21-23 April 2017 – Tour & Taxis, Brussels

Whoever still says that Brussels rhymes with waffles has probably not seen much more than the Manneken Pis and the french fries booths, ignoring the cultural impetus Brussels has been experiencing the past 5 to 10 years. April sees art burgeoning everywhere, from galleries, museums, to other alternative spaces, in correlation with the much expected Art Brussels fair.

One of the oldest and most established fairs, Art Brussels claims to have succeeded in stepping up its game by offering something different to art collectors. The focus on solid artistic content and showcasing surprising artistic practices makes Art Brussels one of “Europe’s foremost discovery fairs”, to quote the New York Times.

This year, 145 galleries will trigger the visitors’ curiosity by presenting artists in the three sections, DISCOVERY (emerging artists), PRIME (established modern and contemporary artists) and REDISCOVERY (less known modern artists).

While walking down the aisles with gallerist Leticia Maciel, from Espace L in Geneva, she praises the format neither too big nor too small that makes the experience very pleasant. The location, shabby and rough on the edges, has a great natural light that compliments the works exhibited. She particularly liked works by Joseph Kosuth, Sheila Hicks, Omar Ba, Sara Sizer and Helena Almeida to mention a few.

DISCOVERY gathers 30 emerging galleries, like Laura Gowen, Selma Feriani or Edel Assanti. The latter is used to taking risks, to defend their artists at best and has this time dedicated the booth to Babak Golkar. “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work” is the second instalment in Golkar’s Return Project, a series of assemblage works where readymade consumer articles are dissected, transformed and reinserted into their wholesale environment.

In PRIME, we bump into Manuel Mathieu, at Maruani Mercier. The 30 year old artist may be walking on crutches today but he must feel over the moon, having a mini solo, where almost all the works have been sold the first morning. His paintings are mysterious, personal and mix a reflection on the subject, space and identity and he is definitely an artist to follow.

At the end of the hall, Sammy Baloji dominates the space, at galerie Imane Fares. Its director, Anne-Cannelle Boyer, explains how Sammy Baloji questions the disappearance of “what is missing”, by making it reappear through an osmotic phenomenon that gives rise to what we cannot, or do not want to see through juxtaposition without commentary. The role of memory here lays neither in re-memorisation, nor denunciation, but in the emergence and revitalisation of facts that belong just as much to our present as to our past.

A rich programme IN and OUTSIDE the fair complements the experience of “arty Brussels”. Collectors are invited to reflect upon the notion of collecting with Mementos: Artists’ Souvenirs, Artefact and other Curiosities. The exhibition entitled brings together personal objects and artefacts from the private collections of a diverse group of artists, all of whom are represented by galleries participating in Art Brussels 2017. Curated by Jens Hoffmann and Piper Marshall, the exhibition offers an alternative to the way we think about collecting and that focuses on the emotional and sentimental value attached to objects, defined by individual stories and memories. Participating artists include Wim Delvoye , Folkert de Jong, Babak Golkar, Mathieu Mercier and Laure Prouvost.

The discursive programme addresses the hot topics in contemporary art, from The Politics of Things, New Technologies in Contemporary Art, Artists’Estates, Collecting, Intimacy and the Domestic and of course, Venice Biennial.

ART17 Gallery Night will enthuse art lovers Friday 21 April as almost all the galleries in the center of Brussels will be open until 9PM, proposing complementary shows to their displays at the fair.
The OFF programme is all but to be missed, with the opening to the public of private collections, such as the family Servais collection, the Vanhaerents Art Collection, the last days of the Maison Particuliere with works belonging to Amaury and Myriam de Solages and works from three collections presented at Eté 78. Last but not least, no less than 17 artist & curator-run spaces have been added to the programme.

There might not be time for a waffle.

By Valerie Reinhold