Brussels Art Days 2013: Sixth Edition
6 - 8 September 2013
Review by Marianne Van Boxelaere
Over the course of one weekend, Brussels’ finest commercial galleries present their first shows of the season as part of the Brussels Art Days. Just like the Gallery Weekend in Berlin, the event was founded by a small group of gallerists to attract international collectors to the city. The line-up has shifted only slightly this year, with no newcomers, and with Aliceday, Elisa Platteau and Vidal Cuglietta among the notable absences. Visiting 30 galleries in one day is a recipe for art overload and a challenge as superfluous as it is impossible, especially since most exhibitions run until mid-November. But it does offer an opportunity to identify certain aspects that would go unnoticed if you took your time.
To begin with, this year’s edition is not really ‘gender balanced’. I counted nine solo shows of female artists, some of them icons, others rising stars. Gallery Jan Mot in the Dansaertstraat shows, for example, a film by Dutch artist Manon de Boer (°1966). ‘One, two, many’ is a wonderful sequence of a flute piece, a spoken monologue and a polyphonous performance that explores the existential space of the voice from different audiovisual perspectives. Catherine Bastide makes a similar choice of a single, robust oeuvre; Manuel Burgerner (°1978) experiments with disequilibrium in sculptures made out of glass, glue, bolts, chains and cobbles. Most galleries, however, have opted to exhibit numerous artworks, with particularly strained group shows at Almine Rech, Gladstone and Albert Baronian.
Startling is the number of galleries presenting art produced in 2012 and 2013. Gallery Hopstreet shows the work of Davide Bertocchi (°1969) and Shila Khatami (°1976) in ‘‘00ooOO’ - holes, dots, balls’. Both artists have a common fascination with music, vinyl records and circular shapes, resulting in a playful composition of geometric sculptures and perforated pegboards. Patterns of dots create an almost baroque play of light on the walls, breaking the background to create new images.
Fresh work is also on view at Xavier Hufkens, who show the latest creations of Tim Rollins (°1955) & K.O.S (Kids of Survival) whose unique artistic signature uses cut-out book pages placed on a grid. The artists focused on 18th- and 19th-century Europe, taking the notion of time travel as their starting point.
Around the corner of Rue Saint Georges, Meessen De Clercq exhibits Jorge Méndez Blake (°1974) on the ground floor and Leon Vranken (°1975) in their so-called ‘Wunderkammer’. By placing a wooden handrail along the exhibition walls, the artist plays with distorted perspective and the concept of multiplication. Objects, materials and photographic reproductions are balanced, repeated and adjusted in the space as a metaphor for our complex perception of reality. With Vranken’s work perfectly tuned to the ‘Wunderkammer’ space, this is definitely one of the weekend’s most powerful exhibitions.
The most ‘enjoyable’ show is at CLEARING, who are exhibiting New York-based artist Aaron Aujla (°1986). The artist explores values that he deems fundamental to effective interior design. His lone, purified kitchen sink, doormat and parquet pieces all take on a peculiar character in the gallery when abstracted from their conventional domestic context. The gallery was turned into a hotel, and the works integrated into the design. In the handouts distributed at the entrance, there is nothing to be read except for an advertisement for the room, ‘which boasts 13-foot ceilings and offers a gorgeous en suite terrace which you can enjoy at your leisure. It is a perfect base for visiting the wonderful city of Brussels!’
The Brussels Art Days are becoming an important international showcase of that which our most profitable galleries have to offer, and definitely a highlight on the city’s art event calendar. Although profitability is not a guarantee for quality, this once-a-year snapshot leaves us in anticipation for things still to come.