This year, galleries who didn’t make it into Independent’s spring fair in New York have added consolation. The fair has two more events on the docket for 2016: the inaugural edition of Independent Brussels and Projects, Independent’s fall New York fair, which takes place during the November auctions and this year will present shows of exclusively women artists. Galleries also have the possibility of mounting a longer-running show at the fair’s new, permanent Brussels space, Independent Régence, named for the street on which it sits in a building that also houses galleries such as Jan Mot, Catherine Bastide, and Micheline Szwajcer.
Independent Brussels, whose inaugural edition opens just seven weeks after the New York fair closes, will include over 60 galleries—more than any edition of Independent to date. Within this bunch, 13 dealers will overlap with New York. “There’s something very exciting and new happening there,” says Mitterrand of the Belgian capital, in which she hopes they can recapture “the same kind of energy that Independent had the first year it was in New York.”
Mitterrand notes the number of international galleries that have set up shop there in recent years, like Almine Rech
and Nathalie Obadia
from her native Paris, as well as Tel Aviv’s Dvir
, which opened in the same building as Independent Régence in January. And galleries aren’t the only Parisians that have hightailed to Brussels, as a number of France’s wealthiest have relocated to Belgium following the election of President François Hollande in 2012 and his promised 75% tax on the country’s millionaires.
Régence is perhaps Independent’s most forward-thinking venture, and one that pulls most directly from the fair team’s experience as dealers themselves. It allows the fair’s participating galleries to set up shop in Brussels for a full, six-week-long show. “Galleries, and not only just the big ones, feel the need to be present in different cities,” explains Mitterrand of the space’s premise. “But the overhead is incredible.” The idea with Régence is to allow for a low-risk entrée into the center of the Brussels gallery scene. “They don’t have to sign their life away for it.” For Mitterrand, the space operates like “a very slow art fair,” and is aimed at fostering the same kind of collaborative atmosphere—with, for example, multiple galleries who share an artist working together on an installation—fostered during their comparably light-speed three-day fairs.
Though the fair’s focus with Independent Régence remains on Brussels, Mitterrand says, “we think that it’s a model we could export to other cities.” A New York space would no doubt be welcomed by many of Independent’s international exhibitors. And while there’s no plan in place to execute such an endeavor, the fair does hope to introduce year-round programming at Spring Place—Spring Studios’s adjacent social club and co-working space—when the facility is completed.
We’ll have to wait and see if, down the road, Independent can become the art-world version of a co-working space, allowing its network of galleries around the globe to gain a foothold in new cities. But the idea is certainly an interesting one, considering the slightly less transactional element of fairs for many young galleries these days. It’s a telling sign that Independent, despite growing up, retains its base as a platform created by dealers, for dealers. And it’s a heartening indicator that collectivity, and a belief in the rising tide’s benefit for all, can continue to thrive despite ever-increasing competition across the art-market landscape.