Now in its 37th edition, Art Brussels has long established its reputation as an excellent showcase for emerging international talent. Unlike many of its counterparts, the fair offers an opportunity for smaller galleries to bring young, underrepresented artists onto the global stage, with around 40 percent of the 800 exhibited artists at this year’s fair under the age of 40.

Accordingly, the structure of the fair is increasingly geared towards supporting the work of lesser-known artists. Not only do the Discovery and Rediscovery sections work to promote galleries that actively support emerging artists or, in the case of the latter, artists whose work has been forgotten, the Invited section actively seeks out artists and galleries that don’t subscribe to conventional formats. The result is a dynamic and youthful fair constantly looking at new ways to support new talent, in which the unestablished are subject to similar levels of excitement as household names.

Below we select five young artists from this year’s fair who we hope to see more of in the coming years.

Rinus Van de Velde – Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp

Antwerp-born artist Rinus Van de Velde is probably best known for his large scale installation and charcoal drawings. At Art Brussels however, it was his miniature drawings, with their meticulously rendered detail giving a photographic quality, that caught the eye. Van de Velde draws himself as the protagonist of a fictional biography, utilising past experience, found photos and large scale sets that he builds to present himself under a variety of different guises. Almost always accompanied by a sardonic or deliberately pithy caption, the small works, not much larger than a postcard, appear like panels in a comic or stills from a silent film.

Despite staging himself as the sole figure in the majority of his drawings, Van de Velde does not consider them as self-portraits, but as character studies, alternative versions of himself. The self cannot be considered singular but inherently social, a constituent of community and the universal that allows Van de Velde to mirror himself on other artists. “By portraying myself”, says Van de Velde, “I try to understand myself as an ‘other’, as someone who is seen as an outsider and is defined by the process of depiction”.

Kayode Ojo – Martos Gallery, New York

Born to Nigerian immigrants, Kayode Ojo grew up in Tennessee and studied photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Last year was somewhat of a breakout year for him, with solo shows in Paris, Berlin, New York and Dallas. In Brussels, Ojo was exhibited under the Prime Solo section, presenting sculpture and photography that both address issues of wealth, status and consumption. His works explore the relationship between luxury and representation, how we present ourselves and how materiality ceases to be functional once it becomes an object of self-transformation.

A quick glance at his photography, it’s no surprise that Ojo originally harboured ambitions of becoming a fashion photographer. His Closed Audition series, exhibited in Brussels (below) sees the artist take centre stage as the cross-dressing model of his own photographs. Shot over the course of several weeks in his bedroom on the Lower East Side, the images show Ojo wearing the same assortment of cheap glitz that make up the surrounding sculptures.

Achraf Touloub, Baronian Xippas, Brussels

Born in Casablanca but based in Paris, Achraf Toulob’s work is instantly recognisable for the astonishingly detailed lines that at first appear like an ancient encrypted language. It is only once you stand up close to his copper drawings that the invisible emerges from a mesmeric mass of lines, and the sheer complexity of his work is revealed. At the heart of his practice lies the tension between tradition and modernity, and while he often draws upon oriental motifs, his copper ink paintings lie midway between figuration and abstraction, visual mazes of repeated sequences painstakingly traced onto paper.

For Taloub, modernity is synonymous with a degradation in the way that information is transmitted. Whether written, spoken or image-based, we have lost sight of some essential ‘humanness’ that resided in the time and care that communication once demanded. Accordingly, his labyrinthine works are manifestos on a future of communication, one that retains a sense of value and meaning and one that is ultimately experienced on a sensory level – felt rather than explained or represented.

Anicka Yi – Gladstone Gallery, New York & Brussels

With recent institutional solo shows at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Fridericianum in Kassel and Kunsthalle in Basel, New York-based Anicka Yi can hardly be considered a fledgling name. As a conceptual artist, Yi is renowned for her innovative and sensory installations that often involve a significant degree of research and engagement with smell, taste and sound. During a recent artist residency at MIT for instance, Yi investigated the powers of smell by developing new scents based on bacteria, specifically, a collectively scented bacteria created from the DNA of 100 women.

For her first exhibition at Gladstone Gallery, We Have Never Been Individual, Yi offers a view of hybridised humanity that questions where human and animal ends and where machine and plant begin. For Yi, this distinction is increasingly open-ended and up for debate, as evidenced by her aquascapes – small tanks of algae and bacteria that hint at a future in which both are harnessed for energy or human symbiosis. In the ground level space, a room filled with paper lanterns animated by the silent buzz of animatronic insects hints at a sinister future of artificial intelligence while also alluding to the presence of parasites and contamination.

Anicka Yi: We Have Never Been Individual is on at Gladstone Gallery from until June 15, 2019

Paulo Nazareth – Mendes Wood DM, São Paulo, Brussels, New York

Though based in Minas Gerais in his native Brazil, Paulo Nazareth is rarely in one place for long. As an artist he is renowned for his Herculean walks, during which he takes photographs, collects found objects and keeps extensive handwritten notebooks. Arguably the most well documented of these is his 2011 journey from Belo Horizonte to New York, completed in the same pair of flip-flops which Nazareth washed in the Hudson before setting out for the return leg.

In Brussels, Nazareth presents a series of photographs and found-object sculptures at Mendes Wood Gallery. Entitled [A] LA FLEUR DE LA PEAU, the exhibition is an ethnographic record of his travels. Upstairs, Nazareth presents his series, Santos de Minha Mãe [My Mother’s Saints] made-up of food products inside resin blocks featuring the names of saints that safeguard requests for family protection and amulets to protect the body against danger. Elsewhere, black and white photographs printed on cotton paper allude to colonisation and trans-Atlantic slave routes. The images themselves are collected from the web, anonymous faces to which Nazareth applies white circles made of efun (a type of chalk used in Afro-Brazilian rituals). Amongst fading collective memory, the circles refer to the re-establishment of balance by reclaiming a new voice for these hegemonized narratives.

[A] LA FLEUR DE LA PEAU is on at Mendes Wood Gallery until 1 June 2019