Who to Network With at Art Brussels

The Brussels art scene is abuzz, but do you know its key players?

Liv Vaisberg, co-director of Independent Brussels.
Photo: via Linkedin.
Art Brussels 2014 Photo: © Kristof Vrancken, courtesy Art Brussels

Art Brussels 2014.
Photo: © Kristof Vrancken, courtesy Art Brussels.

Although still recovering from the atrocious terrorist attacks of March 22, the capital of the EU takes center stage this week. The first edition of Independent Brussels opens Tuesday for previews in the heart of the city. The 34th edition of Art Brussels opens doors to VIPs on Thursday at its new location, the iconic Tour & Taxis site.

This double bill has indeed cemented Brussels’ reputation as one of the world’s most exciting art hubs, complete with discerning and committed collectors, a top-notch gallery network, and—thanks to its affordable cost of living—a growing base of emerging artists.

So, if you’re in the city to attend the fairs this week, these are some of the art professionals that you’d do well to get acquainted with:

Alain Servais.<br>Photo: Jean Leprini.

Alain Servais.
Photo: Jean Leprini.

Alain Servais, collector
Ubiquitous (both online and IRL), engaged, and opinionated, Servais is a fixture of the Belgian art scene and can be found at pretty much every art fair in the world that’s worth attending.

But for the financier, who’s also a member of Art Basel’s Global Patrons Council, collecting art is not about the accumulation of material wealth and display of status, but an activity to “share new ideas, questions, doubts, and surprises; to participate in the constitution of the history of the art of today; to feed my insatiable drive to learn what is not taught.”

Collecting since 1997, Servais prefers to buy artworks in the lower to mid-range (between $5,000 and $50,000). His collection includes works by artists such as Julian Charrière, Josh Kline, Regina José Galindo, Mika Rottenberg, Candice Breitz, Philipp Timischl, Elmgreen & Dragset, John Gerrard, and Ian Cheng among others.

Last year, he showed a curated selection of his collection at the artist-run art fair Poppositions. This year, he is showing highlights from his collection at The Loft.

André Gordts.<br>Photo: via Linkedin.

André Gordts.
Photo: via Linkedin.

André Gordts, art advisor 
Although he has been a well respected art collector for many years—and still buys the occasional work by younger artists, such as Emmanuelle Quertain, Lieven De Boeck, and Abraham Cruzvillegas—Gordts told artnet News via email that he “doesn’t consider himself a collector anymore.”

Gordts’s current efforts are focused on working with and advising Belgian collectors, for example the Groeninge Group in Bruges: a group of 32 collectors from the country for whom he is working as curator until 2018.

Interestingly, for the Groeninge project, Gordts is focusing on recent artworks produced by female artists, including Rossella Biscotti, Thea Djordjadze, Latifa Echakhch, Agnieszka Kurant, Alicja Kwade, Goshka Macuga, Paulina Olowska, and Lili Reynaud-Dewar.

Gordts—who worked for the contemporary departments of Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London in the mid 1990s—was also the co-curator of the show “Secret Passions,” a large exhibition staged in Lille, France, two years ago that showcased the holdings of a group of Flemish collectors, including Filiep Libeert, Mimi Dusselier, Bernard Soens, and Lieven Declerck.

So, if you want to get to the most selected group of Belgian collectors, which are as famous for their intellectual rigor as they are for their dislike of the limelight, this is your go-to man.

Frédéric de Goldschmidt.<br /> Photo: Christophe Ketels, Compagnie Gagarine.

Frédéric de Goldschmidt.
Photo: Christophe Ketels, Compagnie Gagarine.

Frédéric de Goldschmidt, collector
Despite having art collecting in his blood (his grandmother collected Impressionist paintings, and his father the 1970s contemporaries), de Goldschmidt began collecting relatively late, in 2008.

He displayed his first purchases in his Brussels apartment, and then—when the walls got too full—across several apartments he rents out. His contemporary art collection now includes Walead Beshty, Cory Arcangel, and Alighiero Boetti and it is hosted and displayed across multiple private art spaces in the city.

Born in Paris, de Goldschmidt works between the French capital and Brussels, but he is a staunch promoter of the Brussels art scene, which he finds more refreshing and casual than the Parisian one.

The collector has staged exhibitions and events around his collection during key dates on the Brussels art calendar. This year, coinciding with Art Brussels and in collaboration with the curator Agata Jastrząbek, he’s organized “Not Really Really,” an exhibition featuring the works of 75 artists from his collection, including Elena Bajo, Theaster Gates, Fernanda Gomes, Camille Henrot, Oscar Tuazon, and Joëlle Tuerlinckx.

Liv Vaisberg, co-director of Independent Brussels.<br>Photo: via Linkedin.

Liv Vaisberg, co-director of Independent Brussels.
Photo: via Linkedin.

Liv Vaisberg, co-director of Independent Brussels
With her appointment at co-director of Independent Brussels in September 2015 alongside Olivier Pesret, Vaisberg became one of the top players in the buzzing art scene of the European capital.

Vaisberg had already made her mark as the director and co-founder of the Brussels-based experimental fair Poppositions, which was launched in 2012, following a grassroots model: Exhibitors are charged a modest fee of €200, tickets are just €5, and the entire event is run completely by volunteers.

In anticipation of the debut of Independent Brussels tomorrow, Vaisberg and Pesret told the World magazine, “Our fair resembles much more a biennale than a fair. Galleries showing at Independent bring often site-specific projects. This year, we have 12 galleries sharing their booths and putting up a solid project together. The whole experience is different from regular fairs in Belgium and beyond,” they added.

It’s safe to say that tomorrow, all eyes will be trained on the Vanderborght building, where the fair takes place.

Etienne Wynants.<br>Photo: via YouTube.

Etienne Wynants.
Photo: via YouTube.

Etienne Wynants, artistic coordinator at Etablissement d’en Face
The independent project space Etablissement d’en Face—run by the artists Sven Augustijnen, Harald Thys, Michael Van den Abeele and Sophie Nys, the architect Jan Verheyden, and the artistic coordinators Margot Vanheusden and Etienne Wynants—is a venerable institution central to the city’s art scene.

The space, which was launched in 1991, is thriving after three decades with a solid yet consistently surprising program of exhibitions, screenings, and talks, where household names, like Dahn Vo and Karl Holmqvist mix with lesser-know but equally interesting artists such as Dorota Jurczak and Jacques André.

Wynant, a Belgian art historian and managing editor of the art publication De Witte Raaf, is the public face of Etablissement d’en face.

Zoe Gray.Photo: via Biennial Foundation.

Zoe Gray.
Photo: via Biennial Foundation.

Zoë Gray, senior curator at WIELS
When Gray took over from curator Elena Filipovic at WIELS last year, she had big shoes to fill. Filipovic got raving reviews during her tenure at Brussels’ most prestigious contemporary art institution thanks to her phenomenal surveys of artists including Alina Szapocznikow, Mark Leckey, Leigh Ledare, and group shows like “Film as Sculpture.”

But Gray quickly convinced with a solid exhibition program that balances international stars with local treasures, including solo shows by Klara Lidén, Stan Douglas, and Edith Dekyndt.

Gray was a curator at Rotterdam’s Witte de With from 2006 to 2012, and project manager for the LUMA Foundation in Arles.

For more Brussels-based movers and shakers check out:

– Michael Callies, Ayelet Yanai, and Zoë Denys, from the commercial gallery dépendance, which represents artists including Ed Atkins, Jana Euler, Henrik Olesen, Nora Schultz, and Josef Strau.

– Olivier Babin, Lodovico Corsini, and Harry Scrymgeour, from the New York/Brussels commercial gallery C L E A R I N G, which represents artists including Harold Ancart, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Eduardo Paolozzi, Loïc Raguénès, and Lili Reynaud-Dewar.

– Dirk Snauwaert, artistic director of WIELS, and Anne-Claire Schmitz, director of the non-profit art institution La Loge, located in a stunning a former Masonic temple built in 1934-1935 by modernist architects Fernand Bodson and Louis Van Hooveld.

– Sonia Demience and Benjamin Jaubert, director and curator of Komplot, a non-profit art space launched in 2002 which operates as a platform for experimental artistic and curatorial practices.

– Bieke Clerinx and Tanguy Van Quickenborne, a couple that exemplifies the younger generation of local collectors. Clerinx and Van Quickenborne are focused on buying works from artists from their own generation, including Amalia Pica, Steven Claydon, and Darren Bader.

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