“B” Here Now

Julian Elias Bronner at the 34th edition of Art Brussels

Left: Dealers Olivia Barrett and Nelson Harmon of Chateau Shatto. Right: Dealers Claudia Cargne and Frédéric Bugada of Bugada & Cargnel.

WHETHER BRUSSELS IS THE “NEW BERLIN,” your “B-sides” (à la artist Megan Marrin), or a “hellhole” (à la Trump), it’s certainly a destination, especially in the spring, when the de facto capital of Europe draws thousands to its annual Brussels Art Week. Just ask newcomer (but not outsider) Elizabeth Dee, who enthusiastically jumped the gun this year by inaugurating Independent on Wednesday, twenty-four hours before the preview of its more established competitor, Art Brussels. Held in the modernist Vanderborght building––beautifully renovated by Bart Biermans of HUB architecture––in the heart of downtown Brussels, the first Belgian edition of New York’s international club of cool galleries and their artists wowed visitors with its attention to detail and its unorthodox open plan.

Following artist Sarah Ortmeyer’s suggestion, I went straight to the top––where else?––and made my way down Guggenheim NY style. Like in that Frank Lloyd Wright–designed edifice, sight lines bled from one into the other in well-curated conversations among booths, bodies, and works and across the central five-story atrium. Among those that held most in my mind were Melike Kara’s oil-stick and acrylic Plexiglas paintings suspended in space at Peres Projects; Joël Andrianomearisoa’s deconstructed tapestries made in Creuse, France, at MAGNIN-A; Lukas Trevisani’s diptych addressing fantasy and extinction––bought by supercollector Gil Bronner––at Mehdi Chouakri; publisher Triangle Books’ editions of Jacques André books in “unemployment-stamp blue” exhibited with price tags and receipts; and Doug Ashford’s scanned and Photoshopped September 11, 2001 issue of the New York Times, using abstraction as a tool for consolation and solace with tragedy and instability at Wilfried Lentz. In short, Independent could hardly be considered a satellite fair (or a colonial invader); rather, it was a gathering of like minds that run according to their own stellar orbit.

Left: Collectors Cédric Piétrus and Tobias Arndt. Right: Curator and art historian Jana Häckel, curator Manon Braat, husband of Manon Braat, and curator Tim Joye.

Nevertheless, I love a good comeback story, and in her final year as Art Brussels’s artistic director, Katerina Gregos delivered. Having left her post to devote more time to independent projects, the curator (who just last year managed both Venice’s Belgian pavilion and the Thessaloniki Biennial) is leaving an improved fair in her wake. Moved out of its old location near the faraway Atomium to a more easily accessible home at Tour & Taxis, the thirty-fourth edition of the fair surprised many who thought the previous day had already determined the winner of the supposed territorial catfight. “There seems to be room enough for everyone in Brussels,” remarked 11R Gallery’s Augusto Arbizo at the VIP opening, where visitors were greeted first with the “Discovery” section of young and newly participating galleries. Having shed more than fifty booths from last year’s edition, Art Brussels looked tighter in content and quality than the two previous years. And trust me, it’s a cute look.

“It makes the galleries nervous when someone walks into a booth with black fingernails,” said newly manicured artist Kendall Geers, on this year’s jury for best stand. Winner BWA Warszawa was certainly striking, with Karol Radziszewski’s paintings which proffer the Aryan ubermensch as a homoerotic object for the viewer’s gaze, while Ewa Axelrad’s partially figurative sculptures explored the limitations between protection and aggression of the body. Sexy. Krištof Kintera’s sixteen-foot-tall sculpture of Saint Christopher made with 350 lamps at D+T Project was not to be missed, as well as Levi van Veluw’s illusory, optical installation of tumbling spheres at Ron Mandos. There was also Shaun Gladwell’s homage to Minimalism and skateboarding at Analix Forever, complete with a recurring performance around the perimeter of a square à la Bruce Nauman, and Philipp Birch’s sculptures of Cronenberg body horror meets Ed Atkins–esque hyperreality. But the highlight was the elegant selection of gems from the collection of recently late curator and SMAK founder Jan Hoet. Curated by Gregos, “Cabinet d’amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet” featured works made mostly through the enthusiast’s close relationships with artists. It was an elegant meditation on a life that’s contributed so much to what Belgium’s contemporary art scene is today.

Left: Collectors Mariam and Jan-Holger Arndt with Esther Schulte and Sacha Sayrally. Right: Curator Natalie Kovacs.

At a local costume party celebrating one month since the attacks in Brussels––tragicomedy is a Belgian specialty––I lost both my credit card and my voice. But when drinks are free and talk is cheap, who cares? A dinner for Marina Pinksy and her surveillance-conscious photography at C L E A R I N G was made the more mirthful by an impromptu, slapstick performance by dealer Charles Antoine Bodson. A pizza party for Mark Dion’s new phosphorescent sculptures at Walburger Wouters was the prelude to party at collector Tobias Arndt’s, and a traditional dinner of Belgian fare at the classic Taverne du Passage applauded Sahra Motalebi’s haunting performance at Foundation Boghossian at the Villa Empain. Brunch at Almine Rech gallery to view Jean-Baptiste Bernadet’s new series of beautifully installed paintings transported me to the light and atmosphere of Monet’s panoramas at L’Orangerie. And a dîner à l’aise downstairs at chez Gladstone and in its adjacent garden for Ugo Rondinone and his forty-seven plaster fish in bronze brought some real feelings to the table: “In New York there’d be more artists at this dinner. Here it’s mostly rich, older white men,” lamented Taylor Trabulus of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise. Gurl, I feel your pain.

Those in the know found respite at 10 Galerie de la Reine, where local artist-run space Établissement d’En Face set up shop as a secret restaurant and dance party for the week in the apartment of artist Alex Morrison (who took it over from Lucy McKenzie). Rachida Ait-Ali acted as doorwoman and a force to be reckoned with, while artist Filip Gilissen mixed drinks and DJ’d old-school Prince (RIP) and hip-hop so good a cameo from the police couldn’t shut us down. Frequent faces included local artists Pieter Vermeersch, Zin Taylor, and Sean Crossley, as well as Gavin Brown’s table-dancing Thor Shannon––art dealer by day, art cheerleader by night (not my words). By Saturday, the secret had got out, and I overheard one young, fashionable curator from New York whine, “We don’t know anybody here. Let’s go.” While the tourists trickled out, the insiders, including the inimitable Gregos herself, stuck around and danced till sunrise. And wouldn’t you have too, if only you were that cool?

Left: Critic Kolja Reichert, graphic designer Sarah Bertounesque with artists Jakup Auce and Renzo Martens. Right: Artists Filip van Dingenen and Maarten Vanden Eynde with The Approach’s Nora Heidorn and Rectangle’s Cédric Alby.

Left: Curator Grégory Lang, curator at upcoming Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon Ines Grosso, and MAAT’s chief curator and director, Pedro Gadanho. Right: Artist Émilie Pitoiset and curator Julie Boukobza.

Left: David Zwirner London associate director James Greene and collector Susanne van Hagen. Right: Curator Grégory Lang with curator at upcoming Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon Ines Grosso and MAAT’s chief curator and director, Pedro Gadanho.

Left: Dealer Barbara Seiler and Delfina Foundation director Aaron Cezar. Right: Writer and curator Arielle Bier and artist Klara Hobza.

Left: Dealer Diederik van der Mieden. Right: Dealer Esperanza Rosales of VI, VII Gallery.

Left: Dealer Jan Kaps and artist Melike Kara. Right: Randian publisher Chris Moore with curator and Art Brussels artistic director Katerina Gregos.

Left: Dealer Justyna Kowalska BWA Warszawa’s, Artissima’s international exhibitions manager Giuditta Zaniboni, and dealer Michal Suchora of BWA Warszawa. Right: Nicole, Osanne, and Olivier Gevart of Été 78.

Left: Dealer Markus Lüttgen and collector Filiep Libeert. Right: Artist Rossella Biscotti, Protocinema’s Mari Spirito, and artist Christophe Westermeier.

Left: Dealer Martin van Zomeren (right). Right: Artists Jérémie Boyard and Émilion Baudelot.

Left: Dealers Christophe Gaillard and Guillaume Lointier. Right: Dealers Nicoles Delmes and Susanne Zander of Delmes & Zander.

Left: Dealers Michael Benevento and Becky Koblick of Michael Benevento Gallery. Right: Curator Juliette Premmereur and Room East’s Steve Pulimood.

Left: Collector Galila Barzilai-Hollander and dealer Isabella Bortolozzi. Right: Artists Marina Pinsky and Tomas Köster.

Left: Dealers Philippe Jousse and Vigourous of Jousse Enterprise with artists Benoît Broisat and Gilles Balmet. Right: KOW’s Nikolaus and Raphael Oberhuber.

Left: Dealers Rodney Hill of Marc Foxx, Rodrigo Feliz of Galería Labor, and Paul Soto of Park View. Right: Artists Christophe Westermeier and Sarah Ortmeyer.

Left: Le 105’s Besme’s Tania Nasielski and artist Simon Asencio. Right: Sorry We’re Closed’s Sébastien Janssen, Island’s Anne-Catherine Lacroix, artist Émilie Pischedda, and dealer Charles-Antoine Bodson.

Left: Nature Morte Gallery director Peter Nagy and Independent New York associate director Alix Dana. Right: Dealers Susanne Zander of Delmes & Zander and Aurel Scheibler.

Left: Network manager of Klara Radio Chantal Pattyn, SONUMA audio-visual archive CEO Jean-Louis Rollé, Wiels’s Michelle Rollé, and dealer Jeanroch Dard, Right: Dealer Berthed Pott and artist Max Pintropp.

Left: Office Baroque’s Louis-Philippe van Eeckhoutte with artists Sadie Laska, Tyson Reeder, and Roland Quetsch. Right: Taylor Trabulus of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Pact Gallery’s Pierre-Arnaud Doucède.

Left: Office Baroque’s Sarah Suco Torres, Wim Peeters, Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte, and Marie Denkens. Right: Kunst-Werke Institute curator Maurin Dietrich, Spike Magazine editor Timo Feldhaus, and dealer Daniel Wichelhaus of Société.

Left: Tajan chairwoman Rodica Seward and dealer Rodolphe Janssen. Right: Dealers Vanessa Carlos of Carlos Ishikawa and Emma Astner of Koppe Aster.

Left: White Cube’s Victoria Hawkins and artist Benoît Platéus. Right: Triangle Books publisher Olivier Vandervliet, artist Aline Bouvy, and Mathias Wille.

Left: Amaury and Myriam de Solages of Maison Particulière with Point de vue journalist Éric Jansen. Right: Almine Rech Gallery’s Antoinette Jattiot, Galeries Cinéma director Édouard Meier, and cultural attaché of the German embassy in Talinn, Estonia Aili Rehbein.

Left: Artist Harold Ancart, attorney Olivia Battard, and C L E A R I N G’s Marwann Frikach. Right: Artist Simon Fujiwara and curator Julie Boukobza with dealer Sandy Brown and artist Alex Turgeon.

Left: Independent artistic director and director of White Columns Matthew Higgs with dealer Maureen Paley. Right: C L E A R I N G’s Olivier Babin and artist Daniel Dewar.

Left: Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick with artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood. Right: Curators Marc-Olivier Wahler and Andrea Bellini.

Left: Dealers Thor Shannon of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Francesca Kaufmann of Kauffmann Repetto. Right: Frances Fuchs-Young, artist Ann Grimm, and dealer Chantal Crousel.

Left: Curators Raimundas Malašauskas and Nicola Lees. Right: 11R Gallery’s Augusto Arbizo with dealers Adrianna Farietti and Johannes Vogt.

Left: Dealer Aurel Scheibler, artist Wolfgang Betke, and Aurel Scheiber’s Oksana Shestaka. Right: Dealer Christian Andersen.

Left: Advisor Grégory Lang, dealers Avi and Valerie Palacios Keitelman, and collector Bob Crémant. Right: Codirector of Independent Brussels Olivier Pesret and associate director of Independent New York Alix Dana.

Left: Analix Forever’s Barbara Polla, Zeno Gladwell, and artist Shaun Gladwell. Right: Artist Judith Eisler with dealers Sarah Gavlak and Lauren Wood.

Left: Architect Bernard Dubois and Gianni Serretti. Right: Dealer Ciléene Andréhn of Andréhn-Schiptjenko Gallery.

Left: Art Cologne director Daniel Hug and dealer Aurel Scheibler. Right: Curator Juliette Premmereur and artist Julien Monnerie.

Left: Art handler Frédéric Schmiliver with artists Pierre-Pol Lecouturier, Benjamin Hugard, and Sean Crossley. Right: Artist Ugo Rondinone and dépendance’s Michael Callies.

Left: Artist Benjamin Husson, curator Maëla Bescond, and artist Romain Poussin of Apes & Castles. Right: President of the Friends of Palais de Tokyo, Bernard Chenebault.

Left: Dealers Michaił Suchora and Justyna Kowalska of BWA Warszawa gallery, winner of the Discover Prize, supported by Filliers. Right: Artist Ewa Axelrad.

Left: Artist Elena Bajo. Right:  artist Luca Trevisani with dealers Alexandra Alexopoulou and Mehdi Chouakri.

Left: Art Brussels artistic director Katerina Gregos. Right: Dealer and Independent cofounder Elizabeth Dee (middle) with artist collective Leo Gabin (from left to right: Lieven Deconinck, Gaëtan Begerem, and Robin De Vooght). (All photos: Julian Elias Bronner)

Left: Artist Jean-Baptiste Bernadet and Almine Rech senior director Lisa Boulet. Right: Artist Kees Visser and curator Therese Legierse.

Left: Artist Juan Antonio Olivares and curator Emma Astner. Right: Artists Friedemann Heckel and Lukas Müller.

Left: Artist Levi van Veluw and dealer Ron Mandos. Right: Curator Václav Janoščík and cultural attaché for the Czech Republic in Belgium, Kristina Prunerova.

Left: Artist Pieter Vermeersch, journalist Steverlynck, and dealer Tim Wouters of Walburger Wouters. Right: Artists Patrick Carpentier and Dana Munro.

Left: Artist Steinar Haga Kristensen and La Loge director Anne-Claire Schmitz. Right: Curator Sara Alonso Gómez, advisor Vincent Matthu, collector Jean-Philippe Verne, and advisor Bjorn Stern.

Left: Artists Anna Zacharoff and George Rippon. Right: Artist Kendell Geers.

Left: Artists Lionel Estève, Sophie Whettnall, and Carol Louis. Right: Wiels assistant curator Caroline Dumalin with artists Michel François and Apolonia Sokol.

Left: Artists Sarah Cale, Christophe Westermeier, and Alex Morrison. Right: Curator Nicola Lees, artist Sopha Al-Maria, Fondation Boghossian artistic director Asad Raza, and artist Sahra Motalebi.

Left: Author and curator Alberto García del Castillo with artists Claire Noonan and Stefano Faro. Right: Artists Mikael Brkic, Lukas Müller, Marina Pinsky, Becket Flannery, and Thomas Koster.

Left: Collector Nathalie Guiot and artist Erin Lawlor. Right: Collector Michel Dutilleul-Francoeur, artist Wim Delvoye, and collector Philippe Dutilleul-Francoeur.

Left: C L E A R I N G’s Olivier Babin with artists Harold Ancart and Jean-Marie Appriou. Right: Artsy editor Molly Gottschalk.

Left: Collector Charles Riva and Marlborough Contemporary assistant director Maria-Theresa Pongracz. Right: Curator Sébastien Ricou.