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Buzzing vernissage, strong attendance from collectors, and significant sales at Art Brussels
Peter Kogler for ING at Art Brussels 2016, photo by David Plas.

BRUSSELS.- The 34th edition of Art Brussels, set in the new location of Tour & Taxis, took place from 22 - 24 April (Vernissage 21 April) with 141 international galleries exhibiting. With a strong programme that included curated projects and special installations, Art Brussels is the place to discover emerging and established artists. Attendance was high and exhibitors were pleased with the level of interest shown by collectors.

Anne Vierstraete, Managing Director of Art Brussels said: "We are very happy with the outcome of Art Brussels 2016. Even amongst the busy art week in the city, the fair excelled in both attendance and sales, confirming its position as one of Europe’s leading contemporary art fairs. Moving to our new venue was unanimously praised by our visitors; the natural light enhanced the experience of viewing art, and created a distinct atmosphere. Our efforts to improve the overall quality have been realised at all levels with significant sales across the fair, thanks to the high quality of the works on show and beautiful booth presentations. The fair architecture by Tom Postma Design, the outstanding catering by JML, the exclusive exhibition showcasing the collection of Jan Hoet, and so many other exciting new elements made Art Brussels 2016 a very enjoyable experience for our visitors, who both in quantity (25,628 visitors) and quality proved beyond our expectations."

Amongst the PRIME galleries Jablonka Maruani Mercier (Brussels) sold more than 10 works on the first day for between $75,000 – $100,000, including Hank Willis Thomas’ speech bubble sculpture Ernest and Ruth, on view as part of the OUT OF THE BOOTH sculpture route. Other notable sales on the opening day included a large bronze by Jaume Plensa at Galerie Lelong (Paris, New York) for €340,000. Brussels-based gallery Meessen De Clercq also reported in excess of 30 sales with works priced between €2,000 – €60,000, while Sorry We're Closed's (Brussels) booth of entirely green works emblazoned with the words 'Green Doesn't Sell' sold well in spite of the slogan. Steve Turner (Los Angeles) reported strong sales for both of the two artists presented on the stand, including six paintings on powder-coated steel by Los Angeles-based Yung Jake and three monumental drawings by Medellín-based Camilo Restrepo.

Following the Vernissage, many collectors returned to the fair multiple times throughout its duration. PRIME gallery Galerie Greta Meert (Brussels) sold works from artists in their ‘young programme’, including a number of works by Edith Dekyndt, who had a solo show at WIELS during Art Brussels; and two paintings by Koen van den Broek for €50,000 each. Among Galerie Rodolphe Janssen’s (Brussels) noteworthy sales, was a work by Sam Moyer for $35,000 to an important private collection in Brussels. Nadja Vilenne (Liege), Galerie Daniel Templon (Paris/Brussels), Bugada & Cargnel (Paris) and Xavier Hufkens (Brussels) also reported strong sales. Waddington Custot Galleries (London) highlighted sales of works by Frank Stella, Bernar Venet and French artist Fabienne Verdier, whose work was also exhibited in the off-site film programme, Seeing in the Dark: Cinematek. Newcomer Lyles & King (New York), established less than a year ago, made their European art fair debut at Art Brussels and sold nine paintings by Chris Hood and two major sculptures by Phillip Birch, together ranging €6,000 - €16,000. New Art Centre (Salisbury) sold very well, among other pieces, a work by William Turnbull to an Australian collector for around €200,000.

Galerie Ron Mandos’s (Amsterdam) SOLO booth installation by celebrated Dutch artist Levi van Veluw sold for €45,000. Galerie Krinzinger (Vienna) attributed their 2016 success with young Greek artist Jannis Varelas to a SOLO booth they presented of his work at the fair in 2015, which helped establish his career. Following the fair, D+T Project’s (Brussels) popular OUT OF THE BOOTH sculpture by Krištof Kintera will go on show at a private museum and an institution.

Strong sales of younger artists confirmed Art Brussels’ profile as a foremost discovery fair. Numerous curators and museum directors commented that they discovered many artists for the first time at the fair. General Store (Picton) commented on the benefits of art fair exposure for their artists, after receiving interest from other dealers at the fair to represent exhibiting artist Pete Wheeler. In the DISCOVERY section, the collaboration between Cøpperfield (London) and Division of Labour (Worcester) sold out and brought about promising placements for their emerging artists, in particular the sale of two works by Alastair Mackie to the Eres Foundation in Munich. At KOW (Berlin) the works of Michael E. Smith and Heinrich Dunst sold very well. At Tiwani Contemporary's (London) booth, Zimbabwean artist Gareth Nyandoro proved popular, with demand for further works.

In the REDISCOVERY section, where galleries profiled previously overlooked or underappreciated artists making work between 1917-1987, Timothy Taylor (London) sold two works by Eduardo Terrazas at $36,000 a piece. Photographs by Barbara and Michael Leisgen sold well to international collectors at beta pictoris gallery (Birmingham, AL.), including the artists’ 1972 work Eintauchen to a New York collector for €18,000. Also in this section, Galerie Steinek (Vienna) had success with the work of Renate Bertlmann, selling works to a European museum and many private collections for prices between €2,000 and €34,000, as well as receiving interest from international curators.

Collector attendance was strong with visitors notably from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and the UK as well as from countries further afield such as Australia, Turkey and the USA. Collectors including Michael & Susan Hort from the USA; Jules & Barbara Farber and Josée & Marc Gensollen from France; Shohidul Choudhury from the UAE; Kamiar Maleki from the UK; Álvaro López de Lamadrid from Spain; Antoine de Galbert from Paris, and Alain Servais, Frédéric de Goldschmidt and Mimi Dusselier from within Belgium all attended.

Katerina Gregos, Artistic Director of Art Brussels said: "Despite taking place at a difficult time for Brussels, Art Brussels is extremely pleased with the tremendous turn-out at the fair and the overwhelmingly positive feedback by collectors, curators and museum professionals. Our discovery profile has been firmly consolidated and our visitors realise that we bring something different to the international art fair practices by privileging solid artistic content and profiling surprising artistic practices which one does not see at other art fairs. At the same time, we are delighted to welcome a large number of important international established galleries, many of which presented outstanding booths in PRIME and some museum-quality presentations in REDISCOVERY. This mix provides the necessary equilibrium a fair needs between the young and upcoming and the renowned and recognised."

The new location at Tour & Taxis was praised by gallerists and visitors. Almine Rech Gallery (Brussels, Paris, London) described the venue as both attractive and more convenient for galleries and collectors, and was pleased with sales while Ellis King (Dublin) commented how the space was both characterful and non-intrusive, making it ideal for an art fair.

Influential art world figures such as Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Gallery), Iwona Blazwick (Whitechapel Art Gallery), Konrad Bitterli (Kunstmuseum St. Gallen), Charles Esche (Van Abbemuseum), Dirk Snauwaert (WIELS), and Marina Dacci (Collezione Maramotti) were in attendance, among others. 30 international curators were also in attendance for the Curators’ Programme, co-organised by Art Brussels and Kunstenpunt. Sixteen museum and other institutional groups, including the friends of Palais de Tokyo and Centre Pompidou, S.M.A.K, Stedelijk Museum, SAHA Council, and Tate Modern, toured the fair embracing the opportunity to view the museum-quality show Cabinet d'Amis: The Accidental Collection of Jan Hoet (sponsored by Anglo Belge Special Risks and Stibbe), curated by Artistic Director Katerina Gregos. The exhibition was complemented by an extensive talks programme, co-organised by Art Brussels and CAHF (Contemporary Arts Heritage Flanders), and featuring several international speakers including Jens Maier-Rothe, Denys Zacharopoulos, artist Henk Visch, and veteran gallerist and curator Mario Pieroni. Finally, both the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders, as well as the Flemish Minister of Culture, Sven Gatz, both officially toured the fair.

In the NON-PROFIT section, State of Concept (Athens) artist Anahita Razmi transformed the space into a fully functioning Tehran underwear shop. Also in the non-profit section, a reinterpretation of Anu Vahtra's site-specific installation by EKKM – Museum of Contemporary Arts of Estonia's (Tallinn) invited visitors to climb into a space constructed with a sharply sloped floor. On the terrace outside, artists dressed in golden outfits energetically performed karaoke accompanied by a deaf-mute performer in a curated stage conceived by artist Frederik Van Simaey and organised by HISK – The Higher Institute of Fine Arts (Ghent).

Throughout the week, the city was buzzing with numerous exhibitions opening their doors late on Art Brussels' Gallery Night as local and international visitors explored Brussels’ contemporary art scene.

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