'Brussels: An eclectic Platform for Contemporary Art ' by Colette Dubois
in HART, Art Brussels edition, April 2008
Brussels: an eclectic platform for
In spite of the fact that Brussels
does not yet have a contemporary art museum and no public collection either
therefore, the city does have a rich and dynamic platform on which to present
contemporary art. Two institutions play an important role in this. Bozar
(the Palais des Beaux-Arts) specialises in large retrospectives or theme
exhibitions linked to European current events that create food for thought
even if they are not particularly consecrated to contemporary art. The
institution also opens up its doors to works by artists and architects
and every two years organises the Prize for Young Belgian Painting. The
new arts centre, Wiels, housed in an old modernist brewery will be opening
up the whole of the premises this year for a big Mike Kelly show. Wiels
has positioned itself as an international laboratory for creation and promotion
of contemporary art focusing on cross-fertilisation within the arts. In
addition to big exhibitions and fringe activities that come with them,
the centre has put together an international programme for artists in residence.
Located in a district that is in undergoing total restructuring, it has
as neighbour the Marijke Schreurs Gallery, a private house which is regularly
transformed, from the kitchen and the bathroom to the sitting room or office,
into an exhibition space for young artists.
In Brussels, the energy behind the
contemporary art scene is generated by galleries, sometimes foreign galleries
as well as by collectives and associations. While a large number of galleries,
particularly the new ones, consider their geographic location in the European
capital as a springboard or a pied-à-terre and often work internationally,
the associations and collectives look in the main to generating and encouraging
new artistic practices. This creates a special climate, one that is very
international and which combines experimentation with the familiar, and
professionalism with amateurism. In keeping with the image of the city
to sum it up. This activity is concentrated in two main zones.
The southern zone
The first zone is very big, it stretches
from the Midi station to the Bois de la Cambre and is home to both older
galleries and very modern ones. This is also where the Almine Rech Gallery
(Paris) and the Barbara Gladstone (New York) Gallery will be opening their
doors in the next few months.
The Catherine Bastide Gallery is
located in a loft near to the Midi station where it shows art made using
techniques that are very much the latest vogue with particular focus on
North American artists. Good Friday, a very young gallery, has chosen to
defend the difficult meeting of aesthetics and politics in a work based
on conviviality. In an old garage, Komplot, which is a collective of curators,
conceives projects that encourage reflection on cross-fertilisation of
disciplines, the concepts of exhibition spaces, the relationship between
artists and the public as well as themes linked to the collective signature
or co-operative projects. The young gallery, Frédéric Desimpel
presents a small number of young multi-disciplinary artists.
Around Avenue Louise, Aeroplastics,
deliberately provokes with works that often focus on the body, sexuality,
the history of man and violence. This district is also where one can find
the oldest contemporary art galleries. The Rodolphe Janssen Gallery, a
household name in the district, has focused for years on ‘new photography’
and has opened up recently to a new generation with affirmed and original
styles. At Baronian-Francey, the accent is on the long-term accompaniment
of each artist’s career in a programme dedicated to contemporary art over
the last 30 years. The Xavier Hufkens Gallery specialises in Belgian or
foreign artists of international renown who present high-quality and well-known
works. Right next door a completely new gallery called Jozsna has just
opened, while along the Etangs d’Ixelles, we find the oldest gallery Fred
Lanzenberg, with art that surpasses fashion or the latest trends.
In the Châtelain district,
apart from the Taché-Lévy Gallery, we find two new galleries.
Elaine Lévy Project shows work by artists who create in very modern
formats mixing media and taking positions on current issues. Think 21 specialises
in modern images that the gallery likens more to contemporary art than
to the ‘digital era’.
The central zone
The second zone is more concentrated.
It came into existence at the end of the nineties and the beginning of
the second millennium. It is located right in the city centre, next to
the fashion and trendy café district.
On the banks of the canal, La Lettre
Volée publishes books on art and the problems associated with it,
but also presents works by artists that relate to these publications. On
the first floor of the same building, the Brussels/Parisian gallery les
Filles du Calvaire concentrates on three mainstays: abstract art, plastic
photography and creations around the concept of installations and video.
The CCNOA, an association housed in a magnificent white cube dedicates
itself to research, development, production and the promotion of artists’
projects in the field of abstract art, architecture and the media.
In Rue Dansaert, the Jan Mot Gallery,
shows very specific works centred on film, video and photography. The Etablissements
d’en face projects, run by a collective of people who work in the field
of modern art, give artists a place where they can develop installation
and video projects. The Dependance Gallery focuses mainly on contemporary
German art (it works together with the Neu Gallery in Berlin) and the Crown
Gallery specialises mainly in modern Belgian photography and paintings.
In the Rue des Fabriques, two galleries are housed in the same building.
On the ground floor the Erna Hecey shows pieces by artists who create works
that are an extension of conceptual art. Each exhibition is conceived as
a new project and the accent is laid on the aesthetic, intellectual coherence
of the work. On the second floor, Aliceday dedicates itself to showing
works by artists who express their a singular vision of the world through
diversity and a combination of different styles that defies categorisation.
Argos, which is dedicated particularly
to audio-visual creations (film and video) seeks to affirm its national
and international character in the heart of the city through vision and
exhibition programmes. The association participates in the critical debate
on the arts, culture, audio visual technology, knowledge and society in
general. And finally the Greta Meert Gallery, the oldest gallery in this
district, exhibits art in the tradition of minimalism and conceptual art
to which she had added works by a young generation of Italians and Belgians.
Reflecting the architecture of the
The Sint-Lukas Gallery is housed
right in the school of the same name. The gallery exhibits works by artists
of international renown as well as exhibitions of old students that have
since made their name. The Espace Photographique Contretype, housed in
an art nouveau building, produces, exhibits and promotes photography. The
Observatoire Gallery located in the Maison Grégoire d’Henry van
de Velde, opens its exceptional spaces for shows by artists and curators.
The architecture of the European
capital has often been described as being eclectic – a direct reference
to this architectural style, but also to everything that we see here –
the same adjective also applies perfectly to the Brussels platform for