Ceramic Brussels 2024: a highly promising launch
I stepped into the new Ceramic Brussels fair with great excitement and anticipation, ready to immerse myself in a fair wholly dedicated to a medium I hold dear. The brainchild of Gilles Parmentier, the founder of Art on Paper, and Jean-Marc Dimanche, co-founder of Maison parisienne gallery and currently the general commissioner of the ‘De mains de maîtres’ art and craft biennale in Luxembourg, this first edition was under the auspices of contemporary art luminary Johan Creten. Their goal? To reframe ceramics, a medium too often pigeonholed as just craftwork.
A gigantic circular installation, comprising a multitude of plates, bowls, and cups, welcomed visitors, perhaps as a statement against the notion of ceramics as purely utilitarian. The provocation continued to the left, with a bold statement from Johan Creten proclaiming “I hate ceramic!”. The fair was split into two different sections, featuring a clean, spacious, and pleasant circular layout that stood in stark contrast to the linear paths typical of most fairs.
The sixty or so booths gathered here showcased brilliant and eclectic art pieces. Some were striking in their simplicity of form or color, while others were wildly whimsical, eccentric, or baroque. I was particularly charmed by a sculpture from Sunghong Min, a delicate yet eccentric piece hanging from the ceiling, made of variegated beads and duck heads. The vases by Hilda Piazzolla at Peach Corner’s stand also impressed me with their simultaneously intricate and understated design. The works of Perrine Boudy, perfectly staged at the Sorry We’re Closed gallery booth, whose walls echoed the artist’s signature motifs, caught my eye. Similarly, the sculptures by Anni Mertens, depicting deflated balloons and other mold forms presented by Valerius Gallery, were remarkable. And there were so many more!
Valerius Gallery’s booth featuring Anni Mertens’ works at Ceramic Brussels 2024. Courtesy Valerius Gallery
The fair also had the excellent initiative of introducing the art prize, open to art students and young artists living in Europe who aren’t represented by a gallery. This opportunity was not restricted by age but was aimed at artists with less than 10 years of experience in ceramic arts.
Among the 200 applicants, 10 winners had the opportunity to showcase a selection of their pieces at the fair. This exhibition was designed to be accessible and visible to everyone: strategically located at the entrance, it was free and open for public discovery. This inclusive approach allowed a wider audience to experience the innovation and creativity of these emerging ceramic artists. It included the standout complete ceramic salon – from the fierce fireplace where a good fire blazes to the set table where guests are seated – a tour de force by the young French artist Antoine Moulinard.
Antoine Molinard, art prize, Ceramic Brussels 2024
Curator’s Booth Pick
The booth that amused me the most, by far, was that of Romero Paprocki gallery, which presented a solo show of the Brussels-based Italian artist Leo Luccioni, consisting of giant ceramic candies: hard ones, soft ones, multicolored, tall, long, round… the illusion was complete! Visitors were clearly captivated: the stand was constantly bustling and photos were being snapped non-stop. But did these almost edible-looking artworks manage to find buyers? According to the co-founder Guido Romero, the answer is yes, as he confided that several had already been sold by Day 2.
Romero Paprocki’s booth. Photograph by Benjamin Baltus
Art Dealers Interviews
For once, there was no variety in mediums in my interviews, but a true diversity of styles was evident. At Almine Rech’s stand, sales director Ohana Nkulufa introduced me to ‘Un mouton nommé Bedotte’ by the guest artist Johan Creten. Jeroen Adams from Tatjana Pieters Gallery showcased a gigantic, almost organic shoe by AnneMarie Laureys. The atmosphere was equally whimsical at Jonathan F. Kugel’s stand, which, alongside mind-bending works by Carolein Smit, focused on three pieces by Kartini Thomas, inspired by our intestinal microbiota! Finally, I was captivated by the very dreamlike sculpture of Rémy Pommeret, topped with a little serpent that mischievously watched over the visitors.
How Much Does It Cost?
For my fictional collection, I chose artworks that were, unusually, quite affordable. Perrine Boudy’s matte ceramic vase from Sorry We’re Closed, which would have been perfectly at home on the Mad Hatter’s table in Alice in Wonderland, was priced at €5,500. For €3,500, there was this subtle and almost anamorphic sculpture by Kenji Gomi, presented amidst rice husks at the AIFA Gallery stand. The prices climbed a bit with Anni Mertens’ tree sculpture, combining metal, wood, and of course, ceramics, majestically placed at the center of the Valerius Gallery stand. Finally, with a bit more financial stretch, €35,000, I could have taken home Gabrielle Wambaugh’s golden cloud with a charming pair of legs emerging from it.
The first edition of Ceramic Brussels enchanted me with its curated, intelligent, and committed proposition. The gamble to shake off the dusty image of ceramics, increasingly favored by contemporary artists, was won hands down. The fair wonderfully illustrated the vast range of possibilities of this medium. Both dealers and visitors were overwhelmingly pleased with this inaugural edition: here’s hoping there will be many more to come!
Sum it up, I'm in a rush!
- When? | January 25-28, 2024
- Where? | Brussels, Belgium
- Atmosphere | Pop and relaxed
- Curator’s booth pick | Romero Paproki
- Featured Gallery Gem | Sorry We’re Closed
- Spotlight Artist | Leo Luccioni
- For Whom? | Ceramic lovers but not only!
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