French artists and professionals in Brussels



Brussels attracts artists and galleries from neighbouring countries. Its ideal location between France, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany (Paris can be reached in just over an hour, London, Cologne and Amsterdam in about two hours) is not its only asset … Real estate prices are much more affordable than in Paris and its wealth tax is lower. Many young artists are attracted to Brussels because it is easier to obtain spacious and relatively cheap workshops. Meanwhile, several French galleries have opened there, including Daniel Templon, Paris-Beijing, Almine Rech and Obadia… and the movement is continuing.

The first French gallerist to open in Brussels was Almine Rech in 2006. Two years later, Nathalie Obadia followed suit, along with the New York Gallerist Barbara Gladstone, explaining that artists like Anish KAPOOR were already well represented in London and Paris and that the market was saturated there. In 2012, we saw Paris-Beijing and Valerie Bach take positions in Brussels and then in 2013, Daniel Templon, Dakota and Ifa.

In the case of Daniel Templon – who has organised some 400 exhibitions in Paris over the past 50 years – the aim was to promote around twenty artists who were strangely unrepresented in Belgium. In fact the Belgian market was still virgin for Anthony CARO, Joel SHAPIRO, Gérard GAROUSTE, Philippe COGNÉE and Jim DINE among others. More surprisingly, the famous Belgian artist, Jan FABRE, had no official gallery representation in Brussels before the arrival of the Templon Gallery (the Guy Pieters gallery is located in Knokke-Heist, about an hour and a half outside the Belgian capital). Templon’s opening show in the autumn of 2013 was an on-site installation by the Japanese artist Chiharu SHIOTA, a signature that regularly crops up at major Contemporary art fairs in Paris, Singapore, New York and Hong Kong. That show was followed by homages to the sculptor Anthony Caro, the Indian artist Atul DODIYA and the Belgian artist Jan Fabre. This summer (4 June – 26 July) the gallery is showcasing works by Sudarshan SHETTY, a major artist of the Indian Contemporary scene, along the lines of Subodh GUPTA. Aside from the established art professionals, a number of young gallerists have recently taken up residence in Brussels, including Sébastien Ricou in 2009 and the French gallerists Chez Valentin and Jeanroch Dard who together created Mon Chéri in 2014 and offer a more open gallery concept… for several generations of French art professionals, the time has come to experiment.

Best known for its specialized sales of Design, Comics, Modern and Contemporary art, the Belgian market is not negligible. It has also attracted French auction operators, including Pierre Bergé who took over the building of art dealer Georges Jonckeere (Place des Sablons) for six years before it closed. Pierre Bergé returned to Paris in 2012 because of differences regarding development strategy. That same year, Artcurial and Cornette de Saint Cyr both decided to open sales rooms in Brussels. However, for the time, being their results have been less convincing than their Paris results.

Belgian art collectors enjoy a reputation for amassing pertinent and handsome collections, and the Brussels Art fair attracts some 30,000 visitors each year, including 30% foreigners … However Brussels is still far behind Paris in terms of attractiveness and market power. The EU capital may be more of a refuge rather than an Eldorado….