Xavier Hufkens’ new gallery space bolsters Brussels’ art scene
Designed by Bernard Dubois, who takes over the @wallpapermag IGTV channel today with an architecture tour, the new home of Xavier Hufkens gallery opened last week with a bold new show by Sterling Ruby
Belgian contemporary art gallery, Xavier Hufkens opened a third exhibition space on 18 June at 44 rue Van Eyck, in the heart of Brussels; just a two-minute walk from its existing spaces on rue St-Georges.
Designed by Belgian architect Bernard Dubois, whose work is characterised by bold, minimalist forms, the 350m2 gallery occupies a 1960s building with a concrete facade. Fitting, then that the indoor spaces, both public and private, have a poured concrete floor. The front and rear exhibition rooms are connected by a 9m corridor with a rectangular recess, creating a third gallery space in the centre. Thanks to the impressive floor-to-ceiling window, the front gallery is visible from the street, and illuminated by abundant natural light. The spacious rear gallery is likewise punctuated with rectangular windows, letting in generous views of the garden, which opens up the possibility of outdoor sculpture displays.
With the new space comes increased opportunity for experimentation and conversation. ‘I want it to be a place where artists, art enthusiasts, collectors and students come together around inspiring exhibitions,’ says the gallery’s namesake founder.
First to show in the Van Eyck space is American contemporary artist Sterling Ruby, who has titled his exhibition ‘A Relief Lashed + A Still Pose’. Consisting of three-dimensional wooden assemblages covered in dark green, red, brown, blue and yellow paint, each piece draws on the artist’s Widw paintings that were first exhibited on rue St-Georges in 2018. These have been made from discarded wood: heaps of offcuts, broken packing crates, damaged pallets and splintered stretcher frame, all from Ruby’s LA studio; alongside pieces from the barn of Ruby’s late mother. Their rectangular forms and superimposed cross-bar structures suggest windows, which Ruby perceives as openings to alternative societies, and sources of inspiration and light. Alluring in their own right, the works are especially captivating in the front and rear galleries, where they stand in dialogue with the architecture.
The decision to display artworks in wood is apt considering the construction of the back-of-house spaces. Unlike the main galleries, which have tall, white walls that lend themselves to all types of exhibitions, the private spaces are lined with panels of light plywood. Entering from the rear gallery, two of these panels conceal double doors that lead to Hufkens’ office, which also serves as a private viewing room, including works by Josef Albers and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. The adjacent workspace is clad entirely in the same wood, from furniture to shelving to a lowered ceiling that offers an added sense of intimacy. A sliding door at the end reveals a wooden corridor, which leads to the central gallery space.
The van Eyck gallery represents a significant investment that further establishes Hufkens as a leading player on Brussels’ art scene. Even though the idea of opening a space abroad has regularly crossed his mind, Hufkens ultimately decided to stay in the Belgian capital, to better serve his roster of international artists, for whom he has unlocked a loyal local following. ‘Quality has always been the thread of our programme. I want to prioritise it over anything else, and I feel I can better guarantee that when I am present,’ says Hufkens. ‘If we do this right, I believe art can reach beyond our walls.’ §