Art Brussels 2016: colourful rugs and vintage furniture

Was it going to be canceled? Will the galleries come? And what about the collectors? This year Art Brussels 2016 was surrounded by a lot of question marks. The recent terrorist attacks had changed a lot. However Brussel is resilient and the fair was one of the most interesting ones i’ve seen. Here is my review of Art Brussels with Belgian beer, cheerful art and vintage furniture (nothing beats that combination).

Brussels is a city of unity, of togetherness. As a capital of the european Union, it brings together 28 countries. The attacks shook the city on its foundations, but it won’t get the city and it’s inhabitants down. Art Brussels 2016 is a very clear statement: 140 galleries from all over the world come to Brussels to show their works, to celebrate art. The fair had a relaxed atmosphere and business was being done, although a bit less then expected, according to some dealers.

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Casual Art
This pleasant atmosphere was stimulated by it’s surroundings. This year the fair moved to a new location: in the industrial factory halls of Tour&Taxis. The layout is very spacious and every booth has rather large dimensions, allowing the dealers to present their works in the best possible way. A huge difference in comparison with ART ROTTERDAM where the booths looked cramped, almost cluttered. The industrial atmosphere, with the concrete floors, metal beams and bright daylight gives the fair and the art on display, a casual look. The building has a natural charm and the art just added to the whole experience. This charm lacks a building like the MECC, home of TEFAF, and it has to make up for it by adding large quantities of flowers, carpets and lowered ceilings. Nothing like that in Brussel. Art Brussels gives you the idea it’s about enjoying the art, not about selling and making profit. The foodcourt, with trendy food-trucs selling Belgian Fries, Beer and hamburgers, has a stage for karaoke and local music were playing. It was almost an art-festival rather then an art-fair.


Vintage furniture and art
The contemporary loft-like style continues in the decoration of Art Brussels. No sleek furniture like in other fairs, but design classics. And it wasn’t your basic thrift-shop vintage, no, they are true iconic pieces of furniture, designed by Friso Kramer, Rietveld and many others. The Repose chair by Friso Kramer, pictured, is designed in 1960 and made by De Cirkel. It won the
prestigious Signe D’Or award in 1960. As you probably guessed, I’m a big fan of this chair, still on my wish list.. (they are for sale at 1stdibs)


The fair
So what was actually being shown at Art Brussels? To me the art was the biggest and very pleasant surprise. The fair is divided in 3 sections: DISCOVERY where the focus is on young, emerging and lesser-known artists with recent work, PRIME where the focus is on established artists from modern to contemporary, and REDISCOVERY, dedicated to art from 1917 to 1987, which presents living or deceased artists that are under-recognised, under-estimated or forgotten. And finally there is a section called SOLO dedicated to the work of one artist, a one man show in the entire stand or in extension of the main stand. Quite an interesting way of grouping the galleries, which worked well. In a separate building was a curated part, showing works from the collection of collector en-masse Jan Hoet.

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Miami Vice
After digesting all the things I saw, I feel like there are some ‘trends’ to be discovered. First the huge of colour was quite striking. Sounds like kicking in an open door, but a lot of artworks were just bursting with colour. A lot of pastel and neon colours: a combination of Miami Vice and mid-century modern. This is aesthetically related to the current trend in interior and furniture design were pastels are very en vogue as are references to the 1980’s Memphis style.

art brussels 13 at Art Brussels 2016

Wool rules
An other thing that caught my eye was the use of textile as a medium for art, and especially the wall rug. At TEFAF I noticed a interest in the work by Shiela Hicks. This grand Dame of textile art has currently a major retrospective in the TextielMuseum in Tilburg. Following her footsteps, a generation of young artists explores the possibilities of this interesting medium, on the edge of painting, installation and sculpture. Throughout the fair there were multiple examples of this rug-revival to be found. My personal favorite was the piece by Caroline Achaintre. This artist, Toulouse born but living and working in London, makes mesmerizing wall sculptures in hand tufted wool. (and beautiful ceramics!). She is represented by Arcade Gallery London.

Art Brussels 2016 was a pleasant surprise. A beautiful statement of positivity, resilience and togetherness. We need more of that. That is my only critique on the fair: 3 days is way too short!

Fierce, arrogant and scared: Selbstporträt by Egon Schiele

Prostitutes, naked children, masturbating women, not quite the art you show to your mother-in-law. These subjects are still as provocative now as they were at the beginning of the 20th century when they were depicted by one of the greatest artists of all times: Egon Schiele.
Schiele depictes his subjects with twisted, tormented body shapes and expressive, powerful lines, marking him an early exponent of expressionism. Once you have seen one of his drawings or painting, you will recognize his style from afar. Their powerful presence together with the tragic life story of their creator, will make them haunt you in the most beautiful way, at least that what they did with me. In fact, when I come home or when I wake up, his face is the first thing I see.
Egon Schiele’s “ Selbstporträt” came into my life with quite a detour. I was looking at an online auction for something, I forgot what, when I discovered this piece. I was able to bid on it and by a stroke of luck I won! There was only one minor problem: I was in New York at that time and not able to pick it up or to receive the package. Far away from home, I arranged it to be delivered at my parents home. Timediffrence and busy schedules delayed my acquaintance with Schiele even further. Then finally I was able to have a Skype meeting with my parents. The moment of truth: they had to open the package, with me watching form the other side of the ocean. Long live modern technology!
Altough I still couldn’t see it in real life, judging at my parents faces unwrapping  the sculpture, it was a good buy. But that was it, I still had to wait for several weeks in order to see it for my self. And when I saw it, I was deeply impressed. The work is remarkably powerful: the hasty modeling gives it an tangible introspection. The angular face is slightly lifted so his open eyes can look straight at you, his mouth slightly parted.
Depending on the angle of view, his expression changes. Ranging from fierce, arrogant, scared to patient. The latter makes me think he knew his future and he was peace with that. One year after he created the model for this sculpture, his wife Edith died, six months pregnant Schiele died only three days after his wife. He was 28 years old.
Selbstporträt is a cast in bronze after a earthenware model Egon Schiele (austrian, 1890-1918) conceived in 1917. In 1956  there was a first posthumously cast in bronze by Guss Schmäke Dusseldorf with only 6 examples. This particular work is in bronze with patina is cast by the Collectors’ Club, Vienna,  in 1980 in an edition of 300 + XXX h.c. It is cast by the Italian foundry Venturi Arte in Bologna. It bears the Egon Schiele Estate foundry stamp, numbered edition …/300 and dated Copyright symbol 1980. It measures 11.1 × 6.6 × 9.0 inches. The work is published in the Catalogue Raisonnée, Kallir 4F.

The art of collecting: Michelle Oka Doner at PAMM Miami

Miami’s beach is amazing. Aside from all those glamorous hotels, fancy cars and bouncy club music, there is a lot more to discover. At the beachside, there is a surprisingly large amount of nature to be found. No, I’m not talking about the tanned beach bodies, but about actual nature: pieces of coral, seashells, branches of seaweed. Even sea turtles make their nests in the grey sand of Miami South Beach.
After a day of sun at the beach, it’s time for some much needed culture! And where better to go than the wonderful Pérez Art Museum. This amazing building with its hanging planters, was built in 2013 by starchitects Herzog & De Meuron. Rather  unprepared I stumbled into one of the exhibition spaces and what I saw was impressive.
On view is the wonderfully titled exhibition, “How I caught a swallow in midair’ by Michele Oka Doner. Born in 1945 in Miami Beach, it comes as no surprise her work is largely influenced by the surrounding nature. Her sculptures, drawings, porcelain objects and paintings investigate the complexity of that bizarre nature. Her works evoke visions of animals, bones, plants, minerals and corals.
Walking into the exhibition, I was struck by the dark colors and dimmed light. It gives a sense of mystery, like I am going to be part of something special. Displayed are sculptures, drawings and her collections of her ceramic, bronze and silver pieces, mimicking nature, surrounded by shells, bones, seeds and stones. The more I saw, the more I was moved. Her work brought me back to my earliest childhood memories, a young boy sitting on a Dutch Beach. My little hands couldn’t stop exploring the sand, eagerly looking for that one special treasure of the sea. Those strangely shaped shells and stones caught my eye. They were picked up and treated in the most delicate way, as if these were precious gems. At my parents home, I still got a large collection of stones, insects, gems, shells, shards and bones – a result of a childhood of collecting.
This fascination for nature never left me. It only grew deeper. I simply cannot resist the urge to pick up interesting things. Coming to think about it, this habit even has become a very important part of my professional life. What difference is there between going to a thriftshop to search for that one special object and collecting seashells in the sand. I guess I’m still that little boy on the beach.
Michele Oka Doner: How I Caught a Swallow in Midair
March 24 – Sept. 11, 2016
Perez Art Museum Miami

blog RefineArt: voetbal, Gagosian en het museum

Tweeëntwintig spelers, twee keepers en een bal. Langs de kant staan de reservespelers te wachten tot het moment dat ze in actie mogen komen. Het publiek in het stadion kijkt vol spanning toe wat er op het veld gebeurt. Thuis op de bank wordt de wedstrijd door nog meer ogen gevolgd. Op het avondjournaal een verslag, de volgende dag in de krant een artikel.

Wat dit met kunst te maken heeft? Op het eerste gezicht misschien niet veel. Toch is er een interessante parallel te trekken tussen de kunstwereld en jawel, de voetbalwereld. En dan doel ik niet op kunstgras.

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