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"Cultures" in Brussels: Reaping the Benefits?

Published on , by Anne Doridou-Heim

The synergy between the arts of elsewhere and yesteryear is palpable for the fourth year running, as the event at the Grand Sablon looks set to become a permanent feature.

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye, shield in wood and pigments, h. 48 cm....
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye, shield in wood and pigments, h. 48 cm. Philippe Laeremans gallery.
© Speltdoorn Studio

We often hear that it takes three years for a new cultural event to reach its cruising speed. And "Cultures", resulting from the amalgamation of three fairs (BRUNEAF, BAAF and AAB) is now about to stage its fourth edition, when all those combined efforts ought to bear fruit. Fifty-three exhibitors will be joining forces at the Grand Sablon: a venue that has never had any serious rivals in Brussels, and is imbued with a Belgian spirit: one that is "authentic, cultural and friendly," to quote BRUNEAF president Didier Claes.

Demanding choices
The African and Oceanic Art section is the most substantial. It features twenty-seven exhibitors including twelve foreigners, with first-timer Chris Boylan representing Australia, and H. Kellim Brown and Bruce Frank the US.  Brussels galleries Aboriginal Signature, Ambre Congo and Joaquin Pecci (with Barcelona's Guilhem Montagut) are staging thematic exhibitions. These involve a collection produced by aboriginal artists from the Spinifex Art Project at the first gallery (which has an ethical policy to promote this culture), a hang of paintings by Mulongoy Pili Pili and other artists from the Atelier du Hangar at the second, and "Objets de rêve" at the third (you will have guessed that this poetic title, "dream objects", refers to headrests: ideal media for stories). As well as a cycle of talks, a museum-quality exhibition provides kudos. To celebrate the publication of a book on the Sepik Art of New Guinea by Kevin Conru, a selection of ninety-six artefacts from this tribe will be on show at Lempertz. These provide a natural transition to neighbouring Asia. No fewer than eleven ambassadors will be defending these arts, including heavyweights like Gisèle Croës and Grusenmeyer. Asian Art in Brussels is celebrating its seventh anniversary, notably under the aegis of Tibetan gods with an event-within-an-event exhibition of sixteen "Tiger Rugs" and other antique carpets at Hong Kong-based Michael Woerner's stand. The idea of age is echoed by the fifteen participants presenting antiquities. It is even an essential label, as emphasised by Jacques Bille, member of the BAAF (Brussels Ancient Art Fair) committee, who cites the meticulous examination of pieces by international experts and their mandatory registration in the Art Loss Register.

Worth Knowing
Cultures -The World Arts Fair: a circuit through waymarked galleries in the Grand Sablon district, Brussels, 12 to 16 June.
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