Consummate Brussels collector Dimitri Jeurissen talks Art Brussels

 Time was, the relationship between collector and artist was a much more chummy one. Brussels homeboy Dimitri Jeurissen grew up with a collector father in a home that was always full of artists. With Art Brussels now officially in full swing and the city abuzz with collectors and wannabe collectors from all corners of the art planet, Dimitri, who is also co-founder of creative agency Base Design, gives us his first impressions of the fair and warns us against impulse buying. 


Photography Serge Leblon

How did you get into art?

I grew up with it. My father was a collector and I was surrounded by art from day one. He started collecting in the ’60s and ’70s, at a time when the relationship between collector and artist was quite strong and personal. So there were always artists around at our house.

Do you remember the very first piece you bought?

When I was studying at La Cambre I started a studio with my partners, Thierry and Juliette, and we worked for different galleries, including Xavier Hufkens. And in return for our graphic work or organisational work, they would often give me small gifts. But the first piece I actually bought was a piece by David Robbins called ‘Talent’. It’s a photographic work from 1984 or 1985 that portrays 18 artists.

How do you keep yourself informed?

A combination of different things. There’s a huge amount of info out there. You can’t follow everything; you have to make choices and follow what certain galleries or institutions are doing.

Which three artists should we watch out for?

Let me answer this differently: what I’m really interested in right now is seeing how art is going to evolve with the whole digital revolution. This concerns a lot of different things: art itself, but also how you experience it and how it influences you. What impact will inventions like Google pictures have on the next generation? A lot of institutions are still struggling with how to deal with these changes in reality and also online. It also has huge potential for distribution. It will be interesting to see if it will be possible to keep it human and what it will mean for emotional connections.

Look at the art and not at the market. And build real relationships with the artists.

Do you have any advice for collectors who are just starting out?

Be curious! Curiosity will lead you to experiences. Look at the art and not at the market; see what emotionally touches you. Don’t be seduced by the glamour and the money and don’t be an impuslsive buyer. And build real relationships with the artists.

Can you describe your typical day at an art fair?

In Brussels it’s different than other fairs because I grew up here and know a lot of people. I go see friends, and I try to go early. It’s not about frenetic buying. I’m a small collector. I’m interested in the overall feeling of the fair, in discovering trends. I walk around and see what catches my eye. Then I take notes and go deeper after. I always choose a couple of interesting artists, something that will feed you for a few weeks. It’s important to take your time to look and ask questions. The gallerists and artists are always happy to give you information.

What’s your impression of Art Brussels so far? Did you notice a change with the new director?

I was only able to get a glimpse. The whole configuration is different now. It’s more spacious and more comfortable – which has its good and bad sides. The exhibitions are well taken care off; you could see that the galleries were very committed and put a lot of effort into it. The vibe is good. But a fair is a fair. I think the tension was missing. Sometimes it actually should be a bit tight and uncomfortable – this can create a dynamic which I didn’t feel this time. This time it was very respectful and very quiet.

Many artists and gallerists find that art fairs are not the right place to show art. 

I totally agree. You should consider a fair only as a teaser. In this chaos you might notice something that catches your eye. You get a taste of things but need to take your time after to dig a lot deeper. An important aspect of art fairs is also the social component. It’s a gathering of people and energies.

Which three exhibitions are worth visiting in Brussels at the moment?

Definitely check out Xavier Hufkens’ new space. It’s in the same street as the old gallery and right now they’re showing the work of a young Belgian artist, Harold Ancart. You shouldn’t miss the current exhibitions at Wiels, and Bozar’s Neo Rauch show is also very interesting, although it’s not really my thing.

What’s your opinion on satellite fairs? Do you visit them too?

Last year I went to Slick and there were a couple of interesting things but I wasn’t crazy about it. It really depends. Nada in Miami was very interesting; it had a great dynamic. Basel also has a good off-fair. They can be important for young artists and young galleries.

Some people say it’s just for those who couldn’t make it into the real thing…

Well, historically the Salon des Refusés is not a bad place to end up! But that’s the wrong approach. Satellite fairs are interesting when they are complementary.