Galleries in Brussels Steal the Spotlight from Paris

By Michaud, Paul | Art Business News, April 2001 | Go to article overview
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Galleries in Brussels Steal the Spotlight from Paris

Michaud, Paul, Art Business News

BRUSSELS, Belgium--With Brussels now only 90 minutes away from the center of Paris (thanks to the new express train service), it was inevitable Brussels would become an offshoot of the Paris art market.

Indeed, many galleries, foremost among them De Jonckheere--the renowned specialists of old masters of the likes of Pieter Breughel and Maerten Van Cleve--have set up operation in both cities.

But the train is only one of several reasons why the Brussels art market has managed to grow considerably in recent years while the traditional markets of London and Paris have, at best, stagnated. There are fiscal reasons (notably excessive taxation) that have led many French galleries to open Belgian "succursales" (subsidiaries). Many dealers and collectors claim Brussels is a cheaper and better place to live.

But undoubtedly the major reason for the near overnight success of Brussels as a major new art marketplace is that it has become the unofficial capital of the European Union. And, as such, it has managed to attract to Belgium a wholly new population of highly educated, well-paid professionals. These new bureaucrats, business people, lawyers and educators have done much to internationalize the Belgian capital. Indeed, the city's fourth major language, English, is now spoken in the city streets as frequently as the country's three other principal tongues: French, Flemish and German. It has also forced the art sector to think about offering the works of a greater number of artists representing a larger assortment of cultures than beforehand.

One sign of the growing importance of Brussels as an art marketplace is the creation, at long last, of a central district in the city where many of the new galleries have decided to set up shop. The Boulevard Barthelemy is where some of the hottest up-and-coming galleries have settled. This street runs alongside the canal which marks the western periphery of the Belgian capital, not far from the Brussels stock exchange and a short walk away from the Grand-Place, the Botanical Gardens and the Gare du Nord.

Located in two large buildings, most of the top galleries have also managed to do something which would be quite unthinkable to the top galleries in Paris--they jointly organize exhibitions, press coverage, unveilings, guided visits, joint brunches and more for visitors, press and collectors alike. Some of the more spectacular recent exhibitions have been observed at such galleries as Kanal 20, Albert Baronian, Artiscope II, Crown Gallery, Encore ... Bruxelles, Guy Ledune, H&R Projects, La Lettre Volee and Windows.

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