How Sterling Ruby is shaking up Brussels

Eminent gallerist Xavier Hufkens opens a new space with a show by the LA artist

Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby
Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby | Image: Melanie Schiff, courtesy Sterling Ruby Studio

As galleries around the globe slowly begin to reopen, Xavier Hufkens is not only welcoming the public back to his two Brussels spaces but expanding into a third. “A gallery has to have a soul,” says Hufkens, who has been showing the likes of Antony Gormley and Louise Bourgeois in the Belgian capital since 1987. 

Brussels gallerist Xavier Hufkens
Brussels gallerist Xavier Hufkens | Image: Jean-François Jaussaud

When his new 3,700sq ft location opens on Thursday 18 June, the “soul” will come in the form of new work by headline-making Los Angeles-based artist Sterling Ruby, whom Hufkens has represented since 2009. Ruby’s art practice is wildly eclectic, ranging from ceramics to collage, video to sculpture and installation, and last year he added another string to his multifaceted bow: the SR.Studio.LA.CA fashion label, which debuted on the Florence runways of Pitti Uomo with a plethora of painterly styles.

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His new offering in Brussels fuses painting and sculpture in a series of wooden, wall-mounted forms. Daubed in sombre hues, they echo the WIDW paintings (an acronym for “window”) that were a highlight of Frieze art fair in 2019. 

New work by Ruby is displayed in Hufkens’ latest Brussels space
New work by Ruby is displayed in Hufkens’ latest Brussels space | Image: Allard Bovenberg/courtesy the artist and Xavier Hufkens

It’s Sterling’s sixth show with Hufkens, who says of his decision to stay in Brussels: “Over the past 33 years I could have opened in other locations. I’ve thought about it. But it was a conscious choice not to branch out. I wanted to provide my collectors, artists and visitors with a space that feels like the place that it’s from. You start to lose that when you go elsewhere.” 

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Hufkens hasn’t ventured far afield at all: just a few hundred metres from his two other destinations on Rue Saint-Georges. The new space – which he refers to as his “painting gallery” – is housed in a 1960s modernist building with a small back garden. The interior was designed by Belgian architect Bernard Dubois, a longtime friend of the gallerist. “I suppose there is something in my character that likes to stay in one place and work with the same people,” says Hufkens, who later this year will embark on the extensive renovation of another historical Brussels building, due to open in 2022. “The personal is obviously important to me.”

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