With its rich artistic heritage, Belgium is fertile territory for art and design collectors, and two of them – architect Olivier Dwek and businessman Frédéric Hanrez – recently united to create a stunning new gallery space in Brussels. Called New Hope, it opened its doors during the Brafa Art Fair in January.
Dwek is a tousle-haired character with a wickedly good eye and the confidence to take a morning Zoom call in his bathrobe. Architect to Belgium’s crème de la crème for the past 20 years, he is still something of a secret beyond the country’s borders (though, with seven Parisian projects underway and the release of a monograph published by Rizzoli, this will soon change). Growing up in a business-focused family, Dwek was an outlier with a passion for art. He devoured autobiographies of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, learned to draw nudes at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, then studied architecture at the Institut Victor Horta. He is a collector, too. ‘Art helped me to sharpen my eye,’ he states. At only 28, he was commissioned to refurbish Louis Vuitton’s Brussels store, and in 2000, he founded his own studio, creating light-filled, modernist-inspired homes for well-heeled clients, often curating the art and design within.
Hanrez is a Belgian entrepreneur as discreet and low-key as Dwek is bold and exuberant. A scion of an illustrious Belgian family with a lifetime passion for collecting, Hanrez realized about 20 years ago that he could get more bang for his buck with design. ‘I prefer to have the best in design, rather than second-best in painting,’ he says. Having spent part of his childhood in Wisconsin, he was attracted to the craft spirit of American design, and now owns one of the world’s finest private collections of American 20th-century furniture, notably from New Hope, Pennsylvania.
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