Brussels Sprouts

Brussels
10.15.08

Left: Dealer Barbara Gladstone. Right: Dealers Almine Rech and Larry Gagosian. (All photos: Linda Yablonsky)


Last week, while bankers worldwide were tearing out their hair over falling financial markets, people in the art world, at least in Europe, kept up a burble of nervous cheer. “Everyone here is so happy,” Almine Rech noted during a brief tête-à-tête with Larry Gagosian, one of 140 guests at dinner in her nineteenth-century manse in Brussels last Saturday night. The occasion for the celebration was “White Earth,” the Anselm Reyle show that the Parisian dealer presented in the Belgian capital, where Barbara Gladstone was also debuting a new base the following night.

“Art brings people together,” replied the affable Gagosian, whose galleries in New York, Rome, London, Los Angeles, and now Moscow make him something of an expert. We took a moment to observe the brace of boozing bourgeoisie from Paris and Berlin who were standing in the living room before artworks by Damien Hirst, Ellsworth Kelly, Reyle, and Rech’s grandfather-in-law Pablo Picasso.

Rech’s husband, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, entertained a few of their expensively clothed collector friends from Ghent, like Bernard Soens and Mimi Dussolier, while Gladstone held down another corner with New York collector Jane Holzer and curator Francesco Bonami. Now working with thirty assistants, rather than the paltry five he needed just a few years ago, Reyle exulted in the big, shiny assemblages he had concocted for the cast-detritus installation, hoisted into several artfully deconstructed rooms above an old parking garage that will soon give way to a new building housing the gallery. The show, Rech said, made her presence in Brussels official.

Left: ICA London director Mark Sladen with Massimo de Carlo's Ludovica Barbieri. Right: Curator Francesco Bonami.


Along with galleries, more artists are moving there, too—at least according to Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf, who was sharing a smoke with the buoyantly entitled young American artist Jordan Wolfson. “It’s true,” said Kris Martin, the Belgian artist from Ghent who was my dinner companion that evening, along with Flemish architect Xavier Donck and Copenhagen dealer Claus Andersen. Brussels apparently offers even bigger spaces and cheaper rents than Berlin. Its central location, the reason it became headquarters for the European Union, also makes it easy for collectors to stop in.

All of this factored into Gladstone’s decision to rent the beautiful town house where Bonami organized her park-side gallery’s debut show, “No Information Available,” a play on Kynaston McShine’s defining 1970 Museum of Modern Art show on Conceptual art. Bonami chose an unusual mix of European and American artists, including Rosemarie Trockel, Isa Genzken, Franz West, Mitzi Pederson, Bojan Sarcevic, and Wolfson.

“This is all an experiment,” Gladstone said. “We don't know how it’s going to work out.” She may have been reacting to stock-market jitters, though no one in Brussels seemed overly concerned. “Now all those people who bought all that art might actually have to look at it,” commented Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs, admiring two 1991 paintings by Genzken, made from studio-floor rubbings. “A young artist today could make a whole career out of that,” Bonami commented.

Left: Dealers Aurel Scheibler and Maureen Paley with artist Gary Hume. Right: Artist Anselm Reyle.


“It’s amazing that all these artists traveled all this way to be here tonight,” Gladstone said during her very grand dinner for 170 in the chandeliered marble pile Palais d'Egmont, a short walk through Parc d'Egmont, behind the gallery. She was speaking not just of those included in the show but of many others whose respect she has won over the years, artists like Thomas Hirschhorn, Cameron Jamie, Pierre Bismuth, Damián Ortega, and Andro Wekua (who came with his equally stunning girlfriend, photographer Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili). Other tables accommodated Dussolier, wearing (apparently at Gladstone’s request) the same fabulous Dries van Noten necklace of antique bangles and rings she had the night before, consultant Allan Schwartzman, MAC (Hornu) director Laurent Busine, and Willem de Kooning Foundation director Amy Schichtel.

The rest of us felt like extras on a movie set, especially walking through a klieg-lighted courtyard, famous for executions performed there in centuries past, to the afterparty at Bar Rouge, every cerise inch of which lived up to its name.

In London, afterparties were the mainstays of every evening leading up to the opening of this year’s Frieze Art Fair; in this case, the word party could mean a few blokes sitting around a pub, a seated dinner, or a big drinks-and-dance blowout.

Left: Artist Michael Craig-Martin. Right: Artist Roberto Cuoghi.


Monday night for me began with Michael Landy’s opening at Thomas Dane, where forty-five penciled portraits of the artist’s friends filled the walls. Many—like dealer Maureen Paley, artists Gary Hume and Rebecca Warren, and Landy’s former teacher, Michael Craig-Martin—even made it to see the show. Also on hand, paging through Landy’s new book, Everything Must Go, was artist Glenn Ligon, with designer Duro Olowu (Studio Museum director Thelma Golden’s other half) and singer Nell Campbell, onetime queen of New York nightlife.

I don’t know how many people came to Tate Modern for a first look at Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s huge Styrofoam reproductions of sculptures by Alexander Calder and Louise Bourgeois in the Turbine Hall, but what looked like a thousand were upstairs stepping gingerly through Cildo Meireles’s retrospective, which included a standout installation of all kinds of barriers, hard and soft (fences, curtains, screens), on cracking green glass tiles made for stomping. On the other side of the Thames, the ICA attracted a much younger and more Italian crowd to Roberto Cuoghi’s London debut, “Suillakku,” a surround-sound installation that apparently translated his thoughts into ancient Assyrian music played by instruments of his own creation. With speakers positioned around galleries and gray foam rectangles on the walls, it looked a lot simpler than it was.

Massimo De Carlo hosted a dinner for Cuoghi at the subway-tiled Automat in Mayfair, after which I ran like the wind to Great Eastern Bar to try and catch the afterparty for Elmgreen & Dragset’s re-creation of a much wilder afterparty at Victoria Miro, but as is often the case while negotiating an art world that has set itself up in fiefdoms very distant from one another, I was, alas, too late.

Left: Curator Alexandre Melo with artist Cildo Meireles. Right: Art: Concept's Olivier Antoine.


By the next day, I had joined the ranks of those determined to be first at everything. I bailed early from the way-overcrowded Frieze Welcome Party to catch Catherine Opie’s latest photographs at Stephen Friedman and Julian Opie’s new painted and LED-lighted figures at Lisson. Then it was time to head to Soho for the party Jay Jopling was throwing—for whom, I wasn’t sure—though it seemed every pretty young thing in town had shown up for what I will dare to call the party of the week, even though the fair hadn’t started yet.

It was held in a building opposite the Groucho Club that is currently being converted into expensive apartments. Rented just for the party, it reminded me of Area, the ’80s Tribeca club that depended on changing environments and live performances to spice it up. This one was elegantly outfitted in half-constructed walls, exposed wiring, plywood floors, fresh graffiti, bare ceiling bulbs in yellow cages, and tables made out of heating grates set on cinder blocks.

In many ways, it recalled a palace like the Egmont in Brussels—only with more bohemian splendor. In the downstairs bar, rows of candelabras were set on long tables for dinner. Upstairs, where the dance music was loudest, partygoers such as Stella McCartney, artists Sam Taylor-Wood and Jim Lambie, dealer Paul Kasmin, and a tranny curator named Arakis from the Basque Country wandered through the rooms making new friends and getting “shandy-boozed,” as performance artist Caron Geary so well put it. I heard one man tell two women, “Yes, I’m married—but I’m also single.”

Left: Art consultant Allan Schwartzman with Gladstone director Max Falkenstein. Right: Critic Jerry Saltz with dealer Stephen Friedman.


A couple of the bedrooms had funky old velvet armchairs and beds made with expensive linens. Beyeler Foundation director Samuel Keller climbed between the sheets with first one, then two, then four women. “I’m in bed with four lesbians and every guy here is looking at me with envy,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

The perfect way to start a convention, if you ask me.

Linda Yablonsky

Left: Gladstone director Rosalie Benitez with artist Thomas Hirschhorn. Right: Kunsthalle Zurich director Beatrix Ruf with artist Jordan Wolfson.


Left: Collectors Anton and Anik Herbert with Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs. Right: Artist Kris Martin.


Left: MAC (Hornu) director Laurent Busine with dealer Albert Baronian. Right: Collector Mimi Dusselier.


Left: The Willem de Kooning Foundation director Amy Schichtel. Right: Artist Glenn Ligon and fashion designer Duro Olowu.


Left: Artist Jim Lambie. Right: Artist Sam Taylor-Wood.