It was only three years ago when Independent exported its signature aisle-less art fair model it had established in New York to Europe, launching Independent Brussels. Now, three editions later, the fair has announced that it will be closing down its Brussels edition.
Independent’s co-founder and CEO, Elizabeth Dee, blamed problems with the location as well as timing for the motivation behind closing, first reported by the Financial Times. After holding two editions of the fair during Art Brussels, they decided to reschedule the most recent one to November, but even then, they faced stiff competition and relatively low reception due to art fair season in China.
Dee confirmed however that New York’s market is far stronger than that of Brussels and that they should focus their efforts there. Speaking to the FT, Dee said “25 percent of the world’s collectors live in New York, and our team, our museum-caliber building, and my own professional transition means we’re now in a position to grow.”
The art fair celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year after being founded in 2009 as an alternative to the stuffy, cookie-cutter exhibition spaces that often lead to fair fatigue. Independent had a good run initially, and their expansion to Europe was a great sign of a healthy operation that combines an intimate gallery environment with the typical fair model. Their latest Brussels edition was curated by Vincent Honoré, who commissioned 16 new performances for the fair.
Dee also discussed that Independent Brussels was three times the size of New York’s, further contributing to their decision to close down. The fair took place in the Vanderborght Building, a 1930’s structure carefully monitored by local city officials.
In February of this year, Dee contributed an essay published in artnet News where she raised questions about the typical, stale and stuffy gallery model we seem to have accepted as status quo and questioned what innovation the future might hold. “Do we still have an effective system for bringing new art forward?” she asked. “At such a transformational time, it surprises me how little exposure has been given to gallery missions and practices to address this question.”