The Brussels edition sees over 60 galleries and nonprofits spread across six floors of the city’s Vanderborght building. The 1930s former department store is something of a happy medium between the DIY vibe of Independent’s first location (four floors spanning Chelsea’s scrappy former Dia building) and the sleek lines of its new, light-flooded TriBeCa locale, Spring Studios
. “This is among the top editions of Independent that I’ve seen,” said Belgian collector Frédéric de Goldschmidt after an initial perusal of the halls. (He opened an exhibition pulling from his holdings, titled “not really really,” the night before.) “The selection of galleries is amazing, from the more established like David Zwirner to more local, and with prices from Zwirner’s
in the six figures to a book at a local Belgian publisher, Triangle Books, for €20 or €50,” the fair offers a wide appeal that will be key to its integration into this new city.
Independent’s Brussels edition follows the opening of Independent Régence, a year-round exhibition space in the city launched in September 2015. For its founders Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook, the expansion to Europe was simply a logical extension of the network of galleries they had fostered with the fair’s New York editions. “It had been on their minds for a while,” said Independent Brussels co-director Liv Vaisberg on opening day, noting that at least half of the fair’s rotating network of 120 galleries hail from Europe. “Brussels is the right place pragmatically. It’s very near Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam, and London. It’s a city that’s really booming in terms of art, with a strong collector base, good institutions, and artist studios, and rents are cheap.”
For many, the fair harkens back to the energy of Independent’s first year in New York. “It’s the Dia building breathing new life,” mused the Brussels collector Alain Servais. And like those early editions, Independent Brussels is free of charge. “It was important for us to go back to our roots and make the fair free and open to the public,” said Vaisberg’s counterpart, Independent Brussels co-director Olivier Pesret. “We put so much effort into curating this show that we want as many as people as possible to see it.”