SOLO presentations at Art Brussels are individual, ambitious projects dedicated to the work of a single artist. This year, the fair shows its dedication to curated displays with 30 SOLO presentations. At Art Brussels 2020, Knokke-based gallery Patrick De Brock will present a SOLO by the American artist Joel Mesler, who will be holding live portrait sessions at Art Brussels. As part of Art Brussels Insights, we caught up with the artist and the gallerist about their upcoming presentation at the fair.
Conversation with artist Joel Mesler and Bertram De Brock of Patrick De Brock Gallery
by Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte
How did you discover the work of Joel Mesler?
Bertram De Brock: We discovered Joel when we came across the column he wrote for ArtNews, entitled “True Confessions of a Justified Art Dealer”.
How did you chose Joel Mesler for a solo at Art Brussels 2020?
Bertram De Brock: We were in East Hampton last November, visiting Joel’s studio. Joel showed us this new body of work that’s based around the beach. We fell in love with this series and so we offered Joel the opportunity of showing them at Art Brussels. Joel spontaneously and joyfully agreed.
Joel, you are the owner of Rental Gallery in East Hampton. What made you want to shift from art dealer to artist?
Joel Mesler: I really didn’t have a choice. I began to make drawings at night when my children would fall asleep. It was something to keep me engaged with myself being a new father.
What qualities should a great artist have?
Joel Mesler: I think there is not one way to be an artist, but I can tell you that the art I enjoy the best is by artists who have a keen sensitivity to the world. They seem to always be in a half-step, while others are in a full step. They beat to their own drum.
What are the biggest challenges that you had to face as an artist?
Joel Mesler: To convince people that I am an artist. Because I had only engaged in the art world as a dealer, I would say generally that people were sceptical of my intentions when I really made the switch. I would like to think of myself as always having an artistic bent to my art dealing practice through the years, but the reality is, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck.
What will you be presenting at Art Brussels 2020?
Joel Mesler: I will be presenting a body of work loosely based on the beach. All the works in one way or another reference the experience being at the beach, whether it’s having a bonfire or pissing your name in the sand.
Bertram De Brock: Joel will be holding portrait sessions each day of the fair, for sessions of around 6 hours. Don’t miss out!
How did you start making portraits?
Joel Mesler: I was at NADA (New Art Dealers Alliance) in 2017 and had sold out my booth on the opening day. I was dreading having to sit in my booth for the remainder of the fair with nothing to sell. So, I went to the art store and bought some paint and small canvasses. I started painting the dealers around my booth, until visitors to the fair started asking to have their portraits done. I put up a sign up, Portraits for Sale, and the rest is history.
How do fairgoers react to your live portraiture sessions?
Joel Mesler: They seem to really enjoy it. I like the fact that my work can exist in multiple markets. I think it’s a positive service to be able to allow anyone to afford an artwork that’s at the right place at the right time. It makes for good stories.
Do you have any advice for young, aspiring art collectors?
Joel Mesler: My advice for young collectors would be to get to know the dealers. They are your gateway from the beginning. If you share a similar aesthetic with one, make a friend.
1-5: Live portrait sessions by Joel Mesler
6: Joel Mesler, Untitled (In N Out), 2019, pigment on linen, 55 x 46 inches
7: Joel Mesler, Untitled (Copa Cabana), 2019, pigment on linen, 55 x 46 inches