Almine Rech at Art Brussels 2024.
Photo: David Plas

Discover the Highlights from Art Brussels

The established European art fair known for its informed collector base coincides with a city-wide gallery week and an ambitious James Ensor retrospective at Bozar

Galerie Lelong & Co at Art Brussels 2024. Photo: Courtesy Art Brussels

The celebrations that launched Art Brussels this week started out with the impressively small scale paintings of Paulo Monteiro at his solo show, “The Color of Distance,” at Mendes Wood DM’s Brussels outpost, and just like the Brazilian artist’s diverse scale of oil on linens at the gallery’s chic Sablon district, the energy expanded with the opening of numerous gallery exhibitions across town. Wednesday night’s other place-to-be was Xavier Hufkens’s dinner at the ornate eatery Les Brigittines in celebration of Joan Semmel’s exhibition, “An Other View,” with the gallery at their lofty St-Georges space. Hufkens invited guests to toast the artist’s first European solo show in almost five decades and the very first with him, featuring work that the grand dame of figurative painting created between 1970s and 2018.

Thursday morning belonged to the main event, Art Brussels’s VIP opening at the Joseph Van Neck-designed Art Deco Centenary Palace inside the Brussels Expo complex that also features the iconic stainless monument Atomium. A key event among the network of European art fairs, Art Brussels is the region’s second oldest art fair after Art Cologne and celebrates this year its 40th edition.

Art Brussels 2024. Photo: David Plas

Over hundred galleries set up shop across the aisles, largely featuring a local selection that includes the city’s main players Xavier Hufkens, rodolphe janssen, Super Dakota, Axel Vervoordt, Clearing, Harlan Levey Projects, Meessen, and Sorry We’re Closed. Additionally, global fixtures with Brussels outposts Gladstone Gallery, Almine Rech, Templon, and Mendes Wood DM join the affair that benefits from the particular local collector profile.

Knowledgeable, curious and selective, Belgian collectors are known for acquiring work as part of a family-passed tradition and a life style that cherishes living around artistic musings. “Bon vivants,” as the fair’s director Nele Verhaeren describes their collector base, also tend to explore the journeys of the artists they support and live with on a deeper level. “When I travel abroad I always hear about how knowledgeable our collector base is and this makes me wonder how else can anyone collect,” says Verhaeren.“We listen our community and hear their needs from the fair and we try to live up to that.” This year that resulted in expanded programming. Five accolades were handed out during Thursday’s vernissage, including the inaugural public art initiative Art for the City that will place an outdoor sculpture in a designated location in Brussels in collaboration with the city.

Brussels mayor Philippe Close announced the Parisian sculptor Marion Verboom who exhibits at the fair with Galerie Lelong & Co. as the selected artist for a future permanent outdoor work. The best solo presentation prize went to Mendes Wood DM’s display of a suite of color-bursting dreamscape paintings by the Brazilian artist Paulo Nimer Pjota who recently had a solo at the gallery’s Tribeca space. “We try to respond to a students seeing contemporary art for the first time and a top notch collector,” says Verhaeren about their offerings.

Mendes Wood DM at Art Brussels 2024. Photo: David Plas

Sorry We're Closed at Art Brussels 2024. Photo: David Plas

“We try to respond to a students seeing contemporary art for the first time and a top notch collector,” says Verhaeren about their offerings. The material on view indeed taps into this vision with a range of works from canonized artists as well as young fresh discoveries. There are occasional nods to the local scene, such as Sherrie Levine’s twenty-four grid postcard installation, After Ensor: The Intrigue (detail) (2017), with Xavier Hufkens. The Picture Generation artist’s work not only salutes Bozar museum’s ongoing James Ensor survey, Maestro, but also contributes to the Belgium-wide celebration of the 75th anniversary of the master’s death. Templon references their new exhibition with Abdoulaye Konaté at their Brussels space with the Malian artist’s large scale textile painting at their group booth.

Similar to Konaté’s seven colorful works made out of long cuts of African Bazin fabric in his solo, the fair work invites the visitors for a closer look of its intricate embroideries and lush layering. An expansive group presentation also awaits at Gladstone Gallery’s presentation of their roster artists, such as American stars Alex Katz, David Salle, and Arthur Jafa whose mirrored mylar print Black Man (2024) sits between two also mirrored text works by Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Templon at Art Brussels 2024. Photo: David Plas

“Our collectors like to go through each artist’s CV,” adds Verhaeren. From the most established to the emerging, the fair is a playground for intrigued collectors who also have chance to explore up-and-coming or overlooked names across the aisles.

A late artist worth paying attention to is Patrick Angus whose estate is represented by Stuttgart’s Galerie Thomas Fuchs. In addition to the artist’s piercing acrylic on canvas self-portrait, the selection at the gallery’s inaugural booth includes gouache or pencil drawings that depict the figures of the vibrant 1980s’ New York downtown most of whom, including Angus, passed due to AIDS-related complications.

The standout at Brussels’s own Galerie La Patinoire Royale Bach’s booth is Alice Anderson’s installation of found technological objects wrapped with copper-colored thread, titled Spiritual Machines (2014-24). Ambiguous and even mysteries, the objects that are devoid of their technical purposes unite in their industrial hues and matte skins in the Prix Marcel Duchamp-nominated artist’s wall-spanning display.

Singapore and Sydney-based gallery Ames Yavuz tests the European waters before they unveil their London space this fall with a group presentation of Australian artists. Karen Black’s energetic pastel-colored oozing paintings pair with Sarah Drinan’s rather eerier interpretation of the psyche with obscurely contorted bodies. Cape Town’s WHATIFTHEWORLD also offers a group selection for their European turn, featuring South African artist who explore visually striking materials. A head-turner is Chris Soal’s explosive sculpture More Than I Could Tell You (2024), which is made out of countless bamboo and birchwood toothpicks in a radiant juxtaposition.

Nino Mier at Art Brussels 2024. Photo: David Plas

Art Brussels continues through April 28th at Brussels Expo.

Cover: Almine Rech at Art Brussels 2024.
Photo: David Plas


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