Founded in 2020 by Arthur Buerms and long-time partner Gie, The Nomadic Art Gallery is a contemporary art gallery and public art and research project currently based in Leuven, Belgium. Building on a cyclical model rooted in the notion of nomadism, the initiative unfolds through two alternating phases. The first is an in-situ immersion within an underrepresented art scene, during which Buerms and Gie invest a mobile vehicle to conduct research in the given location, the latter ultimately becoming a public art project. The second phase is set in a transitional gallery space - a temporary location in Europe which changes with each showcased art scene and where the duo initiates a dialogue between their research and the European contemporary art scene, through a program of both physical and online exhibitions.
The Nomadic Art Gallery's story cannot be separated from that of daring Belgian couple Arthur Buerms and Gie. Having met during their studies when running Life of L, an organization producing multidisciplinary exhibitions across Europe, Arthur and Gie share a passion for exploring, and pushing, the boundaries of art - what constitutes art? How autonomous is art? In how far is art influenced, if not defined, by the context in which it appears? In 2020, eager to further probe these themes, they founded The Nomadic Art Gallery, an initiative rooted in the notion that art evolves with its context - as do how, and by whom, it is perceived.
As they gradually turned their attention towards a seldom presented Aotearoa (New Zealand) art scene and to how their project could contribute in shedding light onto it, in particular to Western audiences, they fortuitously met Auckland-based art collector Kent Gardner. A trustee of Aotearoa's reputed Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi, intent on supporting and fueling the local art scene, he soon became a keen supporter of the project, most notably entrusting Arthur and Gie with the task of creating for him a collection of New Zealand art: one that would result from their on-the-ground research - an untouched, unbiased snapshot onto an art scene poorly known by the international eye, focused until this day on the country's southern islands.
In early 2020, Arthur and Gie set off for Aotearoa. What started as a converted truck quickly turned into a mobile art gallery, in which the duo lived and exhibited for a year. The curatorial project itself, based on its temporary life cycle, unfolded as 16 exhibitions across 7 locations, each addressing themes around the concept of life from love through to nostalgia. Over the course of a year, Arthur and Gie travelled 36,000 kilometers across the country, involving over 200 artists, 106 of which participated in investing the truck as a canvas in itself, in constant interaction with their expanding public.
With a year of discoveries behind them, Arthur and Gie decided to grant a second life to The Nomadic Art Gallery by bringing it to European audiences - and with it, a dive into the New Zealand art scene, and the result of their one-year in-situ research into and interaction within it. Today, their nomadic time in New Zealand is held in two lasting records. The first, Kent Gardner's resulting family collection, housed at his home on Waiheke Island - a selection of 66 works reflecting Arthur and Gie's research and the resulting exhibition program - as he continues to this day to share and support their project and commitment to shedding an international light onto the New Zealand art scene. The second, the truck itself, which now stands as a public artwork in the island's Connells Bay Sculpture Park.
Creating Bridges: The Nomadic Art Gallery Today
Having returned to Europe in 2021, Arthur and Gie proceeded to the second part of The Nomadic Art Gallery's New Zealand chapter - the first of, what they had now understood, many cyclical focuses onto rarely discussed art scenes across the world.
While the first part brought forth the transitional nature of the project - both geographically and temporally - the second part elicits a fixed, physical location, where the duo presents a curatorial agenda aimed at introducing and promoting the New Zealand art scene among a broader, European audience. Taking place in The Nomadic Art Gallery's very first space in Leuven, Belgium, the on-site exhibitions initiate a dialogue between New Zealand artists and their European counterparts. Running in parallel, the online platform, set on The Nomadic Art Gallery's website, expands on the all-encompassing nature of the digital world by focusing solely on the New Zealand art scene and its ability to reach and connect with a broader international audience - one eager to step in its turn into New Zealand's flourishing creative scenes.
A temporary snapshot onto a specific art scene at a given moment in time, The Nomadic Art Gallery today acts as a bridge between continents, a platform for New Zealand artists, in this first iteration, to share broadly the poorly known discourses that feed their creation – fragmented as they may be, all reclaiming their voice and identity on an international scale. At the border between the public and the private, at once art project and gallery space, connecting a too often disconnected art world and its market, it is nourished by the collaborative ties that characterize both Arthur and Gie’s work together, and their longstanding bond with the artistic community they cultivated and to which they remain committed today.
Ultimately, through its boldly independent, non-traditional approach, The Nomadic Art Gallery sets forth the potential for new gallery models to emerge – each unique, reflecting art’s inherently flexible, dynamic and diverse nature – and its ability to endlessly manifest itself in various formats, in various spaces, to various audiences.