Art

Top image: Christopher Page ‘Aventine’ Copyright Hunter Whitfield

This month’s Art Brussels is a major time stamp, marking the fair’s big 5-0. Founded as Foire d’Art Actuel with eleven dealers in 1968, the event has been on the rise ever since: while this year’s half century blowout sees the fair expand to mammoth proportions – boasting a 147 galleries from 32 different countries as part of its programme dedicated to cutting-edge work.

Spanning from participatory installation, performance art, panel discussions and its always interesting annual featured project (this year’s Mystic Properties has us curious), the event places precedence on emerging artists, drawing together names from all corners of the artistic field. What’s more, the fair also blows the dust from old diamonds – unearthing artworks that didn’t get the recognition deserved back in it’s day. This Discover, Prime and Rediscover format will continue to gel the line-up this year, as organised by managing director Anne Vierstraete.

After a nomadic life over the past five decades (having moved from locations such as a 1930s Grand Casino by the Belgian seaside and back to Brussels again) this year’s fair will return to ‘Tour & Taxis’ – the former train station industrial site that has now stands at the core of Brussels’ cultural scene (which is set to boom further with the plans for a new Centre Pompidou in 2022).

With over 100 artists set to gather this month, there’s a lot to get your head around. So we’ve tapped the fair’s managing director, Anne Vierstraete, to filter this year’s line-up down to a top five. Here is what to look out for:

DISCOVERY

For those who want to get their eyes on the work that’s barely had time to dry, Anne Vierstaraete recommends this year’s DISCOVERY section, with all works produced between 2015 and 2018.

“This section always a craze at the fair, especially amongst Belgian collectors who are known for their risk-taking approach to collecting,” says Anne. “At the same time they demonstrate a considered, research-based approach, specifically towards artists who are up and coming or yet to be discovered.

Among the highlights of this year’s DISCOVERY section is SMAC Gallery’s presentation of Georgina Gratrix’s immersive installation of oil paintings, framed watercolours and painted ceramics. Hunter / Whitfield, London, who are famed for their exhibitions of emerging artists, will present a solo presentation of Christopher Page’s work. Page, who lives and works between London and Athens, uses paint to disrupt and reconfigure architectural spaces, creating illusions on the canvas.”

BELGIAN GALLERIES

“This year, three Belgian galleries will be showcasing exciting and thematic approaches to their booths in the PRIME section. OV Project, Brussels, renowned for creating previously unseen connections between artistic fields, will present Handy Minimalism, exhibiting works by Paul Lee, Bernd Lohaus and Richard Nonas. Sorry We’re Closed will return to Art Brussels with the same vein of curation that has been seen in their booths in previous years, presenting Touch Wood, a selection of mid-career and emerging artists from Belgium and abroad. Finally, the only joint project in the fair, Lust, Laughter and Liquor, will be presented by Sofie Van de Velde and Gallery PLUS ONE, whose shared booth at Art Brussels aims to provide a celebration of the endeavours of both galleries, and their joyful approach to creation and curation.”

PERFORMATIVE BOOTHS

This year’s SOLO section will include some engaging performative booths, such as Ron Mandos’ presentation of Ivan Grubanov’s Counterpicturing, a politically charged performance of revolt and protest. 10 Chancery Lane will focus on audience interaction, with a restaging of Frog King’s 1992 work, Frog King Calligraphy Shop, in which the artist will write names of, or messages from, Art Brussels visitors and display them in the booth, the messages dictating not just the end result of the work itself, but also the overall feelings of the fair. La Patinoire Royale – Galerie Valérie Bach’s booth – will recreate the studio of the artist Alice Anderson, presenting her renowned wire sculptures. Amongst the sculptures displayed in the booth, the artist will give in situ ritual performances, demonstrating ancient techniques of manipulating copper wire in order to create a physical form of a thought or memory.

INSTALLATIONS

“In our SOLO booths this year will be presentations of ambitious projects dedicated to the work of one artist, where some are making a statement with a running theme of site-specific installations within a handful of the booths.

For example artist Sofie Muller, with the gallery Geukens & De Vil, will be going a step further this year with a total reconstruction of the artist’s studio within the booth. By presenting her sculptures in this setting, visitors will be given an insight into her creative process from beginning to end: from  chunks of alabaster, marble and minerals to the delicate features of the finished sculptures.

The hugely popular artist Nicholas Party, known for his colour-saturated paintings, murals, sculptures, pastels, installations, prints and drawings, will be displaying an immersive installation with the gallery Xavier Hufkens in the form of an extensive mural across the booth.

In the same vein Stelios Karamanolis, with Flatland Gallery, will be painting a mural across the three walls of the booth connecting symbols, anthropological symbols and framed and unframed drawings and paintings.”

REDISCOVERY

“REDISCOVERY is a section dedicated to art from 1917 to 1987, by living or deceased artists who have been under-recognized, underestimated or forgotten. The aim is to show surprising, unknown and original practices that haven’t necessarily broken into the mainstream.

Luis Adelantado Gallery will show works by Darío Villalba, who combines photography, painting and sculpture and whose work is essential to understanding the artistic landscape of Spain in the mid-1970’s. through his work he explores the vestiges of cities, unprotected figures and stranded or homeless people, all of whom appear to recover their dignity when seen through the artists eyes.

Galerie Antoine Laurentin will display striking sculptural works of fleshy human bodies by Jacques Verduyn, who is currently the only Belgian sculptor who expresses himself in this hyper realistic vein.”

Art Brussels runs from 19th – 22nd April, see more information here.