An interview with Poppositions founder Liv Vaisberg

“We want to make an artistic statement…”

This weekend sees the return of the itinerant Art Brussels auxiliary, the off-beat off-fair Poppositions, which first took place last year in Brussels Congress train station. We spoke to founder Liv Vaisberg of Antwerp’s Ponyhof gallery about how Poppositions distinguishes itself from Art Brussels.

How did the whole project come about?

Last year I visited Brussels Congress train station because I wanted to do an expo there with my gallery, Ponyhof. And in the end the space was so big that the Congress people suggested we do a whole off-fair instead. They gave me complete carte blanche and it was a great opportunity. Plus, Brussels really needed a proper off-fair. There’s an audience for it.

What’s the concept?

We don’t just want to be the kind of off-fair that shows the artists who got rejected by the official one, as some others do. Many satellite fairs have the exact same white cubes as the official fairs. We wanted to do something different. All works are in situ and made especially for the fair. We take the root of art fairs but turn the whole idea upside down. Every participant (more non-profit art structures than established galleries) show only one or two of its artists and they only present one or two pieces.

How does the financing work compared to an official fair?

We don’t have a penny, really. We don’t charge participants or visitors and there’s no VIP access. We’re getting a tiny bit of funding from the city but that’s it. We only work with volunteers. It’s crazy and not really sustainable but it works! Even at many other off-fairs, like Slick for example, participants have to pay quite a lot of money.

Don’t you want to make sales though, too?

Sure, but it’s really not our main purpose.  What we show is not easily saleable. The space we exhibit in is rather difficult and some of the artworks too: for example, one is a large flag attached on the roof of the building. One artists paints on windows – that’s not something you can sell, really. There’s also performance art. We want to make an artistic statement and question the format of art fairs – that’s why we also organize panel talks about their role in the art world.

How did you select the participants?

We published an open call and then reviewed the proposals according to their artistic quality with a panel of four curators.

What is good art?

It’s good art when it questions life and challenges things as they are. And it’s bad when it’s merely decorative.

Poppositions opens to the public tonight