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PULS Gallery: Building Global Collections

PULS Gallery in Brussels, Belgium, is one of the few galleries worldwide solely dedicated to showing one-off contemporary ceramic art. Annette Sloth, founder of the gallery, talks about her artists and collecting ceramics.

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Text by Mieke Kooistra

Holding the Ferrari in her hands, PULS Contemporary Ceramic’s Annette Sloth can’t help but be mesmerized by the perfection maker Ann Van Hoey has managed to achieve in a single work. Named after its cover of red Ferrari car paint, the object is both inimitably solid and fragile; while messing with mathematical logic. “It’s just so perfect,” Sloth muses. She can equally be drawn to drool over funky structures by Danish artist Gitte Jungersen – whose work is so vibrant and happy, it seems to be in love with itself. She loads praise on the insanely wicked operetta statuettes by Belgian enfant-terrible Yves Malfliet. After 15-years at the helm of PULS, her world class Brussels-based gallery, Sloth still has a sense of wonder and excitement when it comes to ceramics.

Exhibiting High End Ceramics

PULS Gallery is one of the few galleries worldwide, solely dedicated to showing one-off contemporary ceramic art pieces. Danish born Sloth founded PULS in 2000. She opened her doors when the European capital was a backwater peopled by Eurocrats and impoverished immigrants. The risk paid off almost instantly when she invited her tutors from the world famous Danish Design School to send over artwork for a group show; making her first show an instant success.

“It so happened that my teachers were already some of the best know Danish ceramicists. There wasn’t a gallery in Europe, or the rest of the world, who would show these big artists in one room,” says Sloth about her early start.

For the first few years, she continued to show mostly Danish artists, before looking to Australia, France, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK and of course Belgium, selecting the best of what was available. “I discovered Ann Van Hoey when I was a juror at the Biënnale in Vallauris, France in 2008,” Sloth explains. “She has since really taken off because her work has an extraordinary quality.” Many big names in contemporary ceramics have shown at PULS: Wouter Dam, Pippin Drysdale, Bente Hansen, Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl, Bodil Manz, Merete Rasmussen and Alev Siesbye. Many return, mostly because a gallery like PULS is a unique. The selection of high profile artists coupled with a growing interest in contemporary ceramics has helped PULS gain a place as a leading venue for high-art ceramics.

Artists such as Turi Heisselberg Pedersen and Lone Skov Madsen, who have a global following, also show their work with PULS. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in Brussels or anywhere else,” Heisselberg explains. “When you’re working in the field of ceramics, you’re really working in a global field. Worldwide, you might have four or five galleries specialized in this area. PULS is one of the five. We used to have one in Copenhagen but that closed. You will find a couple in the United States and of course, there are galleries where you have paintings and ceramics and glass etc. all mixed together. It’s very rare for a gallery to dedicate itself solely to ceramics and to showing one-off pieces. Therefore a show at PULS is really important for us.”

Collector’s Recognition

The path Sloth has pioneered has led to many breakthroughs. Since her successful debut, the gallerist has become especially recognized for her unparalleled expertise in ceramics, and she has been invited by numerous collectors to council on collection acquisitions and curatorial issues. But it must be Sloth’s passion and enthusiasm, which has turned many first time buyers into collectors.

Brussels-based collector Nikolaus van der Pas was mostly collecting paintings before he stumbled upon PULS in 2001. His first visit led to a purchase, which kept him coming back. “Annette holds seven shows a year,” van der Pas describes. “Each time, the day before opening, I go in and look for the pieces that pleased me most.” He now has a collection of more than 80 pieces. Van der Pas says he has always felt that his collection is very much at home in a domestic environment, taking over space on three floors of his four-story townhouse. He places objects on furniture and bookshelves, side tables and in front of paintings and antiques, he has been almost equally keen on acquiring. “I have sometimes bought two or three pieces from the same show, blending them into my interior and by doing so, create my own landscape.” Van der Pas says he has never regretted a single purchase and loves them all equally. He credits Sloth as a guiding light, emphasising that many people like him have built impressive collections based on her selection.

Sloth is characteristically modest about her position. The only advice she has for new collectors is that they should have fun and buy exactly what they like or love and not think about the investment of a purchase. “I have often advised not to buy too many smaller pieces from many shows but rather select a bigger piece from the artist you really like.” With PULS. the gallerist keeps her eyes firmly on the future. Shows in 2016 will feature big names such as Erna Aaltonen, Bente Hansen, Antonino Spoto and Aneta Regel. Steen Ipsen will return to PULS in October 2016. Brussels is no longer a backwater. The New York Times called it: “The New Berlin.” Progressively, artists are choosing Brussels as their home while many international galleries are opening branches; private and public art spaces are thriving. More collectors and art enthusiast will find their way to the Belgian capital and of course to PULS Contemporary Ceramics. •

The interview was originally published in TLmag 24, From East Asia to Northern Europe in December 2015.

Main image
Annette Sloth and collector Nikolaus van der Pas. The white ceramic piece in the background is the work of Kristine Tillge Lund. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.

Creating his own landscapes: Nikolaus van der Pas combines Anatolian Alev Sysbye with Australian Pipin Drysdale and Mexican Gustavo Perez in one grouping at his Brussels home. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Creating his own landscapes: Nikolaus van der Pas combines Anatolian Alev Sysbye with Australian Pipin Drysdale and Mexican Gustavo Perez in one grouping at his Brussels home. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Steen Ipsen (DK), whose works have been displayed in venues such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, Musée Magnelli in Vallauris, France and the Danish Museum of Art & Design in Copenhagen will show at PULS in Oct/Nov 2016.
Steen Ipsen (DK), whose works have been displayed in venues such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, Musée Magnelli in Vallauris, France and the Danish Museum of Art & Design in Copenhagen will show at PULS in Oct/Nov 2016.
Works by Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl (DK) from his Knotpots series stand next to a bright yellow work by Barbara Nanning (NL). Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Works by Martin Bodilsen Kaldahl (DK) from his Knotpots series stand next to a bright yellow work by Barbara Nanning (NL). Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Antonino Spoto (BE) has be called one of the biggest surprises in Belgian ceramics. He will be showing his glowing pieces at PULS in early 2016.
Antonino Spoto (BE) has be called one of the biggest surprises in Belgian ceramics. He will be showing his glowing pieces at PULS in early 2016.
Vessel by Erna Aaltonen (FI) on a pedestal in the home of Brussels collector Nikolaus van der Pas. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Vessel by Erna Aaltonen (FI) on a pedestal in the home of Brussels collector Nikolaus van der Pas. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
Ann Van Hoey: Vessel; 2013; earthenware and gloss paint; red H17x30x22cm. + yellow H20x27x35cm.; slab building and press molding
Ann Van Hoey: Vessel; 2013; earthenware and gloss paint; red H17x30x22cm. + yellow H20x27x35cm.; slab building and press molding Ferrari Red and Yellow by Belgian Ann van Hoey.
Bente Hansen (DK) will show at PULS in May 2016
Bente Hansen (DK) will show at PULS in May 2016
A grouping of Bodil Manz pieces at the home of Brussels-based collector Nikolaus van der Pas. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.
A grouping of Bodil Manz pieces at the home of Brussels-based collector Nikolaus van der Pas. Photo Stephen Papandropoulos for TLmagazine.

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