Glass art shines at Hasselt’s newest gallery
The Schiepers Gallery is the only exhibition space in Belgium dedicated solely to contemporary glass art
The inaugural exhibition, Introduction I, opened this month with works by six Flemish glass artists: Giampaolo Amoruso, Warner Berckmans, Wouter Bolangier, Alexander Ketele, Edward Leibovitz and Ilse Van Roy.
Sue Schiepers had wanted to open her own gallery ever since she was an art history student at the University of Leuven. “But when you graduate at 22, you don’t have the money, you don’t have the expertise and you don’t have the network,” she says.
Now, having built her career as a businesswoman, curator and art consultant, she’s finally made her dream come true. In choosing Hasselt as the location of her gallery, Schiepers hopes to take advantage of glass art’s popularity in neighbouring countries.
“You have the glass culture in the Netherlands, in Germany and France,” she says. “And in Hasselt you have the clientele nearby. I thought, Hasselt is maybe the perfect place and there are not so many galleries here.”
Schiepers didn’t start out as a glass connoisseur. She freely admits that when she left university, “I knew nothing about glass”. But a job organising exhibitions for Kunstforum Würth Turnhout, a private museum in Antwerp province, put her in contact with international glass museums and galleries, and a passion for glass was born.
Time for an introduction
The works currently on display attest to the versatility of glass as a medium. They include mixed-media sculptures that combine glass with steel, colourful sculptures with intricately engraved surfaces, smooth glass panels hanging on the walls, and glass objects that are both delicate and monumental. The range of techniques used is eye-opening and goes far beyond the image of traditional glass-blowing.
“It’s called Introduction I because it’s my introduction to the public, and for the public to know me and the gallery,” Schiepers explains. “I focus on Belgian artists because I am the only gallery in Belgium for glass, and a bit of nationalism is not so misplaced,” she laughs. “We have some good glass artists in Belgium, so why not?”
It’s the art historian in me – I want to educate people. I want to teach them how glass is made
All of the artists are hand-picked by Schiepers. “I know every artist personally”, she says. “I don’t want to present an artist I haven’t seen. I always visit their atelier. And I must click with the artist. Otherwise you can’t explain the work of the artist properly, I think.”
She plans to organise six exhibitions a year. The second exhibition will be titled Introduction II and will feature artists from the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Britain and Germany. The third will be a solo exhibition dedicated to American glass artist Carol Milne, known for her unique “knitted-glass” sculptures.
The gallery is in a renovated old building in Hasselt’s historic centre, where the smell of fresh paint lingered at the opening last week. Schiepers points to a blank space on the wall and says she wants to put a TV screen there, where she will show videos of glass artists at work in their studios.
“It’s the art historian in me – I want to educate people,” she says. “I want to teach people how glass is made. You have so many techniques like plate glass, blown glass and slump glass.”
Her passion for the art form is contagious. Guiding a visitor around the gallery, she talks about each work, and the artist who created it, with knowledge and enthusiasm. Hasselt, and the Belgian art scene, are richer for her efforts.
Introduction I, until 11 March, Schiepers Gallery, Dokter Willemstraat 30, Hasselt
Photo: Wall’s, 2016, by Alexander Ketele
© Alexander Ketele/Schiepers Gallery