Stéphane Janssen

On 29 September 2020, by Céline Piettre

The gallery owner and collector, born in Paris in 1936, died quietly on 16 September at 84, to the relative indifference of the media.

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And yet this son of a rich Belgian industrialist (his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship, was the CEO of the powerful Solvay group) left a distinct stamp on the art market in Brussels, where he opened a gallery, La Balance, in 1964. Stéphane Janssen was almost 30 when he began to promote the CoBrA movement. The gallery was in Avenue Louise, next to Marcel Stal's space. A great champion of abstraction at the time, Stal introduced him to Hergé, and Tintin's creator became one of his most loyal friends, as well as a surrogate father. But after co-founding the forerunner of Art Brussels, Janssen wanted to broaden his horizons. He went first to California, then to Arizona. There he discovered neo-Expressionism, befriended Basquiat and Mapplethorpe, and constructed a troglodyte house with his companion, the ceramist Michael Jones, who died of AIDS a few years later. His collection of over three thousand works was exhibited at the Louisiana Museum in 1986, then at the Phoenix Art Museum in 2014. He had long envisaged a donation to France's museums, and recently gifted a Roger-Edgar Gillet to the Centre Pompidou. He is described by his close circle as humorous, eccentric, refined and generous. The torch is now taken up by his two sons, Rodolphe and Sébastien, gallery owners in Brussels, maintaining the sacred flame of a passion they have inherited.

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