Didier Claes, the colour of art
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to a Belgian father and a Congolese mother, Didier Claes arrived in Belgium at the age of 16. One of the world's top African art dealers, he draws his passion for the Kinshasa museum from his father, a researcher. At the age of 18, he made his first trip to the Congo in search of parts.

Mining and Business Magazine: Didier Claes you have created the Didier Claes Gallery, a space dedicated to Black African Classical Arts in Brussels. How was this vocation born?

Didier Claes: My father was a researcher and worked at the National Museum in Kinshasa. All my life, I was immersed in the world of objects, their search in the bush until their presentation in the museum. African art objects have always been part of my daily life. The opening of a space dedicated to African classical arts was the right continuity of my profession as a merchant, a legitimate continuation. 17 years ago, my first small gallery was created on Sainte Anne Street in Sablon. Then I moved the gallery to rue Van Moer, still in Sablon and stayed there for several years. Last year, anxious to reinvent myself, my gallery moved to rue de l'Abbaye in the middle of contemporary art galleries.

MBM : Present us the scope of the mission that your structure has set itself

DC : The activity of a gallery owner depends to a large extent on the discovery of beautiful pieces. For that, a great knowledge of his field of expertise is necessary. Having a network of contacts is also very important, buyers and sellers. The quality of the human relationship, trust and even friendship is very important in my job. Then, you need to have an almost intuitive feeling that allows you to present the right object to the right person.

My gallery has existed for 17 years. When I arrived in Belgium, I had to find an exhibition space in order to be recognized by the art world. As a self-taught person, I had to make my place in a very closed environment. The difficulties were many but I never stopped persevering. I achieved my goal: to open a gallery specializing in the classical art of Black Africa. I realized from the start that being a person of colour in the art world was something extremely rare, especially in African art. Still today, I think I am one of the only (African art) colour dealers to be present at international and national fairs. In addition, I am president of the only association in the world bringing together African art dealers, Bruneaf, which is held in Brussels. Galerie didier Claes has become one of the largest on the African art market. I was surprised to discover that the English magazine Art&Auction named me among the 40 most influential personalities in the art world.

MBM : You belong to a new generation of Africans concerned about the evolution of their continent. Can it have an impact on Africa's development?

DC : Without a doubt, I have also noticed during my frequent trips to Africa that the diaspora is a source of inspiration for those who see Africa as a territory of future and effervescence. The new generation has the will to move forward and make itself heard in various fields such as sport, marketing... I want to belong to and contribute to this energy that drives the development of our continent. Africa, it seems to me, is booming and if I can contribute to it, I am delighted.

Contact www.didierclaes.art

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