It’s time again for the yearly highlight of the Belgian art calendar: with Art Brussels, New York’s Independent fair, and numerous off fairs and side events coming to town, the city is buzzing with collectors, gallerists, and art lovers of all kinds. Of course Brussels’ vibrant art scene is showing itself from its very best side, offering everything from great exhibitions to art parties, talks, and more. Here are the 15 shows you definitely shouldn’t miss when embarking on your Belgian art marathon.
1. Junko Oki at Office Baroque
From 18 April to 27 May
Office Baroque presents the very first solo show of Japanese artist Junko Oki on Belgian ground. Oki, who only started her artistic practice shortly before her 40th birthday and without following a classical art education, captivates with an authentic, poetic approach based on her own life and personal relationships. Bringing together Art brut and textile art, her poetic, dense, abstract compositions mainly consist of embroidery on old fabrics collected by her mother, which are referred to as Boro: textiles from all kinds of different origins ranging from candle making weavings to bags. Marrying the old with the new, and connecting the past with the present, Oki explains that her work is driven by two forces: love and death. Check out her wonderful artist book “Punk” here.
2. Mondialité at Villa Empain
From 19 April to 27 August
Curator star Hans Ulrich Obrist from London’s Serpentine Gallery teams up with artist Asad Raza for “Mondialité”, a solo show presenting the work of Edouard Glissant in Brussels’ spectacular architectural gem that is Villa Empain. The exhibition takes Glissant’s inspiring call for global dialogue that doesn’t erase local cultures as a starting point, an issue that couldn’t be more relevant today. An exciting mix of visual artworks and environments, documentary film and songs, dramaturgical structures and archival material that draws you into Glissant’s ideas and artistic universe.
3. Modus Operandi at Société
Until 15 July
Société, an independent art space breathing new life into the much-bashed neighbourhood of Molenbeek, invites you to the group show “Modus Operandi” an eclectic, expansive exhibition exploring, among other things, the working processes in conceptual art. It deals with the notion of artworks being the result of instructions: the artwork imagined by the artist is presented in form of a written or verbal statement to be executed by others. Highly interesting!
4. Trois Collectionneurs, autrement #4 at Ete 78
Until 13 May
This fascinating exhibition series at non-profit space Été 78 shines a light on collectors and their particular visions. The fourth instalment lets you get into the minds of three collector couples from Brussels and Lille: Carine & Michel Bienfait – Baudson , Frédérique & Thierry Genicot – Van Leuven, and Catherine & Renato Casciani. The show includes some true gems, ranging from Icelandic artist Erro to Ed Ruscha and Gilbert & George.
5. The Absent Museum at Wiels
From 18 April to 13 August
Contemporary art center Wiels celebrates its 10th birthday with a massive, eclectic group show looking back on its history while intelligently exploring what the role of museums could and should be, touching upon the lack of a major contemporary art museum in Brussels (while Wiels is interestingly being referred to as one). “The Absent Museum” is not only hosted in the fully refurbished Blomme building but also in the two adjacent buildings, also part of the Wielemans brewery site. Featuring Belgian as well as international hotshots from Ann Veronica Janssens to Gerhard Richter.
6. Greylight Projects
Brussels’ vibrant art scene has its fair share of artist-run initiatives, and one you should definitely check out is Greylight Projects, aimed at supporting emerging artists with studio and exhibition spaces. This weekend it’s all open to the public, with 12 artists letting you get a glimpse of their creative workspaces. Among them are Emmanuel van der Auwera, who just captivated us with a refreshingly political solo show at Harlan Levey, Polish artist Marcin Dudek, and American-born John Ryan Brubaker whose work often explores unknown spaces and deals with the visual effects of our environment. There’s also a brunch on Saturday and a screening programme. More info here.
7. Bureau des Réalités
Until 5 May
This interesting non-profit space was founded by French-born Lilou Vidal, who was one of the creative minds behind Brussels gallery VidalCuglietta. Located in a gorgeous Neo-Renaissance Flemish style house, Bureau des Réalités wants to create an intimate and critical approach to contemporary art, inviting artists to develop their practice within the specific environment of an office as a place of thought production. Currently you can discover “The Book of Rumours”, an ongoing site-specific project of French artist Simon Asencio, who transformed the office into a research center collecting gossip: via ads in local newspapers people are encouraged to call a phone number for an exchange or trade of rumours.
8. Remco Torenbosch at Saloon
From 21 April to 7 May
Saloon is one of Brussels’ newest art spaces, launched last December by Belgo-German couple Judith Van Eeckhout and Felix Kindermann, a musicology expert and a visual artist. Currently on show is artist Remco Torenbosch with a brainy, intriguing exhibition dealing with the dematerialization of the contemporary digitalized economy based on his research on the local and global impact of the Netherlands’ industrialization of the East Indies.
9. Yves Klein at Bozar
Until 20 August
Yves Klein and especially his blue monochromes don’t really need an introduction. But there’s more to the celebrated French artist: Bozar‘s “Theatre of the Void” looks back on Klein’s ground-breaking oeuvre through previously unseen and rarely exhibited works while shining a light on his fascination for mystic rituals and innovative performances, forerunners of happening and body art.
10. Philippe Van Wolputte at Levy.Delval
Until 29 April
For about a decade Belgian, Antwerp-based artist Philippe Van Wolputte has been working with abandoned spaces in the urban landscape, places that play an important role in a city’s collective memory and social landscape. Between 2005 and 2015 he made vacant and forgotten places accessible to the public until they got closed or demolished for good; using a different method each time: word of mouth, email, an art festival, a lecture, a residence programme, … For this exhibition at Levy.Delval Van Wolputte opens up his vast archive of the ambitious project, telling its many stories via photographs, video works and collages.
11. Lazyeye at 105 Besme
From 21 to 23 April
Independent curator Tania Nasielski regularly turns her flat into an exhibition space. She does so once again during the Art Brussels weekend with a duo expo featuring Sylvie Eyberg and Juan Pablo Plazas based on a conversation on lazy eyes. Often wandering inward or outward, they can be cured and corrected by covering up the stronger eye. The two artists’ works unfold in a vis-à-vis of still and moving images, text and objects, open and closed views. “Lazyeye” includes an exhibition, a cine-club, a performance, a new edition. All details here.
12. Frank Stella at Charles Riva Collection
From 18 April to 17 February 2018
Charles Riva Collection, an exhibition spaces run by contemporary art collector Charles Riva, dedicates a solo exhibition to iconic American artist Frank Stella, a majorly influential figure when it comes to minimalism and abstract expressionism. Characteristic for his art is his famous statement “What you see is what you see”, which could be considered the motto of minimalist art in general. The show features pieces from Stella’s “Polish Village” series as well as an insightful documentary about his artistic universe and working process.
13. Abigail DeVille at Michel Rein
From 21 April to 27 May
Abigail DeVille, living and working in New York, is mainly known for her large-scale, sprawling, sculptural installations which repeatedly deal with displacement, marginalization, social and cultural oppression, and invisibility as a social condition. The socially engaged artist often creates site-specific artworks, as for example a sculpture on a former African-American burial ground in Harlem. Now you can discover DeVille’s gripping work at Michel Rein‘s Brussels branch.
14. Petr Davydtchenko at Harlan Levey Projects
Opens 21 April
Previously shown at the Moscow Biennale for young art, “Voznesenie (Ascension)” by Petr Davydtchenko is a six-channel work with images displayed horizontally, vertically and diagonally, giving the man surfacing from underground an omnipresent aura. Additionally, the rising Russian artist presents a series of new paintings. “I mostly focus on the themes of violence, fear and collapse of structures. I am interested in how things die from inside, I guess it is a violent cycle of life that fascinates me. But from this violence and chaos there is always a possibility of something being purified or reborn”, says the artist himself.
15. Selected Endeavours at The Embassy
From 20 to 23 April
Exhibition space The Embassy, located in a former consulate and hotel, is run by one of Belgium’s most prominent young collectors, Ronald Rozenbaum. This week it’s hosting its fourth show, shining a light on American curator, art dealer, and author Seth Siegelaub. The latter was an instrumental figure in forging the path for conceptual art and giving a voice to a key generation of artists in the 1960s, including Lawrence Weiner and Sol LeWitt. He was the first to specialize in exhibiting and dealing with conceptual art, running a gallery, curating shows and publishing catalogues in an innovative way. “Selected Endeavours” brings together Siegelaub’s historical publications, materials, and ephemera from 1962 to 1971.
More info on exhibitions during Art Brussels week: