For the first time in years I will not be in Brussels for the April art fair marathon, but I’ve decided to help you (a little bit) to find your way through the five different fairs which are about to open in the city.
You probably wonder why there are so many contemporary art fairs going on at the same time, why should I attend this fair instead of that one, what’s the “offer” basically? My motto is always quality over quantity. You know, the whole “less is more” that you can apply to practically everything in your life, I particularly use it for art. Now, quality and taste are subjective notions, we are not all looking for the same thing when attending an art fair. Some will look for novelty, some will look for good curatorial direction (which is rare), some for affordable artworks, some for a meeting with artists, some for exposure (I see you the wanna be art “expert” who is just there to be seen), some for inspiration, the list is long I could go on forever.
Whatever you are looking for, here are few tips that might help you to make your final decision if you don’t have the time to attend all the fairs.
T H E O R I G I N A L
Art Brussels (20-23/04)
Art Brussels pioneered the contemporary art fair in Belgium, and definitely helped to impose Brussels as a major centre for contemporary art in Europe. For it’s 35th edition, the fair is welcoming 145 galleries from 28 different countries split in three categories: Discovery (focusing on young artists), Prime (dedicated to modern and contemporary established artists), and Rediscovery (highlighting works from 1917 to 1987 from underestimated artists). Have a look at the artwork selection on Artsy.
Why visiting Art Brussels? Despite some weaknesses, Art Brussels is a sure bet. The quality of the galleries exhibiting, the talks they organise, the room that they give to solo shows make the fair a must of the Belgian art scene.
T H E A M B I T I O U S
Independent Brussels (19-23/04)
Last year I couldn’t hide my enthusiasm about the first edition of the Independent Brussels, which became my favourite fair in Brussels. This year, they will present 70 international galleries and non-profits which will feature many solo shows and site-driven projects.
Why visiting Independent Brussels? For its fierce independence of course, and the way they are breaking the boundaries of the standard art fair model offering a “human size” fair with no booths. The display is fluid, the visitors can walk around like in a museum without having the feeling to attend a trade show.
T H E F R E E – S P I R I T E D
For its 6th edition, POPPOSITIONS is gathering 21 galleries, project spaces, and artists initiative. When the Independent is disrupting the fair model by removing the booths, POPPOSITIONS pushes the concept even further by organising the fair as an exhibition supervised by curator and artistic director Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk.
Why visiting POPPOSITIONS? If you are looking for a more experimental approach rather than a pure commercial fair, this is it. Ambitious in its content, POPPOSITIONS which became one of the leading critical fair for contemporary art, is unlike many other emerging art fairs well curated.
T H E P R O M I S I N G
YIA ART FAIR #09 – Brussels (20-23/04)
YIA standing for “Yesterday is Aujourd’hui” was founded in 2010 in Paris. I’m putting a question mark on that fair for the simple reason that I was underwhelm by the quality of the fair last year . I had a lot of expectations as their Paris editions are always a big success, but with Brussels they don’t seem to bring anything new in the “art fair game” expect maybe an exhibition platform to less well-known/emerging galleries which is already something. I called it The Promising, as I believe in its potential and hope that the 2017 edition will be more ambitious with its selection and curation.
Why visiting YIA Art Fair? Not mainstream, YIA is a good place to spot new artists and galleries.
T H E Y O U N G S T E R
OFF Course – Young Contemporary Art Fair #6 (20-23/04)
In few years, OFF Course imposed itself as the fair dedicated to young (under 40) emerging artists in Brussels. One of the major difference with the other fairs, is that the artist is put forward more than the gallery. Despite some weaknesses in the curation, OFF Course is growing in the right direction, offering a strong stage to artists at the beginning of their careers.
Why visiting the OFF Course? Because they are highlighting the works of freshly graduated artists from some major schools in the country, it’s a good way to keep an eye on the next generation.
Cover Picture: The Independent art fair installation view 2016 (via Wallpaper)