Alexis Ryngaert’s Brussels

Alexis Ryngaert, 32, is the founder of design art gallery Victor Hunt, one of Brussels’ precursors in positioning design as contemporary art. Here, he reveals his favourite local haunts, from like-minded design galleries to neighbourhood restaurants.

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Originally I’m from Leuven, but I moved to Brussels 15 years ago for my studies. I love its liveliness, international vibe and diversity. Plus, it’s very well situated, with good connections to Paris or London, which is quite important for my job. I’ve lived in many different neighbourhoods over the years, from the center of Brussels and Anderlecht to Etterbeek. I liked them all. Now I’m based in Schaerbeek, which is very residential. There’s not much to say about it. But I’m quickly in the center and on the highway, which is important to me. Brussels is a great city, but when it comes to traffic, it really needs some improvement! The city has a lot to offer in terms of design, and it hosts a lot of designers, design studios and design galleries, even if it’s not up there with the world’s top design destinations. Brussels does host a number of galleries specialized in design however, which undoubtedly play on the same level as those in London, Paris or New York. One example is Caroline Van Hoek gallery, located in Ixelles, which specialises in jewelry at the intersection with art: her selection is incredible and definitely one of the very best in the world in that domain. A lot has happened since I moved here. At the time of my arrival there already were a few design galleries, but since then, their number has doubled. The city’s design galleries also benefit from the whole art boom that Brussels is experiencing at the moment, of course. Lots of young designers are coming over from France, Julien Renault for example. And when it comes to collectors, we can’t complain either. Belgium traditionally has a lot of collectors, and contemporary art and design are becoming more and more intertwined. Fact is, a few art collectors also buy design objects. Last year, a new design gallery opened its doors in the center of Brussels, Maniera. Their concept is quite innovative. They’re reviving an aspect of design that has been pushed aside as of late: design objects made by architects and architecture-driven design. In the past it used to be a common practice that architects also had to create furniture and other items during their studies. One of my favourite places is Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud, again located in Ixelles, which is specialised in contemporary ceramics and glass works. They have all the international big names such as Sterling Ruby and Ron Nagle and operate on a very high level, participating of course in the major fairs from Design Miami to Design Basel. The gallery has been around for quite a while now, having opened back in 2005 it was one of the first design galleries to settle down in Brussels. About seven years ago I also opened my very own gallery, Victor Hunt, which since then has become quite an integral part of the design scene here, I think. I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far. With the gallery I focus on contemporary design after the year 2000, and first and foremost young, emerging design talents between 30 and 40. We give them the possibility to produce their work and go one step further in their career. For example I represent Sylvain Willenz and Maarten De Ceulaer, both from Brussels and some of my favorite designers in the city. They are very productive and have forged very strong identities for themselves. Brussels is full of design talent. While it is especially well represented in terms of industrial design, you can find anything here from textile and jewelry to furniture. I would say currently there are about 30 design studios in the city, which work on a very high level. One of my favorites is Big Game and I also really like Marina Bautier. A number of creations by designers I like can be found in design store The Game, where I’m responsible for curating the selection of objects and furniture. What’s nice is its accessible approach: you can already get your hands on some nice design gems with a very low budget. I’m not a big expert on Brussels when it comes to lifestyle tips, but when I have to take artists or collectors to dinner I always go to Chez René in Anderlecht, an authentic and a bit rustic Belgian family restaurant with a history that has survived several generations and serves everything from home-made fries to oysters and filet américain.

Caroline Van Hoek
Rue Van Eyck 57, 1050 Brussels
 
Maniera
Rue de la Caserne 74, 1000 Brussels
 
Galerie Pierre Marie Giraud
Rue de Praetere 7, 1050 Brussels
 
Victor Hunt
Rue de la Senne 40, 1000 Brussels
 
The Game
Boulevard Anspach 123, 1000 Brussels
 
Chez René
Place de la Résistance 14, 1070 Brussels
 
Marina Bautier
Chaussée de Forest 314, 1190 Brussels