After stealing the show at the Sydney Festival, Skateboaders vs Minimalism moved on to Europe to occupy SOLO presentation status at the 2016 edition of the high profile Art Brussels (22-24 April). Skateboarders vs Minimalism is the latest creation from internationally renowned London-based artist and UNSW Art & Design graduate, Shaun Gladwell.

What does a solo exhibition as part of Art Brussels mean in terms of status on the international art scene?  Briefly – a lot.  In the past few years, Brussels has increaslingly established itself as a centre in Europe for practicing artists to live, galleries to operate and art sales to be made.

In fact since 2006 more than 50 new galleries have opened in Brussels, including major players from New York (Gladstone), Paris (Almine Rech and Nathalie Obadia) and Antwerp (Office Baroque).  Support for local and international artists includes extensive residency programs offered by Brussels’ leading contemporary art space, WEILS (which opened in 2007) and Workspacebrussels, an organisation devoted entirely to the provision of workspaces for young and emerging artists.  Further, there’s a government stipend, formulated through the taxation system, which offsets the irregular incomes of artists and encourages an influx of new creative residents, including Kendell Geers, Pierre Bismuth, Lucy McKenzie and Simon Thompson.

The relationship between creation and commerce within the city of Brussels is critical to the success of Art Brussels; being essentially a grand celebration of art and a commercial fair that attracts collectors and institutions from around the world and acheives significant sales.   In 2015, in its 33rd edition, more than 190 galleries participated in the event.  The first to sell were works by leading art world figures like Oliver Mosset’s Peinture featuring a single black hoop on a white canvas and Bill Viola’s video work Fire Martyr, one edition of which sold for 190,000 Euros.  However, the sales of younger artists were quick and consistent, including Brent Wadden’s monochromatic mixed media pieces, Matthew Cerletty’s hyper-realistic paintings of banal subject matter, and Diango Hernandez’s entire solo installation of sliced watermelon and pineapple. 

Gladwell’s Skateboarding vs Minimalism was exhibited among leading artists from around the world.  This included seminal artists Pier Paolo Calzolari (represented by Ronchini Gallery of London), David Medalla (represented by Baró Galeria of São Paulo), Darren Almond (represented by New Art Centre of Salisbury), Sammy Baloji (represented by Galerie Imane Farès of Paris), Dinh Q. Lê (represented by Shoshana Wayne Gallery of Santa Monica), and Georges Tony Stoll (represented by Jérôme Poggi of Paris). 

To have been selected for a solo show at Art Brussels 2016 each of these artists has to have been nominated by a leading gallery to showcase “an individual ambitious project”.  Galdwell's elegant Skateboarders vs Minimalism was presented by the Geneva based Galerie Analix Forever. 

Originally created for the Torrance Art Museum in Los Angeles, California in 2015, Skateboarders vs Minimalism is a testament to the body, minimalist artwork and the music of Philip Glass.  In it, Gladwell filmed three of his favourite skateboarders in action; American skateboard legend, Rodney Mullen – often referred to as ‘the lord of the board’; the first openly transsexual skateboarder, Hilary Thompson; and joy-to-watch 24-year-old Puerto Rican born, Jesus Esteban.

Skateboarding vs Minimalism is a single sequence projection over three panels showcasing Mullen, Thompson and Esteban riding around, over and on (replica) minimalist artworks by Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Dan Flavin. 

In an interview with the Australian newspaper journalist, Ashleigh Wilson, conducted at the time the work was first presented in Los Angeles, Gladwell says “the video is a kind of fantasy I heard about a very famous skateboarder walking into a museum, looking at all those forms and going, “Wow, I’m going to skate on those.  No one’s around”.”

Having traversed the globe, Skateboarders vs Minimalism is now up for auction in Brussels.  For those not in the bidding but still wishing to catch a glimpse of three skateboarders set to a Philip Glass score in a majestic foyer of a museum, other options exist.  At least one edition of the work will remain available for viewing in major art festivals and public galleries. 

Watch Gladwell discuss the connection between skateboarding and his art here.