Fairs Belgium

Collectors make careful choices at Art Brussels

The “best fair of the second division”, as one local dealer describes it, is a typically relaxed and steady-paced event

Two paintings by the Iranian artist Tala Madani, "Open Mouth Line Man", 2011, and "Intestine Jinn", 2011, (priced at $16,000 and $18,000) had sold by day two

The 30th edition of Art Brussels (19-22 April), described by the local art dealer Rodolphe Janssen as the “best fair of the second division”, was a typically relaxed and steady-paced event, where buyers took their time over purchases. During the preview on 18 April, Belgian and French collectors were out in force: Alain Servais, Bruno van Lierde, Cédric Liénart de Jeude, Gilles Fuchs and Nicolas Libert were seen greeting each other in the aisles, while the Miami collector Jorge Pérez and the London-based collector Anita Zabludowicz brought a more international flavour. “One of the main strengths of this fair is our collectors,” said Karen Renders, the director of Art Brussels. “They are not impulsive buyers, they really study the market.”

The section of the fair dedicated to young and emerging galleries, Hall 3, attracted bigger crowds than the section for established galleries during the opening evening, although sales here were mixed. By the time the fair had opened to the public on 19 April, the Los Angeles gallery Honor Fraser had sold a Glenn Kaino tapestry to a European collector for around $45,000, as well as one of three Annie Lapin paintings priced at around $20,000 to a collector from Barcelona, while the Amsterdam gallery Ron Mandos sold a large-scale Rik Smits drawing for €15,000. Meanwhile, at the Los Angeles gallery Cherry and Martin, Matt Connors's presentation of six abstract paintings (each priced at $12,500) sold out during the first two hours of the preview and earned the artist the Belgacom prize for the best solo show at the fair.

Also in Hall 3, the London gallery Other Criteria was showing prints and paintings by Damien Hirst, modestly priced between £235 for an etching of 75 editions and £46,500 for a small butterfly and spin canvas. A handful of prints had sold by day two, but despite drawing admiring glances, the two small spin canvases strategically placed at the entrance to the booth had not.

Although it was quieter in Hall 1, sales were up in this section of the fair for established galleries, with two-dimensional works faring well. A large-scale Louise Bourgeois work on paper, A Baudelaire (#8) Silence is a form of intimacy, 2009, on show at Xavier Hufkens's Brussels gallery was rumoured to have sold to a local collector. Hufkens sold a similar version of the drawing at Art Basel in 2010 for $650,000.

At the London gallery Pilar Corrias, almost all of the young British artist Mary Ramsden's nine paintings had been snapped up (priced between £1,800 and £4,500), while four drawings (priced at $11,000 each) and both paintings (priced at $16,000 and $18,000) by the Iranian artist Tala Madani had sold by day two. Nearby, Janssen reported steady sales, with two drawings by the Belgian artist Wim Delvoye going for €20,000 each, a wall sculpture by the Johannesburg-born, Brussels-based artist Kendell Geers selling for €44,000 and a woodcut on paper by the Cologne artists Gert and Uwe Tobias finding a home for more than €40,000. “People are really thinking and picking carefully,” said Janssen.

Carlos Cardenas, a co-director of Almine Rech Gallery acknowledged the economic and logistical advantages of bringing two-dimensional works, although the Paris and Brussels-based gallery bucked the trend with half of its booth dedicated to sculpture. Here, a bronze work by Johan Creten (priced at around €120,000) went to a Belgian collector and three of seven ceramic pieces by William O'Brien sold for between $7,300 and $16,000. “This is a very easygoing fair,” said Cardenas. “But business has been brisk and we have sold half our booth.”

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