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Special Edition: Art Brussels
by ArtSlant Team


By Andrea Alessi

Planning a trip to art fairs – plural because, let’s face it, where one art fair goes, others are sure to follow – is an exercise in strategic thinking. Tactical decisions balance hopes, dreams, and opportunity costs, and every choice you make could lead you to find, or miss, the best deal, most worthwhile elbow-greasing, sickest party, most enlightening roundtable, or tastiest canapé.

The simultaneity of fairs and events within a short time generates a perfect choose-your-own-adventure situation. And Brussels, with its decentralized art scene and occasionally bipolar, international ethos is ripe adventure-choosing territory. Stay downtown and check out the galleries or head south to the upscale Avenue Louise? Brave the crowded museums or stick to smaller venues? Rent a bike or buy a metro pass? Chips or waffles? Ale or lager?!

In the infamous Choose Your Own Adventure books from the eighties and nineties, more than a few outcomes have you meet rather sudden and unceremonious ends. I can’t pick your path for you – this is your adventure after all – but here are some tips to help you make the most of your Brussels visit, stop worrying about what you’re missing, and just maybe avoid an untimely demise...

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Georgia Haagsma finds conviviality and good vibes

Brussels. Sounds like mussels. And maybe a comparison between the two isn't completely out of this world. An oddly shaped, introverted entity, which has no particularly distinct features; looks pale, grey, and weirdly aggressive from the outside but provides a lot of protein to those who persist and dig in. In a recent article in The New York Times (Art Market | Big in Belgium, 3/20/13), Jim Lewis interviewed Art Brussels' new artistic director Katerina Gregos. She described Brussels as a city in a perpetual state of becoming, kind of identity-less, but gaining cultural power in spite of it. Over the last few years international galleries like MOTinternational, C_L_E_A_R_I_N_G, and Almine Rech have opened satellite spaces in Brussels and a wealth of new galleries has emerged. Low rent, a large number of wealthy collectors (the city is riddled with lawyers, bankers, and parliamentarians) and its central position in Europe (which provides easy access to the rest of the continent) are all perceived as deciding factors in Brussels' move up the popularity charts.

The Brussels art scene may be ambiguous and according to some even non-existing, but it is distinct enough to see it is quite different from the more celebrity focused London, New York and Paris, or the more sceney, artist driven Berlin. When I was forced to spend a night in Brussels after missing my Eurostar connection to London a few months ago, I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people. I ended up in a gallery/theatre/bar chatting to a couple of local artists and within a mere hour I was offered Belgian beers and homemade meatballs, as well as a place to stay whenever I visited next. Conviviality seems to be the name of the game in this town and the few gallerists I spoke to this week in preparation for the 31st edition of Art Brussels, all confirmed this feeling...

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Han Hoogerbrugge's surreal, self-deprecating self-portraits are simultaneously charming and unsettling. For Art Brussels, Hoogerbrugge, commissioned by the Land Rover Belgium, will screen a video recreation of a James Ensor painting inside a customized SUV. Ana Finel Honigman recently caught up with the Dutch artist, illustrator and animator...

AFH: Are you a pessimist?

HH: I am definitely not a pessimist. I do think that people are bad. Everything is useless. Nothing we do means anything. When we are dead then we are just dead. That is it. But, that makes me happy...

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Posted by ArtSlant Team on 4/17/13

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