Squirrels, bats and hedgehogs: Roa’s cabinet of curiosities (Bodson-Emelinckx, Brussels)

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It was an unusual sight, as I entered the gallery on that Saturday afternoon: the room was crowded. That alone is no small feat for an artist, cause it happens all too often, on my Saturday gallery tours, that I find myself alone in a room, facing those works of art. But hey, we’re talking about Roa, the notorious and mysterious Belgian street artist, whose animals adorn walls all over the world, from Puerto Rico to London and Ghent. I for myself had only one question: would an artist used to working on such a big scale, be able to make an impression in the confined space of an art gallery?

It took Bodson-Emelinckx (Brussels) two years, apparently, to convince Roa to do a show at their gallery (through March 22). The Belgian street artist – whose work was included in Jeffrey Deitch‘s Art in the streets exhibition at MOCA, Los Angeles – didn’t exactly know what to do, or so he says, until he found what he was looking for on a garbage dump in Stockholm: the archives of a veterinarian, just dumped by a truck. In three weeks time Roa installed all the cupboards, bottles and other strange objects in the gallery space, and added his traces: his trademark animals, this time on a much smaller scale. His Valparaiso turtle, his London hedgehog, his LA downtown skunk…

He wanted it to look like a mysterious, colonial doctor’s office and that’s exactly what it does. I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this cabinet of curiosities – I admit: partly because I have a soft spot for this bric-à-brac take on art, ever since falling for the boxes of the ‘godfather’ of this blog Joseph Cornell – and the idea gels really well with that imaginary world populated by Roa’s creatures. But in the end I had to conclude: nice eye candy, and kudos for drawing that many (young) people to a gallery, but really great art?

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More pics of the exhibition here.

MOCA (Los Angeles) has just launched a call to action to graffiti and street artists and supporters around the world to upload videos showing the freshest art in public spaces. More info here.

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