Office Baroque – Brussels, Belgium
For many in the art world, Brussels is the new Berlin. In the last couple of years, more and more artists have relocated to the Belgian capital, which, in addition to this influx, can count on a long and deep-rooted tradition in art collecting. Art dealer Wim Peeters of Brussels-based gallery Office Baroque defines the city as "an ideal place for those who wish to start new businesses and develop new discourses."
Before joining the art scene in Brussels in 2013, Wim Peeters, together with Marie Denkens, started Office Baroque in a private apartment in Antwerp. Their initial commitment to art came from their wish to be involved in the process of selecting the art that travels from the artist's studio into the museum. Not to be "in the control room, in the museum," but more "in the kitchen with the artists," offering visibility to cultural producers, who are not yet part of the institutional and critical discourses. Both Peeters and Denkens had been working respectively as an independent curator and critic as well as in fashion for Dries Van Noten, before joining forces in 2004. Their first collaboration consisted of co-directing Extra City in Antwerp, an established non-profit center for contemporary art. Three years later, they decided to redirect their career paths from the non-profit format towards the commercial gallery business – especially to gain curatorial autonomy as well as financial independence. "Government funding is slow by default and in Belgium there is too much bureaucracy that hinders things to work out. Hence our exit from the non-profit world," Peeters explains.
Today, one can find Denken’s and Peeters’ gallery in downtown Brussels, in a cast iron building by Art Nouveau architect Paul Hamesse. It is a part of the city that is open to experiment, to the avant-garde and to different cultures. With Office Baroque’s relocation to Brussels, the gallery expanded considerably and artists such as Catharine Ahearn, Kyle Thurman, B. Wurtz, Keith Farquhar and Michael Rey joined the program. Nevertheless, the name Office Baroque still recalls its original city: Antwerp. It refers to one of Gordon Matta-Clark's last remaining public interventions, demolished after extensive protests in Antwerp in 1980. Like Gordon Matta-Clark's work, also Office Baroque's program is new, radical and challenging: "We have focused on emerging positions both in European and in American art and have done groundbreaking work for Michel Auder, Leigh Ledare, David Diao, Matthew Brannon, and Owen Land," Peeters says.
Office Baroque participates in international fairs such as Frieze in London, FIAC in Paris, Independent in New York, Art Brussels, and Art Basel Miami Beach. Currently it is following the scene in Milan and Hong Kong. "The fair context is rapidly growing and changing, and as a gallery you need to be able to respond fast and develop specific projects that offer an ideal context for each artist involved," Peeters explains. But this market-oriented approach does not exclude a more personal one, with excellent shows organized by the devoted team in the gallery. The next ones will feature Davis Rhodes, Keith Farquhar, Leigh Ledare, and Tyson Reeder.
Office Baroque and Brussel’s local gallery scene are definitely worth a travel, even from the far away Berlin.
The freelance journalist Silvia Anna Barrilà is specialized in the art market. Since 2008 she has been writing for the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore and for international media covering art, including Damn, Auction Central News, Artinvestor, and Monopol.
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