Brussels-based gallery Baronian Francey has been around for a while, so it’s not quite an Art Brussels newbie: having opened its doors in 1973, this old hat is a regular feature at the fair. We spoke to founder Albert Baronian, who joined forces with Edmund Francey in 2002, about their plans for Art Brussels and how the fair has changed over the years.
How do you choose what to show at Art Brussels?
There are artists who work better than others at fairs. The setting is very different from an exhibition in a gallery. As it’s rather costly to participate in such a fair, you don’t want to run too big of a risk, so it’s good to select artists who are already rather established, and that the public can easily recognise. Nevertheless, we always include one or two young artists, although it’s difficult for them. Fairs in general are events that are more made for classic pieces. But a fair like the one in Rotterdam is younger for example, it’s less expensive and actually tailored to younger artists. There, we can allow ourselves to show lesser known, emerging artists.
How big is your booth at Art Brussels and how many artists will you show?
The booth is 75 square metres. We’ll show eight artists max. We’re representing about 30 artists, so we have to make a choice. But we try to keep a balance: There are several fairs a year, so if someone can’t make it to one, he’s going to be shown at another.
Which artists will you show in your booth? Is there a main one?
No, we don’t favour anyone. They are all equal. Last year, though, we did a one man show of Gilbert & George. Even though Gilbert & George or Florian Maier-Aichen make very large-scaled pieces, while someone like Robert Devriendt produces very small paintings, they all get the same amount of space.
Is there something that all the artists have in common? Is there a common theme?
Our gallery has always been characterised by its eclecticism. We don’t focus on a certain movement but show everything that we like, from abstract art to photography or figurative art.
Your gallery has been around for quite a while, how many times have you participated in Art Brussels and what has changed since you first started?
We’ve been participating in Art Brussels since 1975, and it has changed quite a bit over the years. In the beginning, it took place only every two years and it was organised by the galleries themselves. It was a rather amateurish affair. Since about ten years ago, the fair is professional and run by experts. It’s more international. Also, the context of Art Brussels has changed. The city is more important now and its reputation has grown. What’s nice about Art Brussels is that the size is still human. You can do it in one afternoon or a couple of hours, although it’s a lot bigger than in the beginning: back then maybe 30 galleries participated, now there are about 150.
How important is Art Brussels on an international scale?
I have to admit: it doesn’t belong to the first league fairs like Basel, Paris, Miami or Frieze London. But in the second league, it’s definitely the best. I remember two years ago, it was elected the 5th best one in the world by a magazine.
Why is it important for you to participate?
It’s very important for a gallery based in Brussels. It’s our city. It’s normal and expected of us that we show at Art Brussels. And we even don’t know everyone yet. People investing in art go to fairs, and fairs are a practical way to meet these people.
What are your expectations?
We want to strengthen relations with our collectors, meet new ones and build new contacts with institutions. Overall we want to make our artists known – a fair is the display cabinet of a gallery.