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Art Brussels 2022: Wrap up

Expectations were high. After a two-year hiatus, Art Brussels returned in the first post-pandemic year to celebrate its 38th edition. From April 28 to May 1, inside the iconic Tour & Taxis building in the centre of Brussels, more than a hundred and a half galleries showed their work developed and elaborated under stormy circumstances.

Founded in 1968, Art Brussels is one of the most recognised contemporary art fairs in Europe. Due to COVID-19, Art Brussels had to be adapted to different formats, focusing more on online platforms and smaller events.

Divided into four main sections, Discovery, Prime, Rediscovery, Invited and the Solo sub-section, the 156 galleries taking part in this fair once again had the opportunity to present collectors and the public with high-quality projects.

General Director Anne Vierstraete explained, “This includes our largest ever selection of SOLO presentations from galleries represented in the PRIME section; the 34 presentations on view will allow the Art Brussels’ visitors to gain a substantive in-depth understanding of those artists. The curatorial focus has been a constant feature of what defines Art Brussels: in the DISCOVERY section, galleries will curate a ‘conversation’ between two artists or present a one-person show. At INVITED, Art Brussels will welcome five galleries who are rethinking the gallery model.

Solo Shows, in the Prime section, were a major focus this year. Gallery Baronian (Brussels), winner of the Solo award with the works of Senegalese artist Seyni Awa Camara, presented sculptures made in ceramics, where female forms of pregnant women and maternal figures surrounded by children predominate – motherhood and sexuality represented as a whole. Seyni Awa Camara also makes sacrifices to the spirits, asking them to reveal to her, in dreams, the forms she is to represent in the sculptures. The Semiose gallery (Paris) was repped by artist Anthony Cudahy, who exhibited portrait paintings with references to European masterpieces, archives of queer culture, gay iconography, personal and family memories. His figures unite with vast areas of colour, motivated only by pleasure in the art of painting. Galerie Les Filles du Calvaire (Paris) with Kenny Dunkan’s installation Inner Surface, revealed, between vulnerability and intensity, the presence of life in the smallest details, inviting our thoughts to break away. Templon gallery (Paris) displayed a solo show by Abdelkader Benchamma, known for his use of black ink, site-specific, often ephemeral drawings. These interact and transform exhibition spaces into vast, strange physical and mental landscapes, with subtle but chaotic energies.

The Portuguese presence was visible. The Discovery section, known for presenting emerging artists with projects created between 2017 and 2020, had two Portuguese galleries: Lehman+Silva (Porto) with the artist Dayana Lucas and Kubikgallery (Porto) with Flávia Vieira and Manoela Medeiros.

In the Prime section, Galeria Vera Cortês (Lisbon) with the artists Daniel Gustav Cramer, José Pedro Croft, Joana Escoval, João Queiroz, André Romão; and Galeria Filomena Soares (Lisbon) with Helena Almeida, Pedro Barateiro, Herbert Brandl, Rui Chafes, Fernanda Fragateiro, Dan Graham, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Edgar Martins, João Penalva, Ricardo Valentim and Peter Zimmermann.

Art Brussels presented new initiatives, including a partnership with Parallel.art, creating an NFT ‘point of contact’. VOID’s wandering performance with LMNO walked around the fair at various times.

In parallel events, the Brussels Night Gallery allowed visitors to check out 11 contemporary art galleries in several parts of Brussels. Among them, Sorry We’re Closed with paintings by Nikki Maloof, Mendes Wood Gallery with Heidi Bucher, Greta Meer with Jean-Luc Moulène and paintings by Anne Neukamp, and also Gladstone Gallery with works by Alex Katz.

The Wiels – Centre for Contemporary Art presented the exhibition Husbandry by artist Kasper Bosmans, with him and curator Zoë Gray in attendance. Kasper Bosmans is a storyteller, fascinated by tales that are perpetuated over time, where he unravels their threads and playfully weaves them into new stories. Always based on specific examples, using everyday objects with references to queer culture, Kasper Bosmans uses local and vernacular traditions to address global issues. In an increasingly polarised age, he mixes references from various eras and cultures to reveal their similarities, highlighting commonalities.

Finally, in the C L E A R I N G gallery, will be Neïl Beloufa’s immersive and interactive exhibition Pandemic Pandemonium until May 15. As we wander through the exhibition, we see three avatars – Blue bot, red bot and yellow bot – competing for the most important thing these days: our attention. Like a matryoshka, this exhibition has layers and shows how a new way of storytelling and creating a new world is being born.

Art Brussels has once again proved its authenticity as a contemporary art fair. At the same time, it emphasised its role as an epicentre for the development of the art scene and intellectual thought, with a strong presence of artists, curators, galleries, museums and collectors mirrored throughout the city – a vibrant, self-sufficient ecosystem full of interesting projects in the heart of Europe.

Sofia Pascoal (Lisbon, 1996) has a degree in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Universidade de Lisboa, and did Erasmus in the area of Conservation and Restoration at Universitat Politècnica de València. She also has a Jewelry course by the Lisbon Jewelry Center. In 2021 she finished the postgraduate course in Art Curatorship at NOVA/FCSH, where she was part of the collective of curators responsible for the exhibition "Na margem da paisagem vem o mundo". In 2022 she started working with Umbigo magazine.

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