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Art Brussels Contemporary Art Fair April 18-21, 2013
March 28, 2013  | 
Brussels is getting ready for the 31st edition of Art Brussels. Karen Renders, who passed away prematurely in October of last year, stood at the helm of the fair as its director for fifteen years. Thanks to her efforts, Art Brussels grew into one of the leading contemporary art fairs in Europe and beyond. Renders stood for a fair in which both artistic dynamism and commercial focus occupied a central position. As director, she was very supportive of the younger generation of galleries and artists, whom she enthusiastically gave a platform to within the fair. Her early death brings Art Brussels to a new turning point. It was Karen Renders’ express wish to appoint the international curator Katerina Gregos to a new function in which both the artistic vision and the accompanying programme of the fair would be developed further.

Artistic Director’s Foreword
The brand new artistic director describes her mission as follows: Art fairs continue to be an important component of the art world, bridging commerce and creativity and providing an important locus for the showcasing of art, networking, discursive activities, possibilities for artists to gain an income, and collectors and institutions to build their collections. At a time when, despite the economic crisis, art fairs continue to proliferate and competition is intense, it is extremely challenging for me to be able to work on developing a distinct artistic identity and positioning for Art Brussels, and a timely moment to think about the renewal of the fair given both its strengthened position and increased quality over the years, and the increasing international interest in the city’s art scene, which is becoming a focal point for artists and galleries alike, Belgian as well as international.

Presentation and Scenography of Galleries
The quality of an art fair is of course largely determined by the quality of the attending galleries and the artists they present. Gregos is inviting and encouraging all participating galleries who will soon will make their way to the capital of Europe and to Europe’s most exciting up-coming art city to not only showcase their best, but to also make an extra effort in the way their artworks will be presented in terms of scenography and installation. She hopes to move away from what she herself describes as the “supermarket-style, ‘mix-and-match’ form of presentation”, and towards more coherent, creative and adventurous ways of presenting art at Art Brussels, which challenges the mostly standardized, heterogeneous and indexical method of presentation that is commonly found at art fairs. Participating gallerists are thus invited to think about challenging the prevailing presentation paradigm of the fair.

Scenography and Graphic Design
The 2013 edition of Art Brussels will also be renewed in spatial sense. This year Art Brussels will have a new design and scenography, conceived by the young Belgian designer Tom Mares (b. 1983) in collaboration with Walt van Beek (b. 1981). Mares was selected among a shortlist of several leading and upcoming Belgian architects and designers. Mares’ concept for Art Brussels 2013 is to create an Art City. Upon arrival at the fair, visitors will go through an airport-style check-in lobby before entering the fair. At that point, the journey in the Art City begins. Colourful ground marks, will lead people to their destination. The Cinema, The Stage, and First Call Square are landmarks visible from a distance. These landmarks are subtle links helping visitors to find their way back or through an area. Visitors will experience different atmospheres similar to the diversity of a city. Different places of rest, social interaction, and orientation points will be discovered.

Along with its new design look, the fair has been given a new graphic identity as well. Sara De Bondt Studio, who has previously worked for Wiels, Tate, ICA, Victoria & Albert Museum (London) and the Kunsthal Charlottenborg (Copenhagen), among others, was commissioned to create a new campaign and a new design for the catalogue and all related printed matter. 

Artistic Projects 
Additionally, Katerina Gregos has planned several new artistic projects including, among others:

The Stage
For the next edition of Art Brussels a programme of discursive activities (talks, debates, encounters with artists) will be organised, together with a programme of live art and performance. All these activities will take place on The Stage, a specially designed amphitheatre that will host all these events in Hall 3, becoming the creative heart of the fair. These activities provide the necessary counterpart to the commercial activities of the fair and can draw a varied and engaged public.

The Stage will thus be the place where ideas and people (artists, collectors, gallerists, curators, scholars, critics and the like) will gather in order to propose, discuss and exchange ideas, plans and visions. It is a great opportunity to meet new as well old friends, colleagues, relations, acquaintances, etc.; a perfect opportunity to establish, enlarge, strengthen and improve ones network and listen to the ideas that currently matter.

Performance is finally being acknowledged as an important art form that goes beyond the object-based nature of most art, and including this within the context of an art fair will animate the diversity in presentation of the galleries, as well as the reception of the collectors. By paying serious attention to the possibility of presentation of performance art, the Fair will make the point that performance art can as well be acquired by private and not only by institutional collections. 

Video and Film at the Fair 
The former side programmes Video in the City and Art in the City are replaced by The Cinema, a specially designed space within the fair, which will feature a programme of shorter video works. Longer feature films or documentaries will be presented in collaboration with Beursschouwburg as Artist's Film Premieres, throughout the year.

Artist & Curator-Run Not-For-Profit Spaces
Apart from the institutional public and private spaces already existing in Brussels, the city has a number of very dynamic and important artist-run and not-for-profit spaces which are an integral part of the Brussels art scene, an important platform for artists and art-lovers alike, and a driving force behind one of Europe’s most upcoming art cities. Gregos has given a carte blanche to several of these spaces (including Etablissement d’ en face projects, Komplot, Institut du Carton, Maison Gregoire, (SIC), and La Loge) introducing to the fair an important non- commercial parameter.

Curators Programme
In addition to the VIP Programme, a Curator’s Programme has been established to bring leading international curators to the fair. Though commerce remains the primary motivation for a gallery at a fair, the presence of curators is both necessary and an added value particularly in view of potential exhibitions of the artists presented.

For more information: