The 35th edition of Art Brussels opened to the public yesterday, with the usual assemblage of both blue-chip and emerging galleries vying for collectors’ attention and deep-pocketed means. Retaining its position as the fair where actual, real business is done, the city’s longest-standing art fair remains the main attraction on the local art scene’s annual calendar. Following an entire day perusing its four halls and many alleys, we’ve handpicked 25 standout booths that deserve to be visited.
1. Sorry we’re Closed (Brussels)
Without a doubt one of our fair favourites, Sorry we’re Closed distinguished itself by its off-centered scenography and its focus on sculptural works. Top of the list were Brussels-based artist Eric Croes’ totem-like ceramic sculpture as well as Josh Sperling’s series of wall-mounted wooden paintings. Essential.
2. 22,48 m2 (Paris)
Part of the fair’s Discovery section, Parisian gallery 22,48 m2 devoted its entire booth to a solo show by Caroline Delieutraz, whose research-based work consisted in a installation of seven photographs entitled Pandimus Dictator and which depict a rare species of scorpions from Cameroon’s tropical forest, captured in quarantine. Alongside the installation, Delieutraz also showed a deconstructed motorcycle’s carcass (pictured below) a series of found footage and making-off videos to be viewed on telephones and tablets housed in the nets used in trains as well as a series of imagery culled from the internet and depicting a carefully-curated selection of blue men.
3. Artlead (Brussels)
The online art platform launched by former S.M.A.K curator Thomas Caron came to the fair with what seemed like its entire collection of editions, including Nástio Mosquito’s folk flags, a Dirk Braeckman photograph as well as its NICC box with works by Kasper Bosmans, Aline Bouvy and more. Top of the pick: Dirk Zoete’s Mexican series of drawings on photographs, presented in an artist-made veneer frame.
4. Galleria Monica de Cardenas (Milan)
The Milan-based gallery showed a series of three colourful, miniature paintings by Alex Katz, what seemed liked a Chantal Joffe self-portrait as well as a sculpture on painted wawa wood, entitled Man in a Black Roll-neck Sweater, by Stephan Balkenhol.
5. Van der Mieden (Antwerp)
Antwerp’s Van der Mieden’s gallery’s standout works include a set of two large sensorial Dirk Vander Eecken paintings as well as two fragile photographs on folded rice paper by Adam Jeppenssen. The gallery’s consistently visually-focused showcase didn’t disappoint.
6. Choi & Lager Gallery (Koln & Seoul)
UK-based artist Rose Wylie showed a series of lively and bright paintings and drawings executed in a somewhat childlike manner, including a stunning and monumental splashy painting of an elephant.
7. Michel Rein (Brussels & Paris)
Bringing to the fair its extensive roaster of artists, the gallery’s booth showed Didier Fiuza Faustino’s Show Must Go Home (a sentence cut out on white melamine board with a golden rescue blanket as a backdrop), a stunning oil and enamel portrait by Farah Atassi of a woman in a rocking chair, Enrique Ramirez’s series of four hand-embroidered flags as well Christian Hidaka’s La Mistralenco, an oil on linen. A must-see booth.
8. Lyle & King (New York)
Miami-based Farley Aguillar’s series of three somewhat harsh and evocative portrait paintings. imbued with the artist’s urges brush stroke, were some of our favourites of the fair.
9. Semiose (Paris)
The Parisian gallery showed works by Presence Panchonette, whose sculptural works mixed both old and new references in ways which made you both smile and ponder. The gallery also devoted a section of its booth to a solo show by Steve Gianakos, who showed his signature series of comic illustrations. Definitely one to drop by.
10. Base-Alpha Gallery (Antwerp)
Always a firm favourite of ours, the Antwerp-based gallery showed photographic works by Michele Matyn, silver-plated sculptures by Nadia Naveau (whose studio we recently visited) as well as a series of ceramic sculptures by Tom Volkaert.
11. Greta Meert (Brussels)
The Brussels-based gallery showed Koen van den Broke’s oil on canvas as well as Ozone avenue #2, Johannes Weld’s Broken Entity, Joe Zorilla’s wall-mounted sculpture Streamers as well as Pieter Vermeersch’s subtle oil on canvas.
12. Rodolophe Janssen (Brussels)
One of the local scene heavyweights, Rodolphe Janssen’ booth stood out thanks to a majestic new painting by Iranian-born, Brussels-based artist Sanam Khatibi (whom we interviewed a while back), an eerie painting as well as a series of bronze sculptures by Douglas Eynon, A wendell Geers bronze sculpture entitled Flesh of the Spirit as well as some magnificent Gert and Use Tobias coloured woodcut on canvas paintings.
13. Nadja Vilenne (Liège)
With a strong focus on Belgian artists, Nadja Vilenne showed works by Jacques Charlier (a series of photographs entitled Sur de l’art), Aglaia Konrad (architectural photography entitled Undecided Frames) as well as a Walter Sweenen oil, lacquered and postal canvas.
14. Meessen De Clercq (Brussels)
Winner of the solo prize 2017 with its show of benoit Maire, the Brussels-based gallery also brought some works by Fabrice Samyn, Thu van Graon (a monumental, rich-yellow painting), José Maria Sicilia as well as a series of green Emerald depictions of mobile phones, the latter a poignant reference to the fast evolution of technology.
15. Xavier Hufkens (Brussels)
Consistently one of the fair’s heavy hitters, Xavier Hufkens’ stand was somewhat overshadowed by a stunning pastel canvas by Nicolas Party ((Purple Peaches with a Stick). Other works to see include Walter Sweenen’s Okozela oil on canvas as well as Sterling Ruby’s BC.
16. Albert Baronian (Brussels)
The Brussels-based gallery showed a mesmerising new sculpture by Belgian artist Xavier Mary as well as a series of three miniature paintings by Robert Devriendt, an intricate carpet by Mekhitar Garabedian and a Helmut Stallaerts paintings. A must-see.
16. Fifty One Fine Art Gallery (Antwerp)
With what seemed like the other booth on the far entirely devoted to photography, the Antwerp-based stand stood out thanks to a series of photographs by Bruno Roels as well as four Arpais du Bois paintings.
17. Harlan Levey (Brussels)
The winner of this year’s Discovery prize, the Brussels-based gallery showed a series of high-browed, intellectually charged yet emotionally relevant pieces by Emmanuel Van der Auwera (who captures collective catastrophes), Ela Littwitz (with a stunning floor piece that builds on recovered soil her feet will never known under persistently deep geopolitical divides) as well as Haseeb Ahmed (whose work draws on scientific research to revive the ancient Greek hypothesis that animals can reproduce like plants). Not to be missed.
18. Neumeister Bar-Am (Berlin)
A minimal booth that showed three haunting and, at times, worrying video works by artist Micah Hesse which question the place and celebration of guns in American society.
19. The Hole (New York)
A solo show by Los Angeles-based artist Eric Yahnker, who showed a series of virtuosic coloured pencil and graphite drawings that feature cultural commentary and dry humour. One of the few galeries at the fair which touched upon the meaning of being American in 2016 without necessarily making it about you know who.
20. Edel Ashanti (London)
Showing three new works from Vancouver-based Babak Golkar The Return Project which consists in the artist buying cheap household items from Wallmart-like store, photographing them in his studio then modifying his purchases and returning them to the original store without the sales assistant noticing, thus reinserting the reconfigured objects within the consumption circuit.
21. SMAC (Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Johannesburg)
The South African gallery devoted its entire booth to the work of Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati, whose totem-like sculptural works draws on found and discarded items to reference both the old and the new.
22. Thierry Goldberg Gallery (New York)
The New York gallery showed works by two young artists, Tschabalala Self and Jonathan Lyndon Chase, both of whom draw heavily on issues of gender, race and sexuality in a series of hauntingly relevant figurative paintings.
23. Clages (Koln)
The Koln-based gallery devoted its booth to the works of Brussels-based artist Monika Stricker, whose series of hay sculptures reference feminist notions without appropriating them as part of the narrative.
24. Carroll / Fletcher (London)
A booth that went for minimalism and consistency, showing a series of earlier video works by John Wood and Paul Harrison.
25. Galerie Allen (Paris)
Centered around the theme of Ecstatic Domesticity, the gallery showed works by Laëtitia Badaut Haussmann, Linus Bill + Adrien Horni as well as Trevor Yeung, the latter’s highly emotional work housed in an unlit backroom. Essential.Art Brussels runs until Sunday 23rd April, 19h00 at Tour and Taxi.