New life for a shopping mall: how contemporary art took over the Rivoli building (Brussels)

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Funny, or rather: interesting, how a city is a living thing. For a while it seemed as if Brussels would get an art gallery hub in the Dansaert area. But then Jan Mot moved away, and Catherine Bastide. Motive Gallery disappeared, and Van der Mieden even returned to Antwerp. Bye bye Dansaert. Then there was this guy opening a gallery at the other side of town, in 2008. In an old shopping mall. You really had to wánt to go there. But hey: since then more than ten galleries have moved to the Rivoli building, and it’s become a place worth checking out. Six times a year the Rivoli galleries are open on a Sunday. Haven’t been there yet? Why not go tomorrow, between 2 and 6 pm.

He had no money, Francesco Rossi admits, smilingly. But he did want to open an art gallery. And so he started looking for a space in cheaper neighbourhoods, and he discovered the Rivoli building in the Bascule area of Brussels. It had opened in 1977, taking its name from the famous Paris shopping street. But it never really took off as a posh shopping mall. When Rossi opened Rossicontemporary Rivoli was almost dead.

Frankly, nobody thought Rossi’s gallery would work, in that area just a bit too far away from the gallery circuit. “It sure has been a struggle”, he says. “As a matter of fact, it still is.” But nevertheless: other, smaller galleries joined him, in the building. And then that big and important gallery Xavier Hufkens decided to open a second space at the Rivoli building. It almost was a quality mark: it’s OK to go to Rivoli. And now most of the galleries at Rivoli are joining forces to make the building work as a new gallery hub. Hence, the Rivoli Open Sundays.

If you go there, do check out the gallery of the Rivoli godfather, for a nice exhibition by Antwerp artist John Van Oers (through March 5). On Sunday, there will be a performance by Roel Heremans (3-5 pm) as well. Visit Hopstreet, for a group show, Zodiaco, based on the zodiac, with works by Camille Henrot, Evariste Richer and Joris Van De Moortel. Do take the stairs to Mathilde Hatzenberger, for some interesting blue works in fabric by Japanese artist Yoshie Sugito (through February 27) and take a look at Marie Jacotey‘s “tile drawings” at Francis Carette (through March 5). Köln-based Thomas Rehbein Galerie presents William Anthony, an “artists’ artist”, whose work apparently was appreciated by Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol (through March 5). At Xavier Hufkens (not open on Sunday February 21, unfortunately) you’ll find layers of linen stretched across wooden frames by American artist Wyatt Kahn (through February 27).

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