Art Brussels: fair enough

“The once sleepy Brussels art scene is making some noise,” T, the New York Times style magazine opined at the end of last month. The easy-going character of the city, the lack of a well-defined identity, or the absence of a museum for modern art do not hinder Brussels from gaining cultural importance internationally. And with a new female director, Katerina Gregos, there is a fresh breeze blowing through Art Brussels as well. The annual look and buy festival of contemporary art brings together 187 galleries and over 2,000 artists from across the world under one roof. We dropped by three Brussels galleries – the brand-new C L E A R I N G, the eight-year-old Alice Gallery, and the long-established AEROPLASTICS contemporary – in full preparation for the fair.

C L E A R I N G 
Barthélémy Schöller

OPENED: 2012
BRIEF HISTORY: “The Brooklyn gallery started as a project space, but quickly evolved into a fully-fledged gallery. Founder Olivier Babin came to Brussels a year after the opening in Brooklyn.”
UNIQUE SELLING POINT: “The raw, post-industrial white cube space in Brooklyn is countered in Brussels by an uptown gallery in a beautiful town house. We cherish an international vision with a keen eye to context: American and European artists can exhibit in two very different galleries.”
WHY BRUSSELS: “With respect to contemporary art, Brussels is becoming increasingly important. The quality of the collectors here is incredibly high; on the other hand, compared to other European countries, the rents are very low. Moreover, the city is very centrally located in Europe. And it is very active in the arts.”
GETTING STARTED: “People are more willing to travel for events and exhibition openings than to visit galleries. Fortunately, we are uptown, and it is clear from the turnout here that people like what we’re doing. We did, of course, have the good fortune of being able to build credibility in New York. That made things easier for us than for galleries that have to start from nothing. The only thing Brussels is lacking – quite unbelievably – is a museum for modern art.”
AT ART BRUSSELS: “We will be showing a large painting by the young Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, a shingle painting by Aaron Aujla, work by Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Harold Ancart, etc. It will be a small stand with a few, but very diverse pieces: a reflection of our programme.”
STAND: 3B-12 Young Talent

Raphaël Cruyt & Alice van den Abeele 

OPENED: 2005
UNIQUE SELLING POINT: “From the start people labelled us as a street gallery. That isn’t untrue exactly, but I think our approach is broader: we work with people in the art world, in street art, in the film industry, etc. That cross-over between different cultural fields really constitutes our identity.”
THE PUBLIC: “Some galleries prefer an opening with less people and more collectors. But from the very start, we decided to have public openings with a lot of people. That’s the reason why we are in the centre of Brussels. It’s where you get the biggest mix of people, where you can work with different communities.”
THEN AND NOW: “When we started, the art scene was a lot smaller: there were less galleries and as a result, galleries had more opportunities to establish themselves. I think it is much harder to break through these days. There are various reasons the Brussels art scene receives so much international attention. Brussels is quite cheap, so people – and not just big collectors – have more room to buy something. And the crisis makes people want to work together, group their work and visibility.”
DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE: “That is also the key to the future: galleries have to get to know one another. We really need to create a community to secure the future.”
AT ART BRUSSELS: “We’ll be showing four artists: Belgian director of photography and photographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, French artist Olivier Kosta-Théfaine, American artist Clare Rojas, and the Belgian collective Pica Pica. A very diverse group, but also very connected: with a focus on the urban environment.”
STAND: 3D-19 Gallery

Delphine Morel 

OPENED: 1998
LOCATION: “When Jerome Jacobs founded AEROPLASTICS gallery in 1998, he very consciously chose a town house in an upmarket area of the city.”
UNIQUE SELLING POINT: “The reception office offers a good reflection of who we are: a Wunderkammer, with an enormous diversity of works wherein one can discern recurring themes: mechanisms of the world and its society. At AEROPLASTICS gallery we remain faithful to ourselves. We work in a spirit of diversity and promotion of international, emerging and mid-career artists that through their work raise questions about the current status of humanity.”
THEN AND NOW: “When AEROPLASTICS was launched, there were fewer galleries and private institutions than now. Today the neighbourhood is clearly becoming a central locus. The public is diverse and private initiatives – collectors who want to share their perspective on art – are multiplying. Today, there is definitely more focus on the Brussels contemporary art scene. Nevertheless, AEROPLASTICS remains the internationally oriented gallery it has always been.”
AT ART BRUSSELS: “Our stand will be in Hall 3, where we always enjoy the positive energy. This year, we will present about ten artists at the fair: Mircea Suciu, Daniele Buetti, Léopold Rabus, Tracey Snelling, Carlos Aires, John Isaacs, Samuel Rousseau, etc. And, most of all,  we are very proud to introduce the amazing interactive installation Rosy Lee, by the acclaimed British artist Gavin Turk.”
STAND: 3D-02 Gallery

ART BRUSSELS • 18 > 21/4, 12 > 19.00 (18/4: > 22.00), €12/15, Brussels Expo, Belgiëplein 1 place de Belgique, Laken/Laeken,

Photos © Ivan Put

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