As in New York, the Independent art fair's Brussels edition looked to complement the city's buzzing art scene, strategically choosing the week(end) of Art Brussels for the inaugural iteration of its trademark fair model on European soil.
The team chanced upon the 50,000 sq ft Vanderborght building, a former department store in the heart of the city. 'We had the extraordinary fortune of this amazing space, right in the centre, with a wonderful architecture that’s almost perfect for presenting art,' explains creative advisor Matthew Higgs about the six-floor structure, replete with a glass façade and glass-walled atrium that allowed natural light to emphasise the building’s transparencies.
On the ground floor, the progressive concept became immediately clear: New York powerhouse David Zwirner rubbed shoulders with the not-for-profit White Columns, who in turn neighboured with Delmes & Zander, a gallery based in Cologne and Berlin that focuses on outsider art. 'What’s important to us is that every kind of gallery is represented,' notes Higgs. 'We make sure there is no hierarchy – a wealthy gallery doesn’t take precedence over a smaller project. At a lot of fairs, the younger galleries are all together; the blue chip galleries are all together. We’re interested in trying to dissolve that.'
It made for a diverse viewing experience that, after getting a sense of the set-up, was conducive to discussions on transitions and juxtapositions. Carlier | Gebauer placed Laure Prouvost’s monochrome slogan paintings together with Tarik Kiswanson's fine sculptures, creating a tension between dark, heavy words and lightweight steel. Elsewhere, Kasper Bosmans’ wayward work in media ranging from silver-plated bronze to gouache and pencil in wood, showcased his unfettered ability to create at Marc Foxx Gallery.
'You get really interesting dialogues between individual artworks, which you wouldn’t with a more conventionally structured fair,' Higgs concludes. 'There has been a great response. Hopefully it’s a dialogue that will continue.'