Exhibitions and Fairs

10 Highlights at Art Brussels

By Antoine Neufmars and Shira Wolfe

This weekend, Brussels will be even more electrifying than usual with the opening of the 37th edition of Art Brussels. The vernissage was on Thursday 25th of April, and regular opening hours are Friday 26th – Sunday 28th of April from 11 am – 7 pm every day. Located in the heart of Brussels in the Tour & Taxis building, a former industrial site from the 19th century, this year’s Brussels Art Fair promises to guide you through an exciting selection of international contemporary art.

Art Brussels was founded in 1968, with the aim to help people discover contemporary art. Every year, more than 150 galleries from the international art scene participate, and are divided into three sections: “Discovery” – focusing on young, emerging and lesser-known artists with recent works made between 2016-2019; “Prime” – focusing on established artists from modern to contemporary; and “Rediscovery” – presenting under-recognised, under-estimated or forgotten artists from the 20th century. This year, Art Brussels also launched a new section called “INVITED”, which supports emerging galleries or art spaces that transcend the typical gallery format and have never before participated in Art Brussels.

We’ve once again teamed up with local performing and visual artist Antoine Neufmars to share with you some of the highlights at Art Brussels this year.

QC Gallery. Photo courtesy of QC Gallery and Art Brussels

1. QG Gallery – Stand C.18

QG Gallery opened in Brussels in 2017, and presents curated group exhibitions focusing on Post-War and Contemporary art. The gallery aims at highlighting important periods and ideas from the history of art by creating a dialogue with internationally renowned artists. This time, founder Quentin Grosjean goes with major German abstract painter Georg Karl Pfahler, in a booth covered with hard-edged paintings.


Harlan Levey Projects, TR Ericsson. Photo courtesy of Harlan Levey Projects and Art Brussels

2. Harlan Levey Projects – Stand C.13

Harlan Levey Projects was established in 2011 as a project space collaborating with artists, curators, galleries and governmental associations. The gallery works closely with innovative emerging and mid-career artists, and was awarded the Discovery Prize at the 2017 edition of Art Brussels. Here, the focus is on TR Ericsson’s powdered paint pigment, resin and alcoholic cocktail work, based on his mother’s old photo album. An intimate introspection distorted with unusual techniques. Another highlight of the booth is the mega triptych of LCD screens with tripods and plexiglass by Emmanuel Van der Auwera.


3. MLF | Marie-Laure Fleisch – Stand A.11

MLF’s Brussels gallery opened in 2016, following the Rome gallery that opened in 2009. The Brussels gallery focuses on installation works, sculpture, photography and video art, and displays contemporary art by Italian and international artists such as Giuseppe Stampone, with his hyperrealist vanitas piece and large-scale landscapes.


IMGARD SPECK, Belgian Pavilion at Venice Biennale preview. Photo courtesy of Art Brussels

4. Venice Biennale Belgian Pavilion – Stibbe Lounge

Catch an exclusive preview of the Belgian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale in the Stibbe Lounge. Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys present IRMGARD SPECK, an exhibition in anticipation of their commission for the Belgian Pavilion. The exhibition consists of a series of small sculptural heads made of plaster, fake hair and paint, arranged on small shelves throughout the space. The faces are 3D-printed, and range from well-known international politicians, dictators, B-movie actors, historical figures, murderers and victims to the artists’ own friends and other figures invisible to the public eye. They are presented here without any hierarchy or moral judgment, each appearing completely equal.


Merve Iseri, Ballon Rouge Collective. Photo courtesy of Ballon Rouge Collective and Art Brussels

5. INVITED

 This is the first year that Art Brussels hosts first-time participating emerging galleries and art spaces doing things just a bit differently at the INVITED section. A taste of what’s on offer:

Ballon Rouge Collective (Stand INV.8) is a nomadic gallery which has organised exhibitions in Brussels, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo, Paris and New York. The collective will present magnetic works by London-based Merve Iseri and Brussels-based Philip Janssens.

Counter Space (Stand INV.6) is an independent exhibition and project space in Zurich, seeking to present the use of temporary and process-like methods in artistic work and interested in showing glimpses and fragments of work. At INVITED, they will show the works of 5 artists with a different approach to sculpting – Antoinette d’Ansembourg, Maxime Bondu, Will Kerr, Anne Rochat, Vittorio Santoro and Sebastian Utzni.

Damien and the Love Guru (Stand INV.5) is a Brussels-based art gallery exploring experimentation in contemporary art with an anthropological twist. Damien and the Love Guru will present new and existing works by dreamlike painter Aisha Christison, cutting edge videast Margarita Maximova and unanticipated objects shaper Jasmin Werner.

Paid by the artist (Stand INV.7) is a gallery especially created for Art Brussels which was set up by Simon Delobel. Delobel creates new galleries from scratch for each new exhibition project, placing the artist as the central point and creating new gallery identities corresponding to each artist. The works of Yannick Ganseman will be presented at this INVITED exhibition, offering an elevated vision of everyday life scenes.


6. MENDES WOOD – Stand C.36

“Mendes Wood cultivates a programme premised on conceptualism, political resistance and intellectual rigour.” The gallery motto is more than fitting at Art Brussels, thanks to Brazilian artist Rubem Valentim’s hypnotic hard-edge primitive paintings. PIPA prize winner Paulo Nazareth is placed on a pedestal through his narrative photographs and drawings, inspired by his day-to-day life in South America. From TV scenes to his favourite candy bag in a resin block, the combination of materials and references offers viewers an immersive approach to his (fictional ?) diary.


Joao Gabriel, Lehmann Silva. Photo courtesy of Lehmann Silva and Art Brussels

7. LEHMAN SILVA – Stand D.18

Lehman Silva presents the 2019 edition’s darling Joao Gabriel, already selling out all his paintings a few hours before the vernissage. Gabriel delivers work which departs from vintage gay porn movies from the 1970’s – imagine the experimental and autobiographical L.A. plays itself – translated into oil on canvas. Gabriel’s paintings transcend the usual pornographic depictions in order to highlight the nostalgia, the vacuity, the in-between moments, the hedonist figures, the heaves and the waves that haunt his erotic visions. A name to remember!


Gareth Nyandro, Tiwani Contemporary. Photo courtesy of Tiwani Contemporary and Art Brussels

8. TIWANI – Stand 34

London-based Tiwani Contemporary gallery represents international emerging and established contemporary artists, focussing on Africa and its diaspora. In Brussels, Tiwani presents the works of Gareth Nyandro, using a special technique called “kucheka cheka”, inspired by the Shona verb “cheka”, which means to cut. Nyandro is known for his large-scale works on paper, often including scraps and found objects taken directly from the markets of Harare, Zimbabwe.


9. Gallery Sofie Van de Velde & PLUS-ONE Gallery – Stand B.0

For the second year in a row, Gallerie Sofie Van de Velde and PLUS-ONE Gallery present a collaborating booth. The presentation deals with the irrelevance of style trends and competition. Is it Figuration? Is it Abstraction? This discussion is embodied through the works of Belgium protégé Bendt Eyckemans and Berlin-based reductivist artist Jenny Brosinski.


Kayode Ojo, Martos Gallery. Photo courtesy of Martos Gallery and Art Brussels

10. Martos Gallery – Stand A.16

Martos Gallery features sculpture and photographs from arresting New York-based artist Kayode Ojo. Rarely presented in Europe, his photo works affirm a personal narrative, shot with his tripod and the artist himself as the unique model. Posing bodies become sculptural objects and the human body is just as tangible here as a pair of Swarovski earrings or a fake Chanel No. 5 bottle left on an IKEA chair – a parody of the fashion industry which the artist criticises. Ojo’s works are sharp, blunt, intimate and worth visiting to venture off the beaten track at Art Brussels.


Want to experience more from Art Brussels? Follow the day-by-day programme to enjoy talks and live performances.