Saturday, December 12, 2015

Shoes Gallerists Wear to Art Fairs

Held in cavernous convention centers or monumental tents, fairs like Art Basel Miami Beach can be merciless on those individuals who have to hoof it around the halls. So while the art crowd often dresses up for the occasion, their footwear skews towards the comfortable. Polling the foot traffic at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, sneakers, loafers and platform sandals beat out more formal options like lace-up leather shoes and heels. “I always wear flats to run around the fairs. I am usually covering a lot of territory very quickly, so comfort is my main concern, but I never compromise style,” explained SOCO Gallery owner Chandra Johnson, who wore Acne sandals during her rounds. “Thank goodness the trends can allow for both these days.”
“I can tell you right now the most brilliant fair shoe brand in the world is Feit; they are a bespoke company that my daughter introduced me to,” recommends the art dealer Sean Kelly. “A few years ago, there was this thing that everyone was wearing sneakers to try to look cool. I think sneakers are fine for installation, but British men pay a lot of attention to footwear; and I think when you are trying to stand on a booth for hours and look elegant for clients, you need a shoe. Sneakers don’t cut it.”
The curator Kyle DeWoody prefers to pad around in Céline slip-ons, while David Lieske of Mathew Gallery favors Gucci, opting for the rubber version of their signature loafer, which he describes as “indisputably the best fair shoe.” He’s invested in a rainbow of colors — a waterproof collection that seemed increasingly valuable given this year’s devastating rainstorms.
Regulars like Lieske and Art Papers editor Victoria Camblin admit to hedging their bets by bringing multiples. “When packing, I go with a ‘more is more’ philosophy for fairs: I don’t pack smart, I pack everything,” says Camblin, who mans the publication’s outpost at the fair. “You have to rotate footwear, because no shoe is going to be comfortable all day. This year, I kept high heels at the booth — like an ’80s secretary changing out of sneakers and into pumps.”
                                           Related Coverage                    
For those who didn’t pack enough, The Webster, a Miami-based boutique, provided a selection of solutions, including a new collaboration between Del Toro and the artist Rob Pruitt: black slippers emblazoned with Pruitt’s pandas. During the VIP previews, foolhardy stilettos dotted the crowd, however, the vast majority stuck to more sensible footwear including Art Week revelers like Aeffe president Michelle Stein, who scoped out the fairs after throwing a party for Moschino designer Jeremy Scott. Her sage suggestion: “Definitely the lightest and most comfortable shoes possible. A sandal or a Birkenstock accessorized by a creative pedicure is best.”

Art as Social Critique

When you walk into “No Kidding,” the artist Deborah Kass’s exhibition opening tonight at Paul Kasmin Gallery, be prepared for a strange sensation: you can almost hear Kass’s new mixed-media paintings in addition to seeing them. “The thing about music is that it’s so democratic, and art isn’t,” Kass said when T visited her studio last month. Throughout the show, the artist alludes to popular song lyrics from a wide swath of eras, from the 1895 waltz “The Band Played On” to Fats Waller’s 1929 “(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue” to Katy Perry’s 2010 “Teenage Dream.” The references are diverse, but taken as a whole, their message is clear: a deep-seated, and deeply droll, cynicism about the present political and artistic climate, and about our capacity to fiddle while Rome burns. Other pieces in the show ironically deploy phrases like “GOOD TIMES” and, in several three-panel works, “WHO BLUE WHO,” to much the same effect.
“I mean, I think things really suck; and yeah, it’s a big conundrum to be compelled and identify and spend your life doing something when your values are so different than the world you live in,” Kass said; her default tone is both wry and plainspoken. “I don’t know how many people feel really in sync with the world as it is right now. And the people who support the art world are probably the people who do feel most in sync — they’re the ones benefiting.”
Among the pieces in the show, “The Band Played On” and “Prepare for Saints” (a riff on the title of Steven Watson’s book chronicling the operatic collaboration between Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson) offer the most pointed critique of the art world specifically, rather than a broader political subject. Both paintings juxtapose their respective bits of text against the kind of paint-splattered background that has variously been called “crapstraction,” “zombie formalism” and, as Kass prefers, “citational modernism” — aesthetically unchallenging work that has saturated the art market in recent years. “That’s normcore painting, and that’s what people are buying and trading now,” Kass said, along with some slightly more colorful critique she opted to keep off the record. To pit the style against a phrase like “AND THE BAND PLAYED ON,” then, is a deliberate, barbed statement about the kind of art-world navelgazing that ignores social struggle.

Kass, by contrast, is constantly influenced by politics. “Think about Ferguson, think about Black Lives Matter, think about abortion, think about Donald Trump,” Kass said. “All this work from 2002 on is about politics. I, like Toni Morrison and Emily Dickinson and Audre Lorde and all the great people, think you’re supposed to make art about the world; and this is art about the world. It’s not poptimistic. I’m just not, anymore.” Several works in the show address these issues head-on: notably, “Black & Blue #2,” a painting divided down the middle, with a black background and “BLACK” in blue neon on the left, and a blue blackground with “BLUE” in black neon on the right. (Many of the works on view in “No Kidding” incorporate neon — a first in Kass’s career.) It’s both a loving wink to Jasper Johns’s play with language and color and a grim indictment of contemporary race relations; the Fats Waller song with which it shares a title laments the struggle of being a black man in America. Another canvas boldly proclaims “JUST A SHOT AWAY,” a line from the chorus of the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” — a song that balances difficult subject matter with inventive form. “I would say that might be the aesthetic of my generation. That’s what formed us, being able to do that,” Kass said. “How do you make beauty political, how do you make politics beautiful?”
As for the painting inspired by “Teenage Dream,” which declares across four Ellsworth Kelly-style bands of color that “WE’LL BE YOUNG FOREVER,” Kass said she came to love the song after seeing it reimagined on “Glee.” “I live for ‘Glee!’” she exclaimed. “I would say it’s not like my work, it is my work. They literally did the same songs I did for the same reasons.” She identifies, she explained, with Ryan Murphy’s tongue-in-cheek sensibility. And despite the seriousness with which most of the works in the show were conceived, there’s a touch of the wicked jokester to Kass, too. “Katy Perry should buy this painting,” she said, deadpan. “Please put that on the record! Attention, Katy Perry!”

Why B Is the New B

The spectacular gardens at Brussels’ Mont des Arts, with the Town Hall spire in the distance. Credit Frederik Buyckx
For decades, Europe’s buttoned-up political center had a reputation for stodginess and chilliness. No longer: Brussels has quietly emerged as one of the continent’s most exciting creative hubs.
As the battleground for debates over debt limits and currency crises since it became the eurozone’s capital in 1999, Belgium’s largest city is sometimes seen as the checkbook-balancing foil to freewheeling Antwerp 30 miles north. But in recent years, artists, upstart architects, independent hoteliers and fashion designers from across the continent have relocated in such numbers as to spark the inevitable ‘‘new Berlin’’ moniker — and have put down roots in the form of art galleries, concept shops and two lovely boutique hotels.
For these artists and designers, Brussels’ appeal comes down to both the practical — cheap rent — and the attitudinal. ‘‘I love Paris, but life is probably easier in Belgium. People are very open and innovative,’’ says Isabelle Thiltgès, a sculptor who recently returned to her native Brussels from Paris, where she lived for 30 years. ‘‘They’re a bit ahead of the rest of Europe.’’ Another draw is its location, within two hours by train from Paris, London, Cologne and Amsterdam. ‘‘Berlin is an island unto itself, while Brussels’ location makes it an attractive place for artists to take residency and for collectors to pass through on tours of Europe,’’ says Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte, director of Office Baroque, an art gallery that relocated from Antwerp in 2013. ‘‘It’s not as busy as Paris or as international as London, but it has a big, open scene of galleries, artists and curators’’ — so much so that the New York-based Independent art fair is launching a Brussels edition in April 2016. Here, some of our favorite places.
A guest room in the new hotel Made in Louise. Credit Frederik Buyckx

Made in Louise

Located in the southern district of Ixelles (home to an ever-growing number of art galleries and stores), this hotel feels like the modern answer to a B&B. Redone by a brother-and-sister team in 2012, its 48 rooms are all decorated differently (the most memorable is wallpapered in a hand-painted blue floral print); there’s a billiards room with a white-painted pool table; and the lobby-cum-living room has parquet wood floors, armchairs clustered around a fireplace and an honesty bar.
The Hôtel des Galeries mezzanine, with its geode-shaped ceramic tables, designed by the owner’s daughter. Credit Frederik Buyckx

Hôtel des Galeries

About six million tourists walk through the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a grand cast-iron-and-glass shopping arcade built for King Leopold I in the 1840s, each year. The year-old Hôtel des Galeries, in a narrow four-story building adjacent to the Galerie du Roi, is thus very well located. Run by the French hotelier Nadine Flammarion, it’s also beautifully decorated, with bright-white linens and walls offset by green and yellow ceramics — in the forms of stools, bedside tables and shower tiles — designed by Flammarion’s daughter, ceramicist and interior designer Camille. The hotel restaurant, Comptoir des Galeries, in a former medallion workshop next door, serves updated bistro food and especially good appetizers, like the crispy Iberian pork cheeks with red-onion espuma.
Tsukune — Japanese chicken meatballs — with rice at Takumi. Credit Frederik Buyckx


Brussels-born brothers Alexis and Arnaud Mestdag were so excited by the gyoza they ate on a 2014 trip to Tokyo that they spent a year perfecting their own versions of the dumpling. In April they launched Takumi, a restaurant near the lively Place Flagey, which almost immediately filled with double-kissing young Belgians ordering gingery pork gyoza and tsukune, a chicken meatball donburi served with marinated cabbage. The brothers’ next move is beer: They’ve enlisted a cousin to develop their own Japanese-style brew.
Frit Flagey is one of the best places to get Brussels’ signature double-fried frites, which come topped with mayonnaise or andalouse, a traditional Belgian sauce. Credit Frederik Buyckx

Frit Flagey

It’s impossible to choose a favorite place for Belgium’s famous double-fried frites, but this kiosk in the busy Place Eugène Flagey is certainly among the best. Its cones of fries come topped with dollops of mayonnaise or andalouse, a traditional Belgian sauce made from mayonnaise, tomato paste and peppers. The service is neither speedy nor friendly; expect a half-hour wait. Place Eugène Flagey, Ixelles.
The sun-washed spa/restaurant/beauty salon Chyl. Credit Frederik Buyckx


Brussels loves a good concept shop, and equally, all things organic, ethically sourced and sustainable. Hence this shop, restaurant, beauty parlor and spa in a 19th-century townhouse that retains its parquet wood floors and grand marble fireplaces — but reflects its newfound green ethos with plants hanging from the ceilings and mounted on the walls. Start the day with a blow dry at the first-floor beauty counter, then share the avocado toast and gluten-free chocolate cake over lunch on the terrace, before picking up jars of truffle mayonnaise and organic face cream by Belgian brand CÎME on your way out.
Interior design store the Game features products by local and international designers. Credit Frederik Buyckx

The Game

A five-minute walk from the gleaming guildhalls of the Grand Place, this year-old, bright-lit design store is owned by an art dealer who’s arranged the shop to resemble an apartment. There’s an ash-wood dining table set for dinner, French ombré bedsheets and Belgian- and Swiss-designed wood shelves holding homewares and objets d’art like coral-shaped resin vases and bowls cast with fruits and vegetables so their interior cavities have the shape and texture of cantaloupes, cabbages and cauliflowers.
The fashion boutique Kure. Credit Frederik Buyckx


Fashion blogger-turned-boutique co-owner Cyrielle Christiaens has a knack for finding neutral-colored clothes designed by fellow blogger/model/designers: nubby-knit black sweaters and lace bodysuits from Denmark’s Anine Bing, white Stan Smith-like sneakers by Italian Chiara Ferragni and skater-style soft white shirts à la Parisian Margaux Lonnberg. The store’s aesthetic is, unsurprisingly, the stuff of lifestyle-blog dreams: Walls are white, weathered wood and exposed brick, clothes hang on spare metal rails, and Christiaens — with her signature straight-cut bangs — mans the register herself.
Stijl has been selling clothes by Belgian designers for over 20 years. Credit Frederik Buyckx


The original temple to Belgian fashion design since 1984, this store spawned the dozens of boutiques that now surround it on Rue Antoine Dansaert. The shop stocks only about a dozen women’s designers, most of them Belgian, with clothes hanging on black velvet hangers and sitting on simple white shelves; its stark black-and-white interior doesn’t distract from its selection of black dresses, sequined sweaters and floral-print jackets by some of the country’s best-known designers (Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester, Veronique Branquinho), along with pieces by newer names like Sofie d’Hoore, who’s beloved in Brussels for her easy-wearing, tentlike dresses. There’s also a men’s store around the corner on Place du Nouveau Marché aux Grains.
The concept shop Hunting and Collecting changes its look every year. Credit Frederik Buyckx

Hunting and Collecting

The height of trendiness when it opened in 2010, this concept shop can take credit for Brussels’ current wealth of gallery-cum-boutiques. Its owners, a former fashion editor and an event producer, treat it like a movie set that they overhaul every year. But regardless of the thematic inspiration — from après-ski to outer space to a winter garden — they offer a wide range of styles, from avant-garde to streetwear: Gosha Rubchinskiy-printed sweatshirts, 1970s-style patent-leather platforms by French designer Stephane Kélian and neoprene separates from the Paris-based Cédric Charlier. And every Thursday through Saturday, a young florist makes and sells bunches of flowers in the front window.

Isabelle Bajart

Why is Brussels such a paradise of vintage clothing shops? According to Isabelle Bajart, the owner of this popular second-hand boutique, it’s because ‘‘we’re right in the middle of Europe, so people just leave a mark.’’ Her store, located on the ground-floor of a three-story home, is full of hard-to-find and pristine designer clothes: Chanel jackets, Dolce & Gabbana tops and Dries Van Noten dresses — plus suede jackets, trenchcoats and bright printed dresses from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Paintings by the German artist Anke Weyer at the art gallery Office Baroque. Credit Frederik Buyckx

Office Baroque

This contemporary gallery moved from Antwerp to Brussels in 2013, setting up in a former brewery in the Dansaert district, and in September, it expanded into a second location near the Bozar, the city’s fine arts center. Both spaces show established and emerging artists with ties to Modernism: The original Brussels gallery recently hosted a solo exhibition by the Los Angeles-based artist Michael Rey — a collection of oil-painted Plasticine panels cut into unusual flat shapes — while Anke Weyer’s colorful, richly textured abstract paintings were the subject of the new location’s inaugural show.