Simon Delobel at Art Brussels 2014

A Curators View- With Simon Delobel

This year, the newest addition to the Art Brussels fanfare is ‘The Curators View’. Six curators will exhibit their skills and visions, by exhibiting those of others. What distinguishes these curators roles from every other curated space in the fair, is perhaps, the motivation, and the energy behind the accrochage- it’s not just for sales, but for enjoyment and provocation.

From the esteemed curators, Simon Delobel, who is representing Gallery Marion de Cannière in Antwerp, has generously given us a moment of his precious time – right before show time – to share some thoughts upon the art fairs latest acquisition, ‘The Curators View.’

Delobel, who is curating a show called, ‘Public Intimacy’, has great insight into the world of art. After working for many years for a private collector, then stepping over into the arena of galleries, and now, himself, leading his own gallery space called ‘Trampoline’, one could not question, who more apt to build a show of shows?

Trampoline, Delobels most recent venture, is set in a basement gallery. He is showing works of artists both Belgian and international artists, based in Belgium. The motivation for his gallery is to create interesting and riveting shows, rather than being focused on producing saleable objects. The gallery is based in Antwerp and opened in January 2014.

No Stress

The exhibition that we are now looking forward to has been made possible by the gallerist, Marion de Cannière, who fully supports the artistic vision of her curator. She herself, as a gallery owner, is not focused solely upon the financial gain of such an institution but more, like Delobel, to the encouragement of flourishing contemporary artists, and curating compelling shows.

Delobel reveals that Cannière’s manner of working is not estranged to allowing curators to curate her exhibitions. She welcomes the input and insight of the curator. “It’s how Marion works. To give a chance to artists, and to curators.” *

Together, Marion de Cannière and Simon Delobel have agreed on a no stress policy. They are going to have fun at Art Brussels. He is going to create an exciting art event and she is not pushing him to bring smaller works, just to sell.

It’s not all about the money, Delobel remarks. He mentions that Gregos, last year, as the new art director of Art Brussels also welcomed non profit galleries to the art fair. She gave them free spaces to exhibit, thus encouraging not only the commercial side of the business but promoting the general, enriching experience that an art fair can offer.

Authentic Architect

“What I love about galleries is that they have all of their own authenticity, which is linked to the architecture of the place. When you visit a gallery, the architecture plays a very important role in the way you can experience the art works.”

With such a vision, and faced with the challenge of an art fair, where everyone has a standardised, badly lit, open cube which is composed of thin walls and not able to carry large art works, Delobel decided to embrace the task and play with the concept of the open cube, by closing it. He decided to close the booth with windows, leaving the cube still visible to the ‘public’, but toying with the intimacy of the transparent wall.

Public privacy, and intimacy, are hot topics. If we consider all of the new mediums we have to protect, or exploit ourselves, it can be overwhelming. Delobel reminds us that it is not only a matter of technology and internet but it begins even closer to you, with how you present yourself, or furnish your own window.

“Whilst everybody is trying to give his booth it’s own character. I thought that the best way to do it would be to close it, and put in a door. Only people who really want to come inside will have to open the door. And, once they close it, they are in a closed space.”

“As a curator, the most important job is how to place the work in the space. To not forget the architecture and think about how one will experience the work physically.” With this in mind, you can imagine that we are in for a real treat at this stand. Not only is he planning on closing the cube, but building onto it. Positioned under the Hisk Café, which is on a higher floor, with a view over the whole art fair, elements from the exhibition, ‘Public Intimacy’ will be visible to the café goers. “I hope they will take pictures, when the sign is saying, ‘Don’t take Pictures, Respect My intimacy’.”


It is clear that architecture is important to Delobel, and we may expect from his booth, a host of architectural interventions. Perhaps, to leave a little to the imagination, and the urge to open the door – it’s best, only to reveal, that you will feel as if you have entered another world, and exited the fair. In a sense, what Delobel is creating is something VIP, which he knows, art fairs love. But, without you having to be an appointed ‘very important person’, you can promote yourself by walking into his space and taking part in a very important private, yet public, space.

‘Public Intimacy’ is a title inspired by the art fair, as an event. “Trying to find yourself in all this massive amounts of artworks, art lovers, art connoisseurs… How can you feel comfortable in such an event? Because, I, myself, feel uncomfortable at such an event.”

In his venue, Delobel has created a safe haven. In a bid to protect his, and his gallery’s intimacy, he is creating a disguise for the gallery. Whilst others will be trying to make their booths enticing and beautiful, he is aiming to create an unfinished shell -an outward appearance, which is not attractive to all. It will look more like a film set, rather than your typical art fair booth. But, if you are attracted to the imperfect, and take the time to go under the skin, then you have the chance to become intimate with a complex character.

Show and Tell

What is tricky, according to Delobel, is that as a curator of ‘The Curators View’, you must work with artists from your gallery. There is not the freedom to bring in new artists from wherever you want. But, you can celebrate the recognised ones. The toughest restriction is that you may only compose your show with five artists, so an arduous selection must be made. However, his selection, sounds incredibly fresh and diverse. He has chosen artists from Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, and Scotland.

Keen to encourage new comers, Delobel speaks fondly of one young Belgian artist, Gerban Gysels, who will be showing work for the first time at Art Brussels. He has made a video piece called ‘Cars’. In Ghent, Gysels filmed, through the windows of stationary cars, the objects, and possessions that the owners had left inside. Through looking at these random objects, you draw conclusions about who the car owner is. “Oh, you can’t help but thinking, this one is a dirty one. Or, this one is a family man. It’s funny, that we are constantly judging other people.” Certainly, this situation of prejudgement which is exploited in the artist’s video, is similar to that, which is encouraged in such an art fair.

Works from another artist, Savage, show another sort of play with the public, and the private, lives of us. When Savage happens upon a lost item, such as a jacket, he takes it home, into his private domain, cleans it and returns it to the public place where it was first found. He documents the action by photographing the restored item, leading a humorous and curious narrative of an item from public to private spheres, and back again.

The diversity of the work on show is expanded by the other artists: Anton Cotteleer, and two pairs of dynamic duos; Cristian Bors &Marius Ritiu, and Wassinklundgren. Working with signs, sculpture, photography, and mixed media; this group offer a dazzling line up.

Delobel tells “I was reading a book by a French sociologist Nathalie Heinich and there was a chapter about the art fairs. Some gallerists told that they are producing pieces, only for art fairs – pieces that can attract attention in one or two seconds. However, our booth, if you want to understand why the pieces are inside, you will really need to take your time.”

Peep Inside

When looking for recommendations, who better to ask than the inside man. Delobel has given some insights to his top three tips. One being a young gallerist from Düsseldorf, Max Meyer.
Delobel was impressed by this stand last year, saying: “It was the one I loved the most! The way in which the artworks were hung, was not commercial. He is taking risks and the artworks, they are really well presented. So, I’m quite sure he will deliver an excellent show.”

He then tipped us off to the National Lottery competition, in which young curators have been asked to write a project to exhibit the collection of the National Lottery. Two ladies: Louise Osieka & Laura Herman, won the contest. They asked Gerard Herman, a young Belgian artist, to collaborate with them and interact with the collection. The exhibition will be called ‘Missed Chances’. Delobel is curious to see what these youthful minds will create and has great faith in their abilities.

And then, a vision of the future? ‘Artsy’, is the next stand to look out for. They are an American partner of Art Brussels who are delivering the online application to the fair. “They are collecting data from galleries and then they have advisers, to whom you could tell your budget, ‘my budget to buy an art work is 2000, or up to 5000, or to one billion’. Then, there are specialists who give you advice to buy art works. I think it’s really funny. As, I’m quite convinced that in the future there will be more and more people like this – looking at art works only on their Ipads, or Iphones.”

As a gallerist, exposure is an important element of business. The number of people that will walk into your gallery can’t compare with the numbers of people that an Art Fair brings in. Then, if you imagine that your works would be online, the number of visitors would multiply ten fold. Is this the future? Online art? Well, during the period of Art Brussels, anyone can register with ‘Artsy’ and browse their catalogues of art. After, you may pay a fee of some hundred dollars per month to view the online works. If this strikes you as a good deal or awakens your curiosity, you too can log in online and web window shop.


With the tragic passing of Belgium’s most energetic art enthusiast and precious curator, Jan Hoet, it only seems fitting that the role of the curator should be celebrated and commemorated this year in his absence. Hoet, a working class hero with a vision to enthuse the Belgian people with contemporary art, and put his country on the international art map, would be proud to see how his land is flourishing. This year, the festival is honouring both the Belgian collector, and the role of curator. A perfect homage, to an impressive figure.

The subject of ‘Private Intimacy’, when looking back a few decades, was also pertinent to Jan Hoet. He, in June of 1986, curated the revolutionary art exhibition, ‘Chambre d’amis’, which invited over 51 artists to exhibit their works in the houses of the citizens of Ghent. The locals opened their doors to the sound of the new and embraced contemporary art in their private domains, making them public, to all that were curious. It revolutionised the way in which art was presented, outside of the museum context, bringing a new understanding to public and private spaces.

For the grand day of this opening, he had also organised with the Belgian director, Jef Cornelis, that the whole days events would be televised. Cornelis edited live, the ten hour event. The name of the broadcast was named ‘De Langste Dag’ (The Longest Day). Similar to an art fair, the city had opened itself up to all interested parties, from all walks of live, to engage with contemporary art. The six hour footage that can now be marvelled is a work of art in itself.

At that time, back in 1986, the medium of television was used to broadcast this relatively intimate event and share it with the masses. Then, this was a revolutionary way to view art. Now, as Delobel commented, we are able to log onto an internet site and view art works on our smart phones.

The future of the art market is thus, ever expanding and evolving. Whether you fear exploitation, or you are looking for exposure, the newest medium which we can’t escape, is the world wide web.

However, this week, art is to be seen in the flesh at Art Brussels.

With the curator in crucial place at Art Brussels, we – the public – are looking forward to see the visions of this generations curators accomplished.

*All Quotations, Simon Delobel from interview 21st April.

  • Open:
    Friday, 25 April 2014
  • Close:
    Sunday, 27 April 2014
  • Address:
    Brussels Expo (Heysel), Halls 1 & 3, Place de Belgique 1, Brussels
  • Mail:
  • Phone:
    +32 2 740 10 36
  • Web:
    Art Brussels
  • Opening hour:
    Fri to Sun | 12noon – 8pm
  • Photo credits:
    1. Savage, One day the sadness will end, 2014 | 2.Booth mariondecanniere Art Brussels 2014 staircase | Courtesy of Art Brussels


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