the establishment in the 1980s. Saltoun has led the re-discovery of this forgotten figure ever since he staged a presentation of Law’s works at the Spotlight section of Frieze Masters in 2013. It is a timely moment to do so, as Law’s work is currently being featured at Tate’s British conceptual art survey exhibition.
8. Galerie Krizinger, Vienna
Krizinger’s presentation for the Solo section featured works by Hungarian artist István Csákány, who shot to fame in 2012 thanks to his large installation Ghost Keeping, included in Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s Documenta 13. At Art Brussels, Csákány presented four beautiful sculptures made of wood and concrete, which—referencing Alain Resnais and Chris Marker’s seminal 1963 film Les statues meurent aussi—question and challenge the appropriation of cultural traditions and ideologies, from African sculpture and Modern utopias to the notion of the artist studio as a locus of creativity.
9. Repetto Gallery, London
Also part of the Rediscovery section, the London gallery presented a rare and wonderful booth dedicated to the Italian polymath Bruno Munari. The Milanese artist and inventor is perhaps best known for his work in the fields of graphic and industrial design, but Repetto gallery did a fantastic job representing Munari’s contributions to the visual arts, including kinetic sculptures and mobiles (created “way before” Calder, as the dealer told me), and collages in several media. The works, which had all been consigned to the gallery by an unnamed Italian private collector, had price tags ranging from €6,000 to €230,000.
10. “Cabinet d’Amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet”
This one is actually not a booth at the fair, but a museum-quality exhibition staged in a separate space, adjacent to the VIP lounge. Curated by Katerina Gregos as a goodbye of sorts (as this will be her last edition as artistic director of the fair), this exhibition focuses on the private art collection of Jan Hoet, the renowned Belgian curator and founder of the S.M.A.K. museum in Ghent, who passed away in February 2014.
Gathering works by artists including Joseph Beuys, Marcel Broodthaers, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Cady Noland, and Luc Tuymans among many, many others, “Cabinet d’Amis” was a touching homage to a key figure in the Belgian contemporary art scene and a much welcome respite from the commercial demands of art fair next door.
Art Brussels takes place at Tour & Taxis, Brussels, from April 22-24, 2016.
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