Art Brussels

Another edition of Art Brussels (the fortieth) took place from April 20 to 23, returning to the imposing central building built for the 1935 International Exhibition.

This edition also had a significant number of galleries from Portugal, eight in total.

The buzz was intense, as happens at any major art fair. Brussels has in recent years become increasingly important on the European art scene, both because of the flow of European artists, curators and galleries and because of a growing connection to the American continent.

In the central area of the fair (PRIME) there was evidence of the quality of Belgian galleries, such as Dépendance, C L E A R I N G, or Mendes Wood. But, as usual, there was also much to like in the DISCOVERY section, a chance to discover more recent galleries. Among them were the Portuguese Foco and Bruno Múrias, with the work of Hugo Cantegrel, and Bruno Cidra and Luana Vitra, respectively. In this section, the highlight was Sharon Van Overmeiren at Damien & The Love Guru (Brussels, Zurich), with a set of ceramic sculptures that remind us of TV cartoon animation, with evident references to totems and ritualistic practices. The result is an unusual but humorous exercise in narrative interpretation.

The new themed feature this year was the REDISCOVERY section, with twelve international galleries focusing on older or deceased artists, such as William Anastasi at Thomas Rehbein Galerie (Cologne) or even Tapta at Maurice Verbaet (Knokke), in anticipation of the opening of her Espaces Couples exhibition in May at Wiels.

Finally, the SOLO section was spread throughout the fair, with a significant number of presentations (39). Galeria Presença was one of them, with an impressive showing by Noé Sendas, and the Jahn und Jahn gallery with David Nuur, a performance in which the artist invited the public to take part in a private, one-on-one conversation.

Anyone who has been to Brussels during the fair period knows that a lot of the excitement happens beyond it. It is prime time and most of the city’s galleries prepare blockbuster exhibitions to take advantage of the intense stream of visitors, professionals, and collectors. It’s always impressive to witness the power of a city that physically is about the size of Lisbon, but which has a unique international offering that is almost impossible to replicate elsewhere. We visited project spaces such as Briefing Room, Alma Sarif and Etablissement d’en fac, and exhibitions in galleries like Dépendance with Ed Atkins, icon of 21st century art, Xavier Hufkens with Milton Avery, Roni Horn and Danh Vo, in their three (!) locations. Or the fantastic two-part simultaneous exhibition, MICRO and MACRO, by the duo Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, at the galleries Kin Brussels and Gladstone. At Wiels, among other performances, the finissage of Danai Anesiadou’s solo exhibition took place on the fair’s last day (23.04), during which the museum’s staff dismantled the exhibition in front of the public, to the point where they also carried off the artist inside a box, leaving only the red carpet and a DJ, ready for the party to (re)start.

Brussels is no longer just a new artistic hotspot – that was already confirmed some years ago – and only cities on a much larger scale can compete with the offering and sheer density of artistic projects per square metre. That energy is palpable in the exhibitions, the artists, and parties that take place all year long.


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