Sorry we're closed, Ceramic, Roger Herman
Interview

Bigger and better than before. Brussels Gallery Weekend is back!

Brussels Gallery Weekend is one of the most important and exciting art events in Brussels, launching the city’s gallery season. Organised since 2008, after a very turbulent pandemic year, this year’s edition of the BGW is bigger and better than ever, consisting of almost 50 different art galleries and project spaces showing emerging and established artists from around the world. This week, we spoke to five different galleries taking part in the Brussels Gallery Weekend. We discussed the fourteenth edition of the event, Brussels’ multicultural art scene, and the post-pandemic art landscape. The galleries might have been closed due to the pandemic but one thing is certain – they are now back with new energy and new projects to share. If the pandemic has taught us something, it has definitely shown us the value of collectively experiencing art in physical spaces. For those of us who truly missed these encounters, Brussels Gallery Weekend offers a unique way to catch up with the art world and its latest trends, and to see some of the most exciting art produced today, in one of the most exciting European cities.

STEMS GALLERY

Can you tell us a bit about your gallery?

Stems Gallery was founded in 2015 in Brussels, by brother and sister Guillaume and Pascaline Smets. The gallery exhibits works of emerging artists, with a particular focus on introducing contemporary American artists to European collectors. Our programme aims to give voice to artists who deal with subjects that are relevant to our generation and who embrace new technologies.

What are you planning to show during this year’s Brussels Gallery Weekend?

A solo show by American artist Tyrrell Winston, with whom we’ve worked since 2018. The show will be very interesting and exciting because Winston will show his new body of works that was never shown before in Europe. This includes “the punishment paintings” and “the protection paintings”. The visitors will have a complete introduction to the world of Winston, who plays with sports, culture, and the street, elevating them as he works. 

Have you participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend before? What makes it so unique?

Yes, it’s our fourth time participating in the BGW. It’s a very good initiative and it’s a real pleasure to be a part of it. It brings collectors and curators from around the world together, showing how important the art scene is for Brussels. There is always so much to do in terms of art and culture, and we really respect visitors who try to make the most out of this great variety. 

How would you describe the art scene in Brussels?

Young, familial, international, and fun.

How did the pandemic affect the way you work and the art world in general? What do you think will change when we move forward and leave the pandemic behind?

Nothing really changed for us business-wise. The pandemic has shown us how strong the art market is and how well it can adapt to the changing circumstances and growing audiences. When we’ll come back to normal, fairs, museums, and foundations will reopen, and I’m sure there will be even more visitors than before.

Stem, Tyrrell Winston, Courtesy: Stems Gallery
Stem, Tyrrell Winston, Courtesy: Stems Gallery

SORRY WE’RE CLOSED

Can you tell us a bit about your gallery?

Sorry We’re Closed was set up in 2008 and it’s a contemporary art gallery specialising in emerging and mid-career artists. If you come to the gallery, expect to discover something you have never seen before. Hopefully, it will be a pleasant surprise!

What are you planning to show during this year’s Brussels Gallery Weekend?

We are showing, for the first time in Belgium, a ceramist legend – Roger Herman. He is the godfather of generations of Los Angeles artists’ as he was a teacher at the UCLA. We will show more than 70 of Herman’s pieces on two floors of the gallery.

Have you participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend before? What makes it so unique?

I think we did every BGW since its creation. Together with Art Brussels that starts in April, they are the two most important events for contemporary art in Brussels. All galleries compete, in a friendly way, to show the most interesting and exciting exhibitions. 

How would you describe the art scene in Brussels?

Brussels has always been an important artists’ hub – a lot of artists from all over the world come to Brussels to work. I really like this energy and diversity.

How did the pandemic affect the way you work and the art world in general? What do you think will change when we move forward and leave the pandemic behind? 

For Sorry We’re Closed, pandemic time was very beneficial. We decided to reset everything. We moved to a bigger space, set up a new website, and established a new graphic identity… But above all, we’ve also added new artists to our rooster, who we’ll be exhibiting next year. 

Sorry we're closed, Ceramic, Roger Herman
Sorry we’re closed, Ceramic, Roger Herman

SUPER DAKOTA

Can you tell us a bit about your gallery?

Super Dakota opened in September 2013 in Brussels, with a goal to promote exciting emerging artists and support the already established ones. We put together 6 exhibitions per year, which we show in our two-storey place, and curate online projects – “Video Room”, “Super Room”, and “Super Stories”.

What are you planning to show during this year’s Brussels Gallery Weekend?

This year, we are extremely happy to present the very first solo exhibition of a young Swiss artist Adrian Geller, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, which will be on view until October 16th

Have you participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend before? What makes it so unique?

Yes, we’ve participated in the BGW before and we’re always happy to work together with our colleagues in opening a new gallery season.

How would you describe the art scene in Brussels?

I’d say it’s multicultural – a great place for new encounters and new ideas to emerge.

How did the pandemic affect the way you work and the art world in general? What do you think will change when we move forward and leave the pandemic behind?

We had to think of new ways to present art since we couldn’t open a physical space. Everyone had to. We were focusing on our online video room, and we also launched a new project called “Super Stories” – an editorial overlook on artworks. We’ve enjoyed it so much that we kept it as a part of the gallery’s permanent programme. In terms of what has changed, once we started presenting physical exhibitions to the public again, we could feel the effects of the pandemic. Everyone was eager to experience art and to do so collectively, and I think we learned not to take that for granted.


IRÈNE LAUB

Can you tell us a bit about your gallery?

Since 2016, Irène Laub exhibits established and emerging artists in Brussels and in a selection of international art fairs. Our represented artists are actively committed to questioning social, political, and architectural issues and present a very diverse body of work – including installation, video, sculpture, painting, and drawing. The gallery is an experimental space that allows the artists to stretch the boundaries of their chosen discipline, either by testing and distorting the physical frame of the work itself, or by exploring its significance in the social sphere.

What are you planning to show during this year’s Brussels Gallery Weekend?

This September, we are pleased to present “A day with you”, the first solo show of Spanish artist Guillermo Mora. Mora is a young, emerging artist who lives and works in Madrid. His exhibition originates in a series of memorisation exercises inspired by people he came cross in his life. While first retaining the colours of the clothes these people were wearing, Mora subsequently materialises them in his studio by assembling and overlaying small pieces of paper. This visual diary, made up of delicate and coloured sketches compiled daily, constitutes the core of the exhibition. Each work embodies one of the people that Mora has met, not only displaying a particular range of colour, but also reflecting a name, a day, a meeting, a wish, and a memory.

Have you participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend before? What makes it so unique?

We’ve participated in the BGW since 2016, when the gallery was established. The BGW is an important event for the Brussels’ art scene since it begins a new art season. It transforms Brussels into a platform for international exchange and increases the visibility of our programme and artists.

How would you describe the art scene in Brussels?

The art scene in Brussels is characterised by its strong diversity, its social and urban density, and its multiculturalism. It’s a very favourable place for creatives.

How did the pandemic affect the way you work and the art world in general? What do you think will change when we move forward and leave the pandemic behind?

The pandemic has called our social, sanitary, economic, national, and transnational reference points into question and challenged how we understand art, in particular, its critical dimensions and its modes of dissemination. We faced these challenges and already began to find new ways to thrive, and learn to live with the virus and its variants.

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HARLAN LEVEY PROJECTS

Can you tell us a bit about your gallery?

Harlan Levey Projects exhibits projects that investigate social and political phenomena, explore new technologies, and tend to be driven by the personal experiences and engagements of our artists. Our programme celebrates art that wrestles for liberty, empathy, and understanding; ways of transforming trauma and projecting various potentialities. Even when we show paintings, which we don’t do often, they tend to be of a conceptual and research-based orientation. We’re not a gallery catering to the short-term speculative views or the wants of the market. We work at the service of the artists we believe tell fundamental and rare stories about the world we live in.

What are you planning to show during this year’s Brussels Gallery Weekend?

In both of our Brussels’ spaces, we’re hosting an exhibition by Jeroen Jongeleen. At HLP1050, we’ll present his older works, ephemera, and documentation that spans from 2000-2019, following three lines in the artist’s practice: Games, Actions, and Traces. At HLP1080, we’re presenting two recent projects: “Running in Circles” and “The Street as a Forum for Democracy”. Building on influences from Futurism to Fluxus and Situationist International into graffiti, street art, and beyond, Jongeleen explores consumerism and over-regulated society by interrupting public space through ephemeral interventions and actions. Utilising means and visual forms associated with guerrilla protest, his interventions draw attention to a particular form of militant activism while questioning the nature, value, and transformative potential of artistic production in society.

Have you participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend before? What makes it so unique?

Yes, we’ve participated in the Brussels Gallery Weekend since 2015. We love it. It’s the event that kicks off the cultural season in Brussels and while it focuses on the work done by galleries, its infectious energy puts a spotlight on the broader contemporary art ecosystem here, which is one of the Brussels’ most exciting assets. Not only galleries, but artist studios, institutional venues, private collections, and other art hubs open their doors. One of the greatest things about Brussels is that while it boasts an enormous amount of high-quality cultural production and diversity, it’s still a relatively small place and it’s easy to get around. It takes me less than an hour to walk from our gallery in Ixelles to our new place just across the canal in Molenbeek, and I can stop at around two dozen other spaces during the stroll. 

How would you describe the art scene in Brussels?

There are so many art scenes in Brussels that describing one would be misleading. 

How did the pandemic affect the way you work and the art world in general? What do you think will change when we move forward and leave the pandemic behind?

Maybe it’s corny, but two things stayed with me. The first is that whatever problem I’m facing, there’s somebody facing heavier stuff, so count your blessings, stay positive, and remember that when you’re healthy, all problems are easy to solve. The second is something I was thinking about at the start of the pandemic: there’s a whole lot of grieving ahead. From everything that we have lost, which things would we like to keep that way? For smaller galleries like ours, we were often trying to keep pace with galleries that have way more resources. The pandemic slowed everything down and reminded us to consider the distinction between speculative gambles and inherently rewarding activities. Slowing down didn’t mean not working as hard (or harder), it just meant refocusing energy. We’ve put our energy into producing content and meaning and won’t go back to globetrotting at the same pace as we had been. The role of art fairs in our activities has diminished and of course, our digital presence has improved. This wasn’t something that happened because of the circumstances, but the circumstances gave us a lot more time to do things we’d previously pushed aside in the rush of it all.


Brussels Gallery Weekend

09-12.09.2021

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About The Author

Maria
Markiewicz

Aspiring art writer. Born and raised in Poland, she currently lives and studies in London at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Interested in art tackling issues of marginalization, body, sexuality and feminism, she draws inspiration from both European art of the late 90s and emerging European art. She has a background in history of art and critical theory.

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