A fair of human proportions that you actually can walk through without having the nagging feeling that some evil-minded someone’s testing your physical endurance. A renewed sense of purpose that results in a few risks being taken instead of, well, more of the same. And, our personal favourite, natural light. Yes you heard. Natural. Fucking. Light. The least that can be said, what with the gravity of recent events on the city’s morale and the arrival of new imprints on the scene, is that expectations were running high for Art Brussels’ much-trumpeted move to Tour & Taxi this year. And, after a few hours spent this morning walking through its bold and breezy aisles, it seems as though the team behind this year’s edition made all the right moves to ensure these were met. From new discoveries to the more established names, here’s a quick review of our stroll.Read our interview with Art Brussels artistic director on Cabinet d’Amis, the exhibition of the late Jan Hoet’s private collection she curated and that runs alongside Art Brussels.
1 – Geoffrey De Beer, Tom Volkaert & Denie Put at Base-Alpha Gallery.
Selected for the fair’s Discovery section, Antwerp’s Base-Alpha brought a Belgian-only selection of young artists. Amongst the colourful glass sheets of Geoffrey De Beer (1978), the discombobulated sculptures of Tom Volkaert (1989) and the rough, textured paintings of Denie Put (1991), a mesmerising bronze sculpture by Nadia Naveau (1975) somehow stole the show. Another brazing bit of curating by the gallery’s taste-shaping owner Bart Vanderbiesen.
2 – Max Pinckers at Sophie Van De Velde
Amongst artists such as Ilse D’Hollander (1968-1997) and Perry Roberts (1954), Antwerp-based Sofie Van de Velde was showing the photographic work of Brussels-based artist Max Pinckers. Standing out of the lot was his large-scale print of a tower of ice blocks.
3 – A solo show of Bob and Roberta Smith at Kusseneers Gallery
Witty wordplays and typeface experimentation made for a strong showing at this solo exhibition of London-based couple Bob and Roberta Smith. The gallery’s standard booth next door showcased a life-size mixed media canvas by Brussels-based Ermias Kifleyesus worth the detour.
4 – Chris Dorland and Sarah Derat at Superdakota
The Brussels-based gallery was at the fair showing the works of American artist Chris Dorland (1978) who employes outdated printers and disregarded scanners to produce striking commentaries on contemporary imagery as we know it. The young gallery is also showing the works of London-based Sarah Derat (1984), whose in-situ installation made of wooden crosses lends the booth some welcome volume.
The young Berlin-based artist Jenny Brosinski (1984) was showing two large scale paintings that perfectly balanced textured, colour and humour. Using playful comic book figures and a soft-touched colour palette, her paintings – which often are machine-washed and stretched for added impact – were as strong as any other we saw during the fair. The gallery’s booth also showcases the work of Ghent-based Simon Laureyns (1974).
6 – Camilo Restrepo at Steve Turner
Los Angeles-based Steve Turner was showing the work of Colombian artist Camilo Restrepo, which pretty much is our discovery of the year so far. Intricate and intertwined sketchbook drawings of immaculate detail, Restrepo documents the absurdity of the war on drugs, with his busy large scales heavy on narco references. With each page distressed, crumbled and tortured, the artist – who enjoys a strong following with Belgian collectors – is a reporter of his time, in his own distinct manner. A definite must-see.
7 – Harold Ancart, Tracey Emin and Thomas Houseago at Xavier Hufkens
The bluechip, Brussels-based gallery showed two paintings by New York-based Belgian artist Harold Ancart (1980) alongside a customary provocative Tracey Emin (1963) illustration and a lively Thomas Houseago (1972) painting.
8 – Laure Provost, Simon Mathers and Marinella Senatore at Mot International
Dramatic, oversized tapestry by Laure Provost (1978), striking colour canvas by Simon Mathers (1984) and a comic solo show with somewhat of a protest feel to it by Marinella Senatore all but guaranteed that London-based Mot International’s booth didn’t disappoint.
9- Gert and Uwe Tobias at Rodolphe Janssen
The Brussels-based gallery, with one of the largest booths at the fair, ensured its strong stable of artists got the attention it deserved with a tight and restrained selection, allowing for ample viewer discretion. Top pick was a Gert and Uwe Tobias (1973) set of three paintings that pretty much stole the show as far as we’re concerned.
10 – Kristof Kintera at D+T Project Gallery
Brussels-based D+T Projects Gallery dedicated its entered booth to a solo show by Czech artist Kristof Kintera (1973) whose work pushes our understanding of contemporary sculpture to its limits. Comprised of a dominating installation made up of old lamps, electric cables and other type of electro machinery as well as a wall filled to the brim with cunning and existential framed statements, the gallery’s booth did good on the gallery’s reputation for risk-taking. Cherry on the cake? The sales proceeds of one of Kintera’s works will go towards Out of the Box, an alternative learning centre for the disenchanted youth we profiled a few months ago.
11 – Gareth Nyandoro at Tiwani Contemporary
Gareth Nyandoro (1982) uses idiosyncratic variations on traditional craft and printmaking techniques to produce large works on paper. London-based Tiwani is showing a few of the Harare-based artist’s canvas, which you must see whilst at the fair.
12 – Aglaia Konrad at Nadja Vilenne
Brussels-based artist Aglai Konrad (1960), who has a solo show opening soon at Leuven’s M Museum and whose work we will be featuring in our June-July edition, was showing two black-and-white prints whose subject matter was close to her usual line of focus: cities and the impact of their developments.
13 – Valerie Krause at Greta Meert
With a play on both the material as well as on the design of a work of art, Valerie Krause (1976) shows a large-scale black and white print that is strategically punctured in certain areas as if to lighten it from its own load. Soft and touching.
14 – Russel Tyler and Matthew Stone at The Hole
Textured, layered and rich series of oil on canvas abstract paintings by Russel Tyler that aren’t to be missed sit alongside more future-focused 2D works by Matthew Stone. Tyler’s slapped, smeared and scarped approach makes for particularly pictorial viewing.