Now in its 39th year, Art Brussels continues to be renowned for its spirit of discovery and convivial atmosphere, further amplified by its strategic location in a host city known for its rich tradition of collecting. One of Europe’s oldest and most established fairs, the 2023 edition brought together 152 galleries from 32 countries, and the move to Brussels Expo brought a refresh to the overall experience for the many devotees. Focussed SOLO presentations helped to drive robust sales across the fair and local and international collectors, along with numerous institutions and high-profile personalities including Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister, added to a palpable sense of renewed energy.
26,129 art lovers were in attendance and the fair welcomed more than 45 national and international museum and collector groups including those from; Adiaf, Paris; Les Amis du Musée d’art Moderne de Paris, Les Amis du Palais de Tokyo, Paris; KW Institute, Berlin; MACBA, Barcelona; MAMCO Genève, Geneva; MAXXI, Rome; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle; Reina Sophia, Madrid, SMAK, Ghent; The Cultivist; Camden Arts Centre, London; Spirit Now, London; Wiels, Brussels and the Stedelijk, Amsterdam.
Collector Wilfried Cooreman said, ‘Contemporary art is powerful in its ability to capture the ‘now’, and as an art lover, you do not want to miss Art Brussels. Founded in 1968, the fair has undergone this year a metamorphosis by moving to Halls 5 and 6 of the Heysel in Brussels. Once again, national and international galleries presented a quality selection of artworks. Young and emerging galleries were also given the attention they deserved.’
Galleries presented expertly curated booths and a unique mix of established artists and emerging talent across the PRIME (for mid-career and established artists), DISCOVERY (emerging artists), REDISCOVERY (unduly underrepresented or overlooked artists from the 20th century) and SOLO (solo artist presentations) sections.
Nele Verhaeren, Director of Art Brussels, said:
‘Art Brussels has undergone an exciting refresh with its move to Brussels Expo. The venue’s impressive architecture, with soaring 30-meter-high ceilings and spacious aisles, garnered enthusiastic feedback from galleries, collectors and art lovers alike. The high turnout of engaged buyers and laid-back atmosphere – with sales taking place over the four days of the fair – enabled the meaningful conversations and interactions the Art Brussels is renowned for. The knowledge and curiosity of our loyal Belgian and numerous international collectors further elevated the fair’s appeal for galleries, solidifying the fair’s reputation as a must-visit destination.’
With the generous support of its main partners for 2023, Delen Private Bank and Bank Van Breda, Art Brussels has cemented its pivotal role as a vital platform for international contemporary art, firmly positioned at the heart of the city’s flourishing art scene.
SOLO and DISCOVERY Prizes
The SOLO Prize jury this year included: Harald Krejci, Managing Director Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Brenda Guesnet, Deputy Director IKOB – Museum of Contemporary Art, Eupen; and Béatrice Salmon, Director CNAP National Fine Arts Centre, Paris. They awarded the €10,000 prize to Marcos Avila Forero (b. 1983), who is represented by LMNO Gallery (Brussels) for his engagement with, ‘… the social and political context in Columbia, specifically the rural community and their struggle for their land and rights. His social engagement is translated very precisely into various artistic techniques (photography, drawings, video) going beyond the documentary dimension. The gallery presented his work in an unpretentious, open display which allows visitors to partake in the artist’s concerns.’ The SOLO prize is supported by Hiscox.
The DISCOVERY Prize jury this year included: Isabelle Bertolotti, Director of the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art and Artistic Director of the Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art; Magali Elali, Curator and Founder of Constant Now (Antwerp), Arts programmer at S.M.A.K. (Ghent) and independent curator for Museum Hof van Buysleyden (Mechelen); and Fatima Hellberg, Curator and Director of Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn. The prize was awarded to Capsule Shanghai for their presentation of works by Curtis Talwst Santiago (b. 1979). The jury were impressed by the carefully considered conceptual and spatial development of an exhibition within the format of a fair. They said, ‘Drawing on themes around the carnival, Curtis Talwst Santiago opens up a rich series of reflections around collectivity, transcendence, joy, cultural exchange and the inversion of structures of high and low. These strands are formulated across sculpture, painting and installation within a language of striking visual immediacy and energy’. The DISCOVERY prize is supported by Moleskine.
There were a number of sold-out SOLO presentations which included The Hole (Los Angeles, New York), whose presentation of striking optical phenomenological art by Australian artist Jonny Niesche sold out early on (priced at €20, 000 – €32,000), with works predominantly going to Belgian collectors. Also, Xavier Hufkens (Brussels), whose presentation by Nathanaëlle Herbelin (priced at €10,000 – €40,000) sold out. Hufkens said, ‘Art Brussels is more than just an art fair. It provides an immersive experience within a lively community of artists, curators, collectors and art enthusiasts. For us, it was a great opportunity to introduce Nathanaëlle Herbelin’s work to a receptive and curious audience. The success of her solo presentation, which sold out within the first day of the fair, affirmed the public’s excitement for new discoveries, and demonstrated the fair’s potential to help artists reach new audiences.’
Harlan Levey Projects (Brussels), said of the fair that visitors are, ‘… thoughtful and studious …’. During the VIP preview they sold ten paintings by Willehad Eilers from their SOLO presentation (priced between €15,000 – €30,000). Other sold out booths included Machteld Rullens, Sorry We’re Closed (Brussels), Thu Van Tran, Meessen De Clercq (Brussels) and Regine Schumann at Dep Art (Milan, Ceglie Messapica).
In PRIME, Nino Mier Gallery (Los Angeles, Brussels, New York, Marfa) speaking on the second day of the fair said, ‘Our first few days at Art Brussels have been excellent with a highly engaged stream of collectors. We’ve so far sold ten works (ranging from €5,000 to €70,000) including some major acquisitions.’ Andersen’s Contemporary (Copenhagen) sold several works by Tomas Saraceno, Zeno X (Antwerp) were delighted with the calibre and number of collectors, including many new to the gallery, PACT (Paris) sold work by Lise Stoufflet, Peter Schuyff and Olivier Mosset, and a group presentation of works by Daniel Arsham, Atelier van Lieshout, Brigitte Kowanz, Troika and Levi van Veluwe at Ron Mandos Gallery (Amsterdam) also sold well.
Ani Molnár Gallery (Budapest) said of their participation, ‘Art Brussels is an important fair for us; we’ve been participating since 2014 and have since built a very strong circle of returning collectors. Our booth this year has been very positively received and we’ve made sales of a number of works by artists including Sándor Körei, Carlos Aires and Radenko Milak -whose small- and medium-sized black-and-white watercolour paintings have sold for between €2,000 and €10,000.’
Almine Rech (Brussels, Paris, London, New York, Shanghai), Gladstone (New York, Brussels), Ceysson Bénétière (Paris, Luxembourg, St-Etienne, New York, Lyon, New York, Geneva, Panéry), Greta Meert (Brussels) and Mendes Wood DM (Brussels, Brazil, LA, Seoul, Rome, New York), Nathalie Obadia (Brussels, Paris), Repetto (London, Lugano) and Dep Art (Milan) all reported key sales of their leading artists.
In DISCOVERY sold out presentations included Louka Anagyros at Septième Gallery (Paris), Galeria Foco’s (Lisbon) Hugo Cantegrel works and Parliament (Paris) whose joint show of Flaviu Cacoveanu and Guillaume Valenti also sold out. Collectors were highly appreciative of the REDISCOVERY section and sales included Bob Bonies with Gallery Ramakers (The Hague), Chryssa and Sibylle Ruppert represented by Blue Velvet Projects (Zürich) and Lucia Di Luciano with 10 AM Art (Milan).
A new charity initiative for 2023, The KickCancer Collection raised €107,600 via the sale of postcard-sized artworks at the fair. A unique opportunity to own original artworks by some of today’s leading artists, all works were sold at a flat rate of €400 to benefit the Belgian KickCancer Foundation, which finances research on children’s cancer and empowers patients and their families. All postcards were displayed anonymously (they were signed on the reverse) with the name of the artist only revealed after the purchase of the artwork. ‘It’s great to see how an original artwork the size of a postcard can have such an impact. Art enthusiasts at the fair exemplified the spirit of ‘small art with a big heart’. – Delphine Heenen, KickCancer Founder