There’s something appealing about Brussels’ approach to the reopening of its contemporary art galleries in September. Some cities take a couple weekends of openings to repopulate their galleries with new artworks. Others have one night when the entire local art scene switches on, decisively ending the August blackout. These evenings are fun – whether they come in staccato bursts or roaring symphony – but they’re also exhausting. And if you happen to be craving actual art over appetizers and aperitifs, you might have to tune back in at a later date.
Brussels does things a bit differently, letting you ease back into the art (and surrounding scene) over a three-day gallery event. Sure, there are the coordinated openings en masse, but if you miss one, don’t worry: you might not get the wine, but the art will be there tomorrow. And the next day. During Brussels Art Days, when thirty of the city’s galleries keep extended hours from Friday to Sunday, the social and economic calculations that lead viewers Up- or Downtown no longer seem quite so urgent. How very civilized.
By the time this goes to press, Art Days will have passed and gallery goings-on will be business as usual. If you missed Brussels Art Days and are looking for some guidance, here are some shows we’ll be enjoying this month:
Danh Vo, New Sculptures; Photo-credit: Allard Bovenberg, Amsterdam / Courtesy: the Artist and Xavier Hufkens, Brussels.
The ever-popular Danh Vo seems to be everywhere lately (and given his geographically dispersed We the people (Detail), he kind of is). This month he can add Brussels to the list as Xavier Hufkens presents new work by the artist, including works in situ, sculptures, and his first painting. Down the street in its original space, the gallery is also hosting an exhibition of new work by Tim Rollins and K.O.S. For their second exhibition at Xavier Hufkens, their signature collaborative and responsive practice mines texts and sounds of eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe, including Darwin’s Origin of Species, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and works by composers Haydn and Mendelssohn.
Galerie Rodolphe Janssen mounts Kendell Geers’ Alpha Bête, the artist’s third solo show at the gallery. Geers, a South African native now living in Brussels, is known for his in-your-face imagery, raw sculptures and fetishes, and graphic text pieces. In recent work, bold, linear patterns of razor mesh pop out from rust saturated paper and expressive acrylic canvases. The surprising delicacy of these backdrops brings something new to the artist’s loaded iconography.
Jens Haaning, Hamza Resjer, installation, 2011; Courtesy of the artist and D+T Project Gallery, Brussels.
Through next month Jan Mot is screening Manon de Boer’s one, two, many. The film, which debuted at dOCUMENTA(13) last summer, is a three part exploration of subjective human experience through the subject of voice. The gently paced film reflects the intellectualism and maturity we’ve come to expect from both the artist and the gallery’s roster more generally.
Also look out for the occasionally gnomic artwork of Jens Haaning. At D+T Project Gallery the artist has installed Hamza Rejser, the itinerant original contents of a Pakistani-owned travel agency in Copenhagen he’s since furnished with Danish design pieces. At Almine Rech, take in Adam Helms’ suggestive and sometimes sinister drawings and prints. Surveying diverse imagery – digital, archival, print, photographs – the artist makes uncanny connections that confuse clear readings of his source materials.
Petrit Halilaj, Found image from the Museum of Natural History, Pristina, Kosovo, ca 2001; Photo: Lulzim Luigji Bejta; Courtesy Petrit Halilaj and Chert Gallery, Berlin.
Though it falls outside the Brussels Art Days program, Brussels art lovers know a trip to new exhibitions wouldn’t be complete without a visit to WIELS, which is currently hosting Petrit Halilaj’s stand out solo show Poisoned by Men in Need of Some Love. Here the young artist, who is also currently representing Kosovo in this year’s Venice Biennale, takes as his subject the previous contents of Kosovo’s former Natural History Museum turned Ethnographic Museum. The museum’s evicted collection of zoological specimens – stand-ins for forgotten histories and tragic national narratives – is given new home at WIELS in the form of clay and dung sculptures.
[Image on top: Kendell Geers, Ligne de Fuite 40 (The Occulist Witnesses), 2013, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 210 cm, 63 x 82 5/8 in; Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Rodolphe Janssen, Brussels.]