Arts Insiders Give Us Their Reports on Art Brussels 2017

art brussels 2017 contemporary Lynx news

Art Brussels, one of Europe’s original and most established fairs, celebrates its 35th edition in 2017. Since its inception, Art Brussels has evolved into one of the top European contemporary art fairs, and is a must-see in the international art calendar.


 

Art Brussels 2017

 

JUSTYNA GRYGLEWICZ & JAKUB WOYNAROWSKI — artists, Kraków

 

Contemporary Lynx: Justyna, Kuba, this is your first time in Brussels, and also your first time at the art fair in Brussels. Is there anything that caught your eye?

Justyna Gryglewicz: For me, coming to the fair was definitely like a clash with another world – such a commercial approach to art is hardly ever seen in Poland. As an artist, what impressed me most was the execution of some artworks, their variety, even 2D works. It was clear that the artworks were very well executed. Of course, there were also many pieces, which felt empty – forms without much content. They were commercial and a bit too decorative. However, I admit that even I, as an artist, considered having some of them on the wall as decorations. However, trying to capture their character, they may be more at home on a design shelf.

Kuba Woynarowski: What stood out for me, in comparison to other art events such as biennale or festivals, was the lack of narration or thread, which binds the whole story. The fairs were more about artefacts, which is not necessarily wrong – it draws one’s focus to the sensual and visual side of the pieces. I feel that sometimes this aspect of artworks is entirely forgotten – particularly in art writing. At the fairs, I found it paradoxically liberating that because of the sheer number of works there are few opportunities to get to understand the works’ background and their full meaning. Of course, visiting the umpteenth similarly arranged stand leads to physical exhaustion. But it does allow the experience of grouping artworks by formal criteria, somehow labelling them – this, however, closes or restraints rather than opens.

I was drawn to the Discovery section, which offers more of a narration. It included many more experiments in terms of exhibiting the artworks and arranging the stands. I wonder how this narration and physicality of artworks is perceived by art collectors. I find it interesting because often such pieces work better as an installation or as a particular gallery’s statement, being more about the gallery itself than about the exhibited artists.

CL: As you did not exhibit any works at these fairs, and so had no direct emotional attachment, your approach was probably different to the approach of the gallery owners who focused on sales. For you it meant you could focus more on the art itself.

Justyna Gryglewicz: It is a strange impression. In Polish art institutions, there is more focus on promoting critical art built on ideas and theories, while here, at the fairs, art is liberated from this heavy burden – it’s more apolitical.

The experience of the fairs, their diversity and democracy in terms of technique, forms of communication, other types of expression, allows a freer approach to art. It offers hope that it is possible to create art that is not necessarily heavy in deep theories, but focuses on the form of the work. I noticed a lot of formal intelligence, which does not necessarily require further explanation in words.

CL: Kuba, I know that you did not come to Brussels just for the fairs…

KW: That is right; we came not just for the fairs but also to discuss some plans about exhibitions. Furthermore, the gallery that represents me, BWA Warszawa, was the only Polish one taking part in the fairs.

Such fairs are a completely different side of the art world. We as artists are permanently x-rayed for ideas and content. The story behind our works is examined thoroughly in search of a deeper narration. Whereas here, at the fairs, the focus is on the work. Either it enchants or you move to the next piece.

What I mean is not just the lack of a curator who would impose a particular narration here, but also the way in which art is written about. It is normally heavy on the ideological aspects. The art fairs are the polar opposite, where the object and its form prevails.

 


Art Brussels 2017

 

JUSTYNA KOWALSKA  / BWA WARSZAWA, Warsaw

 

Contemporary Lynx: Why did you choose to take part in Art Brussels again?

Justyna Kowalska: It is mainly because last year we won the Discovery Prize for the best exhibition – it included works by Ewa Axelrad and Karol Radziszewski. It resulted in many new contacts, particularly with curators and collectors. We believe that only regular attendance yields tangible results, beyond selling an artwork every now and then. That is why, this year we will be in Turin at the Artissima for the fifth time and hope to come back to Brussels next year, too.

CL: Are these fairs different in terms of organisation and also the wealth of the visitors in comparison to other fairs?

JK: The Belgian audience is quite particular, deeply soaked in the tradition of surrealism. Otherwise, it is an international event similar to many others. Often, we come across the same visitors in different fairs (including an increasing number of Poles), which somehow makes us wonder if we are still in Brussels, Lisbon or Miami.

CL: Did any stand or gallery, or perhaps an artist, catch your eye? Is there any collaboration on the cards?

JK: We are very impressed by the programme of Copperfield gallery from London, which in September will host Ewa Axelrad’s solo show. We also really like works by Istvan Haasz represented by Ani Molnar from Budapest and Yann Gerstberger’s tapestries from the Brussels-based Sorry We Are Closed gallery, which we will show during this year’s Warsaw Gallery Weekend.

 


Art Brussels 2017

 

HARLAN LEVY / Harlan Levey Projects, Brussels

 

Contemporary Lynx: Why did you take part in Art Brussels?

HL: Art Brussels is a very important fair for us in terms of local and national recognition. It is also an excellent platform to meet curators, collectors and colleagues from all over the world.

CL: What is special about Art Brussels?

HL: From the organisers to the audience and back to where it begins with the art, it is a qualitative fair with a great collector base and level of engagement.

CL: Did anything in particular grab your attention?

HL: Many other booths caught my attention. Marso (Mexico City), Grimmuseum (Berlin), Steve Turner (LA), Edel Assanti (London), Sorry We’re Closed (Brussels) to name just a few.

 


Art Brussels 2017

 

WILFIED HUET — founder and Editor-in-chief, Gagarin Magazine, Paris

 

Contemporary Lynx: Why are you participating in the art fair? You are an art magazine and so the ‘native’ place where you should present your publication is a book fair or an artists book fair. And yet, you are here during Art Brussels.

WH: Normally, I participate at artists book fairs. I do not do many art fairs. This year I will go to Paris to Maison Rouge as there is a very interesting fair there called MUD. It is where galleries and artists come and sell editions directly to the public. I also participate in art magazine fairs. However, I am living in between two chairs: this is an artistic project and it is an art magazine. So of course, I do as many fairs as possible just to make my project known to the public. That is the main reason. To contact other people, institutions (many of them also collect the editions, and print). A big part of my audience are art lovers and people who want to know things that are not categorised yet.

CL: Why did you choose Art Brussels?

WH: I did it for the first time 5 or 6 years ago and I continue to like this art fair very much. For instance, I also took part at ARCO in Madrid and it is very noisy, art fairs are very big with the Spanish mentality. I have been at FIAC and it is more expensive, you have more classical artists, top of the European avant-garde (Braque, Magritte, Picasso). Brussels is another concept – in my assessment, it’s the confrontation of the word and the image. Very sensitive. This is why I like it and this is the reason why I am here.

CL: What did you find most interesting in the fair? Not the publications but art because we are surrounded by art galleries and many types of creativity.

WH: It is very hard to talk about one favorite thing. Honestly. On the first day, I came here and I wondered if there is a bottom. Because some of the galleries and… I know that there is a community, and some of the galleries are in some way under the level[SK1] . But on the second day and the day after I made another tour and I was amazed by some of the works that I saw.

 


Art Brussels 2017

 

RASMUS HUNGNES — Editor-in-chief, KUNSTforum Magazine, Oslo

 

Contemporary Lynx: Why are you participating in the art fair? You are an art magazine and so the ‘native’ place where you should present your publication is a book fair or an artists book fair. And yet, you are here during Art Brussels.

Rasmus Hungnes: A natural thing to do, as an art magazine is take part in both art and book fairs. Being here is about reaching the galleries as well as an audience that will not necessarily go to book fairs. We are the only art magazine in Scandinavia that combines historical art with contemporary art. We have thematic issues so we can show the dialogue between artists from different periods and the core is the main theme of our magazine.

CL: I think it is worth to mention that this is the premiere of the English version of your magazine.

RH: Many people are interested in what is going on in the Nordic countries so the English version is something important for us. It is our next step to find a new audience.

CL: Is this your first time here at Art Brussels?

RH: No, it is our third time. Last time was five years ago. We also participate in Market in Stockholm and we have been in Copenhagen in 2012 at the Armory Show, as they had a Nordic focus.

CL: You are a journalist but also an artist. As an artist, you had the last four days to check all the booths. Did you find something interesting?

RH: I am impressed by the Discovery part. I like these independent project spaces. In the general part of the fairs, some pieces appeal to me but not all.

 

Interviewed by Dobromila Blaszczyk

Edited by Maggie Kuzan

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