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Art for the City: Winner of new urban sculpture project announced at Art Brussels

Art for the City - sculpture project
10:08 26/04/2024

French artist Marion Verboom has won the inaugural Art for the City prize and a commission to design an in-situ work in a public space in Brussels.

The competition was launched by Art Brussels in collaboration with the city of Brussels to mark the 40th edition of the contemporary art fair.

Galleries participating in the fair this year were invited to nominate one of their artists. A jury of Belgian and international art experts then whittled the number down to 14 artists. Their sculptural works are on exhibit in and around the main entrance of Brussels Expo in Place de la Belgique, which is home to the fair until 28 April.

The winning entry was announced by Brussels mayor Philippe Close at the opening of the fair on Thursday. Verboom’s totemic pair of gold columns grace the esplanade in front of the landmark Art Deco building. The sculpture, called Tectonie, matches the grandeur of the site’s architecture and panoramic view overlooking the Atomium and city in the distance.

Sarah Crew

Each section of the column, one truncated, is filled with decorative and symbolic detail, creating a dense piece of work. The Paris-based artist, born 1983, was unanimously selected for the prize. Her use of different materials, textures and colours in her work was praised by the jury, along with her references to art history and cultural traditions.

Site-specific work

Verboom, represented by Galerie Lelong & Co from Paris, is now invited to make a proposal for a site-specific public art project for Brussels, part of a future urban development project.

The site for the new work has yet to be decided. Mayor Close said that it was important that the winning artist occupied the public space with their own vision.

Jury member and project curator Carine Fol told The Bulletin that the jury was really won over by Verboom’s use of layers in her art as well as her method of working with material and her references to history.

“She really enters into dialogue with the site and links to its architecture,” said Fol, who revealed that it was also good that a woman had been selected. “Some 90% of artists in the public space are men,” she pointed out, while reiterating that it was the quality of her work quality that was the first criteria. “It’s accessible with an interesting aesthetic that is full of different elements.”


For the press opening of Art Brussels, director Nele Verhaeren explained that the fair, one of the most important in Europe and dated from 1968, was testimony to the passion for art and collecting in the country. This year's fair boasted 176 galleries from Belgium and abroad, displaying highly diverse work by some 800 artists.

For the anniversary edition, improvements had been made to make the event and its various sections – solo, discovery, rediscovery – more accessible to the public as well as a better experience for the galleries. She encouraged visitors to sign up for free guided tours.

Call to sign petition against VAT increase 

Verhaeren also raised the contentious issue of VAT on works of art. The Belgian government has introduced plans to apply a flat rate of 21% on the entire sale price of works of art from 1 January 2025. It would replace the current ‘margin system’ in which VAT is only applied to the difference between the purchase and sale value of the work.

“Such a project would drastically alter the ecosystem not only of the art sector but also of related sectors that benefit from a flourishing art scene,” she said. Many galleries would carry out their transactions abroad, which would jeopardise the future of Art Brussels, added the fair director. The Belgian art sector would also face untenable competition from neighbouring countries such as France, which had confirmed a rate of 5.5%.

Verhaeren called on the public to sign a petition by the Royal Chamber of Art Dealers (ROCAD), which had already received more than 7,000 signatories. “We need 10,000,” she said.

Photos: Art for the City - Art Brussels ©David Plas; Sarah Crew; ©David Plas

Written by Sarah Crew