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Les Professionals: ArtBrussels Reviewed


Brussels is a city hosting many eclectic art festivals that tend to celebrate everything from vampire movies to street performers: in the sort of venues that put posters up with masking tape, balance projection screens on top of breeze-blocks and ensure the beer wont run out. However, once a year Hilton suites are booked, champagne chilled and red carpets given a final tweak because Artbrussels, the annual international art fair, jets into town. This year the 23rd edition of Artbrussels took place from the15th -18th April in two large exhibition halls. It featured 130 galleries from 21 countries and received an estimated 32,000 visiting professionals, collectors and art lovers.
Predictably, there were many galleries showing off classic collections with big price tags, embossed business cards and frozen smiles. These galleries also featured much legendary installation and performance art: either fetishised as large framed stills or prostituted in some other form of commercial event ‘documentation’. Mattieu Laurette, a lifestyle artist who eats and lives by constantly cashing in customer satisfaction guarantee money-back offers, was presented in a solo show (Deweer Art Gallery, Belgium): a pantomime of a plinth-based, life-sized wax figure pushing a shopping trolley (version 2).
Also typically for an art fair there was lots of photography and artwork in editions. I recommend the small, unframed travel photographs by artist Fleur Boonman (Analix Forever Gallery, Genéve), perhaps disproportionately attractive because of their honesty surrounded by so much artistic wacky-tackiness. She simply photographs and films her travels. The results are colourful, beautiful portraits of places it is hard to imagine exist, and impossible to imagine being within.

The lingering artwork (one still haunting me days later) is by artist Piero Steinle (GIP-Contemporary, Zurich); an absurd and pathetic contribution to the tradition of Adam and Eve diptychs entitled ‘Paradise Birds.’ This film, playing simultaneously on two monitors, features two plucked chickens: obscenely naked but displaying no distress or awareness of their condition. They inhabit a stark, blank cinematic space. Only the hen pecks at some fruit and both shit.