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'Les Deux Marins' by Pierre et Gilles | © Pierre et Gilles - Museum of Fine Arts Houston / Courtesy of the Museum of Ixelles
'Les Deux Marins' by Pierre et Gilles | © Pierre et Gilles - Museum of Fine Arts Houston / Courtesy of the Museum of Ixelles
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Must-See Brussels Gallery Shows This Spring

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 23 February 2017
Brussels has no shortage of diverse galleries where artists both established and new make their marks. Here, Culture Trip highlights seven of the most intriguing shows on display this spring, a lot of them keen on exploring the tension between the idealistic art inside and often harsher realities outside.
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Nationa(a)l Talent Hole

Until the middle of March, Nationa(a)l’s pop-up pavilion amidst the many museums of the Mont des Arts will be shining a spotlight on Brussels’ big pool of raw artistic talent. In response to a certain “hellhole” comment, the talent platform decided to call its three-month adventure Nationa(a)l Talent Hole. Besides happenings and an atelier where you can view two up-and-coming Belgian artists making their magic happen, further cross-pollination is encouraged in the co-working bar/exhibition space.

Until Thursday, March 16, 2017

Mont des Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Nationa(al) Talent Hole at night | courtesy of Nationa(a)l

Nationa(al) Talent Hole at dusk | Courtesy of Nationa(a)l

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Living Room by Antony Gormley at Xavier Hufkens Gallery

Three decades after Antony Gormley’s first solo exhibit at Xavier Hufkens, artist and gallery reunite. As is Gormley’s modus operandi, his own body forms the inspiration here and kick-starts the interplay of substituting body for building and building for body. The two-part sculpture that the show revolves around, entitled Living Room, is based on three-dimensional scans of Gormley himself, abstracted and broken down into linear, almost architectural, structures. From the second floor, the impression is not unlike looking down on a particularly modernist city. Eight man-sized cube figures, see-through from one side and impenetrable from another, emphasize once again the importance of perspective.

From March 9 – April 8, 2017

Xavier Hufkens, Rue Saint-Georges 6, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 639 67 30

Living Room by Antony Gormley | © Stephen White / courtesy of Xavier Hufkens Gallery

Living Room by Antony Gormley | © Stephen White / Courtesy of Xavier Hufkens Gallery

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Claire-Obscur by Pierre et Gilles at the Museum of Ixelles

While not technically a gallery in name, the Museum of Ixelles boasts such an intimate and small space that one could easily be fooled. That and Pierre et Gilles’ series of enchanting portraitures is simply too fascinating not to mention here. The colorful oeuvre of the French duo – partners in life as well as in art – floats somewhere in between two mediums. First, Pierre captures ordinary people or pop culture figures statically in front of his lens, while Gilles overpaints the photographic portrait, often infusing the image with vivid color and certain mythical properties. In 2014, Belgian musician Stromae received tears and a patron-saint veneer.

Currently running until Sunday, May 14, 2017

Museum of Ixelles, Rue Jean Van Volsem 71, Ixelles, Belgium, +32 2 515 64 22

For Ever (Stromae) by Pierre et Gilles | © Private collection Pierre et Gilles / courtesy of the Museum of Ixelles

For Ever (Stromae) by Pierre et Gilles | © Private collection Pierre et Gilles / Courtesy of the Museum of Ixelles

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The Absent Museum at WIELS

WIELS is blowing out 10 candles this year, and to honor the occasion, the Brussels institution is hosting a major exhibit that will take over not only the refurbished Blomme building but two of its neighbors as well. Often referred to as the WIELS Museum without officially being recognized as such, the creative site is in an ideal position to spark a dialogue about the absence of art museums in today’s urgent public debates. Around 45 contemporary artists stand poised to contribute work to The Absent Museum, as it attempts to sketch a blueprint for a new kind of European museum.

From April 20 – August 13, 2017

WIELS, Avenue Van Volxem 354, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 340 00 53

The Widow by Marlene Dumas | Courtesy of Defares Collection and Zeno X Gallery

The Widow by Marlene Dumas, courtesy of Defares Collection and Zeno X Gallery | © Peter Cox / Courtesy of WIELS

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Ian Wallace at Greta Meert

For the established Galerie Greta Meert, it’s the sixth time it gets to welcome the works of Ian Wallace, renowned Canadian photographer and noted influencer of the “Vancouver School” of conceptual artists, which include Jeff Wall and Roy Arden. Not unlike the WIELS exhibit, Wallace’s oeuvre contrasts the modern museum with its lofty ideals to the realities playing out on the streets outside its walls.

From March 9 – May 6, 2017

Galerie Greta Meert, Rue du Canal 13, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 219 14 22

Ian Wallace at Greta Meert | Courtesy of Galerie Greta Meert

Ian Wallace at Greta Meert | Courtesy of Galerie Greta Meert

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The Cat Museum at De Markten

On the quirkier side of things, Brussels recently opened a temporary Cat Museum at De Markten. Made up mostly of works belonging to longtime Brussels gallery owner Françoise Baronian and borrowed pieces from other private collections, cat lovers can see about a hundred feline-focused works dating from Ancient Egypt to today.

Currently running until Sunday, March 26, 2017

De Markten, Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains 5, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 512 34 25

Médecine interne by Wang Dong | © Wang Dong - Galerie Laurant Rodin / courtesy of De Markten

Médecine interne by Wang Dong | © Wang Dong – Galerie Laurant Rodin / Courtesy of De Markten

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Brenna Youngblood at Galerie Nathalie Obadia

This spring, Nathalie Obadia’s Brussels space is presenting selected works by Brenna Youngblood, the collage and assemblage-avid painter who previously impressed viewers at both the Seattle Art Museum and Obadia’s Paris gallery. With a layered and sometimes vaguely surrealist approach – her melting world map would make Magritte proud – Youngblood picks and chooses from everyday objects to become part of her textured canvasses. Naturally seeping in through her outward gaze are apt cultural and social observations, sometimes portrayed in a humorous fashion but just as often with a pointed edge.

From April 18 – May 20, 2017

Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Rue Charles Decoster 8, Ixelles, Belgium, +32 2 648 14 05

Also in springtime, the upcoming 35th edition of Art Brussels will include quite a few of the galleries mentioned here, as well as a great deal more. The contemporary art fair is reputed as a great place for uncovering fresh voices and takes place the fourth weekend in April.