Art Market

The 7 Best Booths at Art Antwerp 2021

Wilson Tarbox
Dec 16, 2021 11:47PM

Yulia Iosilzon, installation view in De Brock Gallery’s booth at Art Antwerp 2021. Courtesy of De Brock Gallery.

The inaugural edition of Art Antwerp opened on Thursday to a modest but determined crowd of collectors and art professionals who filled the halls of the Antwerp Expo event center, on the Flemish city’s southside. A new art fair on the European circuit, Art Antwerp is an extension of Art Brussels, one of Europe’s longest running and most prominent fairs.

The fair features 59 galleries, the vast majority of which are Belgian, with the rest filled out by the bordering countries of France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, with the exception of one Austrian gallery. Yet despite its size and parochiality, Art Antwerp demonstrated that fairs don’t need sprawling global monoliths to pack a powerful punch. Sometimes, less is more. Indeed, the vast majority of the participating galleries appeared to have brought their A game, with a particularly strong showing of young figurative painters.

Here, we take a look at seven standout booths from this year’s inaugural event.

Harlan Levey Projects

Booth C21

With works by Marcin Dudek

Marcin Dudek, installation view in Harlan Levey Projects’s booth at Art Antwerp 2021. Photo by Lebron Dudek. Courtesy of Harlan Levey Projects.


Brussels-based gallery Harlan Levey Projects presents a veritable exhibition of the work of Marcin Dudek, one of the gallery’s marquee artists. Although the works on display vary in media and dimension, all revolve around the artist’s personal experience and troubled upbringing in post-Soviet Poland. Football fandom is one of the recurring motifs in Dudek’s work, as are various tropes related to violence and masculinity. These translations of adolescent memories evoke a society fraying at the seams, where social bonds were formed in the crucible of hooligan activities. The violence comes through in the very making of the work, as in the collage Passage V (2021), from the eponymous “Passage” series, which consists of small bits of colored surgical tape pasted onto a wooden panel to form dynamic abstract compositions—evocative of crowds of football fans as they might be seen from a bird’s-eye view. This particular work bears the traces of visitors’ footprints, who were invited to walk on the fabric in a previous installation. The poignant material is a metaphor for being “trod upon” by the rest of society.

Marcin Dudek
Passage IV, 2021
Harlan Levey Projects
Marcin Dudek
Prejuce, 2019 -2020
Harlan Levey Projects

Another work, titled Prejuce (2019–20), pays homage to Black football players who joined the ranks of Polish teams over the years, suggesting a degree of solidarity between the economically dominated milieu of Dudek’s upbringing and the racist discriminations that these players face.

Irene Laub Brussels

Booth C14

With works by Gauthier Hubert

The Brussels-based gallery presents a series of paintings by Gauthier Hubert, which feature a cast of somewhat grotesque and uncanny characters. There are curious, spectral presences set against monochrome backgrounds and featuring playful, jocular titles, as in Waaaaww j’adoooooore c’que vous faites (“Woooooww I loooooove that thing you do,” 2021). In this work, which is actually part of a diptych, a red-haired woman peers from the bottom of the picture frame with a look of seductive bemusement on her face. She poses a long-fingered hand on her left cheek, her turquoise eyeshadow contrasting with the warm tones in her hair, her nails, and the painting’s orange backdrop. The pendant to this work is titled Waaaaww j’adoooooore c’que vous me faites (“Woooooww I loooooove that thing you do to me,” 2021), foregrounding the sexual inuendo of the previous piece, rendering it as explicit as the finger that has now entered into her mouth.

In another painting titled Homme prononçant les mots ‘fuck you’ - Insulte courante dans la colère (“Man prounouncing the words ‘fuck you’ - a common insult when one is angry,” 2021), a male figure’s elongated face fills nearly all of the picture frame. His mouth is in an “O” shape, forming the epithet.

The uncanniness of these works flows from a fracture that hovers somewhere between realism and stylization. Like so many other works, they speak to a recent resurgence in figurative painting while poking fun at all of the theoretical doldrum of such aesthetic debates.

Meessen De Clercq

Booth A32

With works by Benoit Platéus, Nicolas Lamas, Xie Lei, Claudio Parmiggiani, Benoît Maire, Thu Van Tran, Evariste Richer, and Maarten Vanden Eynde

Maarten Vanden Eynde
War on terror, 2016-2017
Meessen De Clercq

For its inaugural Art Antwerp booth, Meessen De Clercq was among those galleries that chose to present works by a selection of the artists that it represents. Although this makes for something of an aesthetic cacophony, there are remarkable paintings by Xie Lei, Benoît Maire, and Benoit Platéus that are worthy of mention.

Benoît Maire
Sphinx, 2019
Meessen De Clercq
Nicolas Lamas
Pre-cursor, 2021
Meessen De Clercq

However, the most intriguing work is a sculptural installation by Maarten Vanden Eynde, titled War on terror (2016–17). Consisting of 212 differently shaped and brightly colored ear plugs arranged on a small, wall-mounted shelf, the work is formally reminiscent of Donald Locke’s Trophies of Empire (1972–74), which also presents a series of odd objects in a shelf-like display case. Locke interrogated the legacy of colonialism and imperialism through his work, and he once offered the explanation that “the cylindrical shapes are ‘bullets.’” It’s an interpretation that could also extend to the ear plugs in Vanden Eynde’s work and which, in turn, might lead us to think of them as evoking both the real brutality of the violence of the war on terror and the relative disconnect—the great opacity that seemed to characterize way that the conflicts were portrayed in Western media.


Booth C34

With works by John Van Oers, Bert Danckaert, and Bert Huyghe

The booth of Rossicontemporary presents three artists working in different media with very different preoccupations. Bert Huyghe’s brightly colored and graphically simple oil paintings are reminiscent of the work of Henri Matisse, particularly in their use of large planes of flat color. Bert Danckaert, on the other hand, presents a series of photographs that foreground the economic struggles of the small island nation of Cuba due to the U.S. embargo. Still, there is something optimistic about the preponderance of mid-century design and geometry in the empty boutiques and dilapidated storefronts that counters any sense of hardship or pity. These are spaces where people get by despite all the odds.

Finally, a series of intriguing miniature bronze sculptures by John Van Oers resemble architectural models for swimming pools, stadium seating, and other less utilitarian architectonic structures. There is something at once bleak and brutalist about them, like Soviet ruins, yet they also often have a playful side. Maybe it’s just their small size, but they recall Kasimir Malevich’s “Arkhitektons”: small sculptures halfway between futuristic utopian buildings and childrens’ toys.

De Brock Gallery

Booth A20

With works by Yulia Iosilzon

Yulia Iosilzon, installation view in De Brock Gallery’s booth at Art Antwerp 2021. Courtesy of De Brock Gallery.

For its booth, the Knokke-based De Brock Gallery presents a solo show of large-format paintings on transparent fabric by Yulia Iosilzon. The artist’s peculiar choice of surface is coupled with a quite soft and melodious pictorial style. Indeed, the fabric is so thin that it seems unable to absorb the pigment in the same way that the much thicker and coarser canvas would. The resulting, extremely thin layer of paint produces soft muted tones. The compositions are nevertheless animated by a great energy and movement. This is in part also a result of the somewhat psychedelic imagery, replete with mushrooms, sinuous vegetal motifs, and an arabesque weaving together background and foreground.

Dvir Gallery

Booth B31

With works by Lisetta Carmi, Marianne Berenhaut, and Yudith Levin

Installation view of Dvir Gallery’s booth at Art Antwerp 2021. Courtesy of Dvir Gallery.

The Brussels- and Tel Aviv–based Dvir Gallery presents work by three artists, each working in different media. Perhaps the most remarkable is a series of photographs by Lisetta Carmi, titled “I Travestiti” (“The transvestites”). Carmi was the very first photographer to document the transgender community in Genoa, Italy, from 1965 to the early 1970s. Her photographs not only present intimate portraits of the members of this community in insular and discrete social gatherings, they also demonstrate a degree of societal enmeshment, showing them passing in bars and on the street. Beyond the value of these images from a gendered and queer historical point of view, they are also poignant documents of a European country in transition, undergoing great social and political turmoil.

The themes of this work are complemented by the overtly feminist sculpture of Marianne Berenhaut, whose 1970s series “Poupées poubelles” speaks to the semiotics of femininity in a manner quite similar to the work of Louise Bourgeois. Finally, the ghostly figurative painting of Yudith Levin, with its economy of means and sparing use of pictorial space, seems to soften the hard contours and harsh material contrasts of the other two artists.

Everyday Gallery

Booth C38

With works by Daan Gielis, Dittmar Viane, Tom Volkaert, and Trude Viken

A certain youthful energy pervades the booth of Everyday Gallery, which is split between the work of two painters and two sculptors working in ceramics. The latter two artists are kind of difficult to tell apart. Both appear to favor spiky, somewhat menacing forms and metallic reflective glazes. However, Daan Gielis seems to prefer vegetal motifs, while Tom Volkaert’s works are more abstract and encompass a wider range of colored glazes.

Tom Volkaert
Only tears of joy, 2021
Everyday Gallery

The difference in painterly styles between Dittmar Viane and Trude Viken, however, could not be more pronounced. Viane’s small-scale paintings demonstrate a remarkable mastery of the medium that draws quite heavily and impressively from the visual language of Dutch Renaissance painting. Characterized by their meticulous attention to detail, Viane’s versions are enhanced with an additional layer of irony. Bringing something of the playful bizarrerie of medieval imagery into a painterly style that has all the seriousness of Protestant art from the 16th and 17th centuries, the artist succeeds at creating surreal, amusing images that reward careful, protracted looking. Viken, while still remaining figurative, appears to occupy an opposite pole of the painterly spectrum. Her large-scale works are expressionistic, with grotesque, Willem de Kooning–like figures set into rich impasto paintwork. Hers is also a painting for the scopophilic; however, the pleasures of looking at Viken’s work are much more tactile and visceral.

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