- Address: 46 Rue Jean d’Ardenne Straat 1050, Brussels, Belgium
- Owner/Director: Harlan Levey
Harlan Levey (H): Our gallery looks like any other house on our residential street. Outside, there is a sculpture by Petr Davydtchenko, which reflects our commitment to art in public spaces and proximity to the former studio of Marcel Broodthaers. The street is calm and in walking distance to great galleries like Jan Mot, Super Dakota, Xavier Hufkens, Albert Baronian and over a dozen others. The front door leads into a hallway and may feel like you’ve come into a person’s home. You have. At the end of the hall you enter a white cube space, it’s a surprising sort of sanctuary to many people. In the past it has been a garage, a video production studio and a rehearsal space for a local theatre group. We repurposed the space for our specific needs in 2015 and the interior structure changes on a regular basis respective to our artist’s ideas.
The area is fantastic. If you walk out of the door to the left you pass the house where Karl Marx used to live. Today it’s a Yoga Studio. In two minutes you get to a high-end shopping district. Five minutes the other way though and you arrive in the Matonge, which a Flemish journalist recently called “a little piece of Africa” in Brussels. That’s a pretty loaded comment, but this isn’t the place to unpack it. In any case, it’s a great neighborhood with a distinctive buzz. Walk five minutes further and it’s all suits and badges as you arrive to the European Parliament at the base of Place Luxembourg.
We also run a residency program, which is located in the former Presidential Suite of what is now the Hotel Bloom. It’s a mix of decadence and decay, a sort of squat chic, which provides artists a room to live and a room to work, as well as use of the hotel facilities.
H: Artists and the impact all forms of art have had on me as a person inspired me to open what became a gallery. Art is a great educator, transformer, healer and more. I believe that helping to produce and place this type of poetry into the world is a form of civic service. It’s a challenging and meaningful endeavor full of potentially positive subversions. That said, initially I did not know what I was opening was a gallery and referred to it as a trans-disciplinary creative consultancy during the first two or three years.
H: Team sports shaped my life. Attitudes picked up there also shape our gallery. There’s also my partner, Winnie. Her design practice, work ethic and kindness are secret weapons to keeping all the wheels turning.
H: David Foster Wallace said that good fiction should “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. Good art is always a form of good fiction.
H: Brussels is a wonderful place full of contradictions. It’s small, but extremely international with a somewhat provincial feel that a complicated history makes difficult to shrug off. Compared to other major European cities, Brussels offers lower rents, easier access to other capitols, and a highly qualitative artistic landscape that covers the spectrum: artist-run spaces, non-profits, institutions, academies, commercial galleries, private collections. There’s a tremendous openness to, appetite for, and engagement with many forms of art on many levels here, and this is not new. There’s history to support it. Brussels has become a true hub for contemporary art and had I not been living here for over a decade before opening the gallery, I probably never would have ended up in this part of the business.
H: In the gallery, that would definitely be “Wird” by Haseeb Ahmed, which is the second part of a trilogy that will conclude at M HKA (The Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp) in 2018. The exhibition included recreating phenomena produced at the NATO research facility, The von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, and coupling a vulture with a personification of the wind, as well as production and theoretical challenges in a surrealist flight from antiquity to astrobiology.
H: Opening a gallery.
H: A lot of focus is on September. We open our 3rd solo show with Marcin Dudek during the 10th anniversary of the Brussels Gallery Weekend. The show is divided in two pieces, with one taking place at the gallery and the other taking place with our partner Edel Assanti in London. Ella Littwitz has a show at the Petah Tikva Museum and work in an exhibition at Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv. TR Ericsson opens a solo exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY. Haseeb Ahmed is building two monumental installations with Daniel G. Baird as part of the Goteburg Biennale and Emmanuel Van der Auwera will show two new works in a project I’m collaborating on with Dr. Beatrice de Gelder. I’ll also present works from TR Ericsson and Emmanuel Van der Auwera at Expo Chicago in the Exposure section curated by Justine Ludwig. So for now, a lot of excitement and anxiety are wrapped up in the back to school moment, which we’ll follow with a solo exhibition on Jordan Seiler’s ongoing Public Ad Campaign.
H: When it comes to working with artists, this is something like falling in love after 25. You need the lightening bolt sort of shake-up and then the time to build trust and understanding beyond the initial projections of fantasy and desire. Galleries dealing primarily with so-called emerging artists have to think long term and know how artist/gallery make each other’s endeavors stronger together. It’s important for an artist to be inspired by their gallery and to be proud of seeing their work in the context of the gallery’s other artists. It’s just as important for a gallery to be inspired by it’s artists, their attitudes, approach and output.
H: The formidable German Philosopher Wolfgang Schirmacher once told me that if you want to be a writer, artist or philosopher you’d better accept suicide as your pension plan. It’s extreme, but made a mark on me. I think young artist’s have to know that this is a life choice, will demand lots of sacrifice and be riddled with instability. The precariousness of art as a career choice is not something everybody can handle. Making art your “Brotberof” is never going to be easy. Be organized, open and severe.
H: There are all kinds of ways to get an education.
H: We will evolve as we’ve been doing, driven by the needs and ambitions of our artists as well as the burning issues, mutating contexts and precarious present day positions we deal with.
- Featured image on the top: Emmanuel Van der Auwera – XIV – 2017
- Photos courtesy of Harlan Levey Projects