It’s only been a year now, but Brussels can finally pride itself on having a collective reopening of art galleries worthy of a true art capital. Simply labelled Brussels Art Days, two days of intense gallery hopping and openings just took place this past weekend, with no less than 30 new exhibitions, among which some held in brand new spaces. We overcame this art marathon to share our selection of the best shows on view.
Photography Olivier Vandervliet
1. Sol LeWitt at Barbara Gladstone Gallery (until 30th October)
Without a doubt the most talked about show of the weekend, this one tops our pick. Since the opening of a Brussels branch in 2008, the renowned New York gallery has allowed art lovers to see works of major contemporary artists in the cosy atmosphere of an elegant town house. This new season is inaugurated by a major figure of the history of 20th century art: the American artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), who presents a wall drawing. The drawing covers the gallery’s two floors, and consists of rectangles and squares of black paint applied directly onto the wall The extreme precision with which this is exectued is mesmerizing, as is the organic way in which the grid takes into account the premises’ architecture (the measurements of the windows, doors, fireplaces, etc.). The result is nothing short of radical,with LeWitt’s approach giving viewers as realistic and physical experience of his oeuvre as possible.
2. Manuel Graf at Etablissement d’en Face (until 23rd October)
Manuel is a young German artist based in Istanbul who mainly produces films. Mediterraneo is his new project specifically designed for the small but leading non-profit space, Etablissement d’en Face. Within the interiors of a retro living room, a ten-minute film shows delightful views of the sea, punctuated by images of ceramics handmade by the artist and visible in the window. Over this holiday landscape, a voice recites a text by French historian Fernand Braudel, about the development of the Mediterranean region, at once the cradle of civilization, a trade hub, a cultural reservoir, a victim of pillage and a war zone. This modest yet telling project plunges us into a universe that could be that of an amateur ethnographer, but which strangely resonates with the diverse reality of the Dansaert area to which we return at the end of the screening.
3. Novel group show at Dependance (until 16th October)
This exhibition gathers a selection of works by past and present contributors to Novel, a publication of writings by artists. In the the gallery’s limited space, visitors can discover an impressive selection of contemporary artists, such as R.H. Quaytman, Sergej Jensen, Oscar Tuazon, etc. Some works specifically use written language – such as Josef Strau’s typewritten texts or artists collective Bernadette Corporation’s books compiling customer reviews found on the Internet – and if others may seem more hermetic, they probably respond to one of the objectives of Novel, namely to « think of writing as something distinct from information, as at least one realm of cultural production that is exempt from the encompassing obligation to communicate ».
4. Sixeart at A.L.I.C.E Gallery (until 9th October)
The re-opening of A.L.I.C.E was always going to be the talked-about event of the weekend. Formerly situated on Rue A. dansaertstraat (an area the gallery is often said to have single-handedly redefinied), the purveyor of everything that is urban culture in the art world recently set up shop insomewhat of an upgraded fashion, going for the classic white cube with concrete floor look in a bid to cement her identity as an established gallery. For its first show, Spanish artist Sixeart has been granted the honour to consecrate the space’s white walls. The colourful compositions of this former graffiti artist blend heterogeneous sign systems in very coherent and fascinating images. A highly personal visual language that makes do with your usual street art clichés.
5. La Jeune Peinture Belge at La Marie Joseph Restaurant (Permanent exhibition)
After having braved the crowds and indulged in champagne glasses on an empty stomach, we were more than happy to head to La Marie Joseph on the Sainte Catherine square for a reinvigorating Belgian specialty. This Brussels institution dating from the 70’s exhibits an impressive collection of Belgian artists (similarly to the two other restaurants of the same family, the Vieux Saint Martin in the Sablon and the Canterbury along Ixelles’ ponds). Here, what is probably the city’s best ‘filet américain’ is enjoyed in the illustrious company of Alechinsky, Christian Dotremont, Maurice Wijckaer… If the menu may seem expensive, the quality of the food and the friendliness of the staff with an authentic Brusseleer accent matches the art on view. To see and to eat!
Last but not least: