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The Muscles from Brussels: The Key Players Making Belgium an Art World Powerhouse

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The Muscles from Brussels: The Key Players Making Belgium an Art World Powerhouse
Francesco Rossi of Rossi Contemporary, Brussels.

Although the international art world seems to have discovered the Brussels art scene during the last few years, the Belgian capital carries a rich artistic heritage and is an ever-evolving city. Aside from the innumerable galleries moving to Brussels, and a new art fair (the debut of the New York-based Independent), the city also plans to open its first contemporary art museum in 2017. And every year, as springtime settles in, Art Brussels brings together a commendable group of galleries and art figures to bear witness to the dynamic art scene in Brussels and in Belgium at large.

This year marks a shift for Art Brussels: it will relocate to a new venue, the Tour & Taxi old customs house, moving in closer to the center of Brussels and becoming more accessible for visitors. It will also be accompanied by Independent, which will inaugurate a new project space in the city center.

The simmering art scene in Brussels is often attributed to low rents and a nurturing ground for artists, as well as the presence of private and public art spaces with quality programming. These include non-profit or artist run spaces such as Société and curatorial projects like Komplot and Besme 105—spaces that complement the venerable efforts of larger public and privately funded institutions such as WIELS and BOZAR.

When asked about the evolution of the art scene in Brussels, art historian and gallery owner Alexandre Daletchine said "Brussels is undergoing organic development, in the field of culture and contemporary art in particular. This is evidenced by important exhibitions in its museums, private institutions such as the CAB, Boghossian Foundation, Vanhaerents Collection, La Maison Particulière, or independent spaces like La Loge, Komplot, and NICC."

Francesco Rossi, owner of Rossi Contemporary, agrees, "the scene in Brussels has seen a magnificent crescendo for years. And it is probably one of the best places worldwide for contemporary art."  Yet, in spite of being a cosmopolite city with a dense number of art collectors per capita, it manages to remain relatively discreet in comparison to cities like Miami, New York, or London.  And a scene is not made without the efforts of people, key players flexing their muscles day-in and day-out to invigorate the cultural life of Belgium.

In a list that is long but by no means comprehensive, here are the people who have played a key role in the evolution of the Belgian art scene:

 

ARTISTS:

Luc Tuymans
Walter Swennen
Anouk De Clercq
Michaël Borremans
Thierry De Cordier
Robert Devriendt
Etienne Courtois
Koen van den Broek
Berlinde de Bruyckere
Edith Dekyndt
Rinus Van de Velde
Hans Op de Beeck
Vincent Meessen
Johan Grimonprez    
Max Pinckers
Lieven Segers
Wim Delvoye
Jos de Gruyter  
Harald Thys
David Claerbout
Vincent Geysken
Kris Martin
Wim Catrysse
Lili Dujourie
Koenraad Dedobbeleer
Benjamin Verdonck
Ann Veronica Janssens
Michel François
Jan De Cock
Jan Fabre
Dirk Braeckman
Sven Augustijnen
Lucia Bru
Anne-Mie van Kerckhoven
Marthe Wéry
Peter Vermeersch
Renato Nicolodi
Aline Bouvy
Guillaume Bijl

 

CURATORS:

Eva Wittocx (Curator of Museum M, Leuven and frequent contributor to art publications such as Flash Art)
Martin Germann (Senior curator at S.M.A.K, Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, and regular contributor to exhibition catalogues and magazines)
Nav Haq (Belgian-based exhibitions curator at Museum of Contemporary Art, M HKA, Antwerp; curatorial advisor for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Iberia Art Center in Beijing; contributor to Art Review, Bidoun, Frieze, and Yishu: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art; winner of ICI’s 2012 Independent Vision Curatorial Award)
Piet Coessens‎ (Director of Raveelmuseum in Machelen-aan-de-Leie)
Sophie Lauwers (Deputy Director of Exhibitions at BOZAR, writer)
Joel Benzakin (Independent curator who worked on the Belgian Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale, with BOZAR and renowned galleries)
Luk Lambrecht (Director and curator of visual arts and dance at Strombeek Cultural Center and art critic for Knack Weekend, De Morgen, Knack, and Flash Art)

 

MUSEUM DIRECTORS:

Joost Declercq (Founder of VOBK art professionals association in Flanders, art collector, and director of Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens)
Xavier Canonne (Art historian, author, curator, and director of the Photography Museum in Charleroi)
Paul Dujardin (CEO and artistic director of the Center for Fine Arts (BOZAR), President of the International Federation of Music Youth and Music Bozar, Brussels)
Pierre-Olivier Rollin (Journalist and art historian, cultural actor in the Province of Hainaut, and director of Art Museum BPS22 Charleroi)
Bart de Baere (Director of Museum of Contemporary Art, M HKA in Antwerp; curator and writer for publications such as Afterall; co-curator of 6th Moscow Biennale)
Dirk Snauwaert (Director of WIELS; member of several boards, including the Flemish Community's Visual Arts Advisory Board; curated Jef Geys's exhibition at the Belgian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennial)
Denis Gielen (Director of Museum of Contemporary Art, Hornu; art critic and contributor to e-flux)
Philippe Van Cauteren (Independent curator and curator of the Iraqi Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale; artistic director of S.M.A.K, Museum for Contemporary Art, Ghent)
Elviera Velghe (Director of the Photography Museum in Antwerp)
Catherine de Zegher (Author, art critic, current director of Museum of Fine Arts, MSK, Ghent; curator of numerous exhibitions including the Australian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and the 5th Moscow Biennale and artistic co-director of the 18th Biennale of Sydney)
Philip Van den Bossche (International independent curator, art writer, and current director of MuZee, Ostende)
Dirk De Wit (Director of Institute of Visual Arts BAM, Kunstenpunt /Flanders Art Institute, and international independent curator)

 

ART FAIR DIRECTORS:

Anne Vierstraete (Director of Art Brussels)
Katerina Gregos (International independent curator, artistic director for Art Brussels, curator of the Belgian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale and the 5th Thessaloniki Biennial, active lecturer and writer)
Liv Vaisberg  (Founder and director of Poppositions art fair; co-director of Independent, Brussels) 

 

WRITERS/CRITICS:

Etienne Wynants (Art historian, managing editor of art publication the Witte Raaf, and business coordinator of the Etablissement d’en face in Brussels)
Hans Theys (Art critic and curator, author of more than 30 books on Contemporary art, lecturer at the Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp and Ghent)
Sam Steverlynck (Art critic for publications such as De Standaard, H ART, Damn magazine, and Artsland; curator of the exhibition "A Simple Plan" in a private villa designed by Stéphane Beel)
Liesbeth Huybrechts (Author, researcher on topics such as digital media, lecturer for various academic art institutes such as LUCA and Mondriaan Foundation)
Hans De Wolf (Art historian, professor, author of numerous publications on contemporary art, distinguished specialist on Marchel Duchamp)
Pierre-Yves Desaive (Art historian and critic specializing in contemporary art, curator at the Musuem of Royal Arts, Brussels) 
Eric Rinckhout (Art, architecture, and literature writer for De Morgen; author of three books on Willem Elsschot)

 

COLLECTORS:

Alain Servais (Brussels-based independent financial consultant and contemporary art collector)
Anton Herbert (Agricultural machinery entrepreneur and owner one of the largest collections of Minimal art; also has a collection of Conceptual art and Arte Povera of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, which is on display at the Herbert foundation in Ghent)
Walter Vanhaerents (Real estate and construction magnate, contemporary art collector behind the Vanhaerents Art Collection in Brussels)
Mark Vanmoerkerke (Private equity and real-estate investor, owner of contemporary art exhibition open to the public in Ostende)
Herman Daled (Radiologist; his Conceptual and Contemporary art collection was purchased by MOMA in 2011)
Tanguy Van Quickenborne (CEO of Van Den Weghe stone company, and avid contemporary art collector)
Frédéric de Goldschmidt (French, Belgium-based former property developer; film producer, art patron)
Myriam and Amaury de Solages (Amaury is a financial consultant; both are French, Brussels-based contemporary art collectors and founders of Maison Particulière, an art center in Brussels)
Mimi Dusselier (Belgian art collector and director of the textile company Bonneterie Dusselier)
Mimi & Filiep Libeert (Former textile and telecommunication magnates, modern and contemporary art collectors)
Bernard Soens (Founder of Cassochrome printing house and collector of contemporary art) 
André Gordts (Modern and contemporary art advisor, collector of contemporary art)
Lieven Declerck (Doctor and collector of contemporary and modern art)
Michel Moortgat (CEO of Duvel Moortgat brewery, art collector and patron of institutions such as WIELS and MHKA)
The Cigrang family (Owners of Cobelfret group shipping company, who have amassed a large modern art collection)
Guy and Myriam Ullens (Entrepreneurs in the refined-sugar industry, collectors of contemporary Chinese art)

 

DEALERS:

Albert Baronian
Micheline Szwajcer
Nathalie Obadia
Almine Rech
Tim Van Laere
Greta Meert
Xavier Hufkens
Rodolphe Janssen
Francesco Rossi

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