BRUSSELS – It is no secret to anyone who knows me that I love my hometown – but a recent surge in articles claiming that “Brussels is the new Berlin” has surprised our little kingdom’s capital’s unassuming inhabitants. A lot of what American art critic Barbara Reise depicted in her 1974 review of the thriving local avant-garde scene for Studio International, “Incredible Belgium” could have been written about this year’s Brussels Art Week, which has just finished. “That trip really blew my mind,” she wrote, “I had Surrealistic dreams and fantasies for a month.” Here is my list, in no particular order, of the five things (both at the fair and beyond) that blew my mind.
Installation view of the Art Brussels art fair.
The Vanhaerents Collection
Walter Vanhaerents’ extensive and cerebral private collection is re-hung every two years, and open to the public twice a month. Man in the Mirror, over three floors of his stunning reconverted warehouse in the Dansaert area, features a broad range of artists including a pulsating immersive installation by British artist Haroon Mirza and Philippe Parreno’s Marilyn.
How young and fresh the fair felt
The 32nd edition of Art Brussels brought together over 2,000 artists across 190 galleries, for the benefit of 30,000 visitors. Not only did the YOUNG galleries (the section for emerging artists and galleries) account for almost half of the exhibitors this year, but many established galleries showed the work of emerging or mid-career artists, such as Gladstone Gallery with Claudia Comte and Richard Aldrich.
The bustling atmosphere
Everyone wanted to be a part of the Brussels Art Week. From private collectors opening their beautiful homes to the public to book launches and parties. The usually low-key capital was buzzing with energy and quality Contemporary shows such as: John Baldessari and Edith Dekyndt at Galerie Greta Meert, Saâdane Afif and Walter Swennen at Xavier Hufkens and the instantly sold-out Brent Wadden at Almine Rech.
Over 30,000 visitors walk through Art Brussels, where 190 galleries displayed work by over 2,00 artists.
Catharine Ahearn at the Office Baroque booth, winner of the SOLO Shows Prize
Spread across the fair, the SOLO booths give art-lovers and collectors the opportunity to discover an artist’s practice in greater depth, this year The SOLO Show Prize was attributed to the Belgian gallery Office Baroque this year, for their exhibition of South African-born and Los Angeles-based artist Catharine Ahearn’s work.
The Portrait of the Collector as a Work of Art: An Intimate Journey special exhibition
This exhibition, unique to Art Brussels, has been conceived by the fair’s second-time artistic director Katerina Gregos. It pays homage to a selection of prominent Belgian collectors by exhibiting a work from their collection of their choice.
Brussels is increasingly viewed as an indispensable location on the global contemporary art map, and I look forward to seeing what this great city has in store for the future.
Clémence Tasiaux is a member of the Contemporary Art team at Sotheby's London.