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22nd editon of the Art Amsterdam

Julia Schrader sculpture made off black sun flower beans in front of works from Svätopulk Mikyta, Walderdorff Galerie, Cologne

The Art Amsterdam (former kunstRAI) is taking place through a long sunny weekend embraced by some public holidays. The day of the Remembrance of the dead (4th of May) and the Liberation day (5th of May). The public moode is correspondingly relaxed. And so is the fair. Quite relaxed, open minded, light. Only the sudden death of Karel Appel wags the fair. But only partly because this is a young fair. A young fair in its 22nd edition. In the last years the new director Anneke Oele cleaned the dusty image. You can catch a glimpse of the current trend by reading the soon following interview with her. We also asked the galleries about their opinion. These days they mostly vote for bad weather. Jump here to the gallery statements

Anneke Oele
Interview with Anneke Oele, Amsterdam RAI (KunstRAI/ArtAmsterdam)

AfN: How did you come to the art world?

Ms. Oele: As a child my father took me to the museums. I have seen all churches in France. I started collecting when I was eighteen.

AfN: Contemporary art?

Ms. Oele: Contemporary art, It was in Arnhem and I bought an etching of Klaas Gubbels. He is a known Dutch artist now. I can not tell why I did it. It is very strange I just did it. I did not think about it.

AfN: It was nothing about possession? To have it?

Ms. Oele: Every time I thought I want to have this. So it was only possession. But I can not tell you why. I loved it and I had to have it. Then I went to an auction for Vietnam.

AfN: Vietnam?

Ms. Oele: It was long ago. They had this auction in Holland to help Vietnam. I wanted to buy something but I did not get it because there was a dealer. It was about 100 guilders. He got it all for a 105. Because I did not have any cent more. And then this artist came up to me and said, well come to my atelier, we will find something. This was very nice, a good start. And I thought this is very normal and when I had a gallery I thought this was quite strange.

AfN: So, you had a gallery?

Ms. Oele: Yes, I studied art history and in1983 I became curator in the Gemeentemuseum in Arnhem. From 1983 to 1990 I was curator for contemporary art in Arnhem. And this is where the KunstRAI started, in 1984. So, I've seen all the 22 editions.

Art Amsterdam
Entrance with bikes

AfN: Oh, you've seen them all!

Ms. Oele: I went there as a buyer. A buyer for the museum. I went to all the galleries of course. And this is so nice because the most important galleries, like Fons Welters and Paul Andriesse. They where all there. As beginners, small galleries. Fons had a gallery with 15 x 15 square meters or something. It was very nice, very nice beginnings. 1990 I decided to leave the museum and start a gallery.

AfN: What was the gallery called?

Ms. Oele: The first three years I was with a big gallery. I had a second space. Well, it was a quite old gallery: Espace, but famous. It was the first gallery in Holland, almost. They started with Karel Appel and Cobra, 50's. I knew them because I bought some things from them - for the museum of course. It is a gallery with a very personal touch and a close connection to the artists. I love that kind of doing business.

AfN: It is a very personal business anyway.

Ms. Oele: Yes. I worked with them and had a younger department. In three years I thought, well, I have to do it myself. That was the thing. I think, if you like it and when you are good. you have to do it. You see it here, it is very nice, like Juliètte Jongma. She first was with Diana Stigter. And now she has her own gallery. There are several. If you are bit good then you start your own gallery

AfN: It is good for the art market as well. Entrepreneurship is a vivid part of it.

Ms. Oele: Yeah, really. Than I started in 93. On the Lijnbaansgracht as Gallery Oele, where Akinci is now and Lumen Travo. I was a neighbor of Lumen Travo for 7 years.

Art Amsterdam
Opening ceremony with Anneke Oele

AfN: And then you decided to stop?

Ms. Oele: In 2000 I started to work for KunstRAI. It is a strange story. I started as a secretary to have a second income. It had a good gallery but it was a lot of work and little money. I started as a secretary and this did not go well of course after 10 years of work in the arts. After half a year I was the assistant of the one who organized the fair before me. It was a bit like: when you can not beat them, join them. Because we all wanted to change it.

AfN: It is the past also, it is gone.

Ms. Oele: Yes, I am happy it is.

AfN: Then we come to the next question. Do you have a personal motto or live slogan?

Ms. Oele: Panta rei. Everything streams.

AfN: There is a small confusion about the name of the fair. I always remember KunstRAI. What is Nu Art and Art Amsterdam about?

Ms. Oele: Nu Art is our campaign sign.

AfN: Next year there is another slogan?

Ms. Oele: Yes. You should pronounce it as 'New Art'.

AfN: Nu is new?

Ms. Oele: But it is also now. Now art. But this is our campaign this year.

AfN: So, KunstRAI was the former name. From now on you just carry the name KunstRAI for people like me, who remembered this name. But for next year onwards it will be only Art Amsterdam. So, this is the name for the fair in future. When we talk about KunstRAI we talk about Art Amsterdam!

Art Amsterdam
Entry performance from the Tijdelijk Museum Amsterdam /(Con)temporary Museum Amsterdam with dancers (Roosmarijn Pallandt, Simon Rowe, Vincent Verburg

Ms. Oele: Yeah. And I can explain why we did it. First or all because we are going to be international - in a way. I will explain later in what way. And the main thing now is that we are starting to organize an art week in Amsterdam via the temporary museum Amsterdam in the city.

AfN: This museum, what is called?

Ms. Oele: It is a concept, the temporary museum Amsterdam.

AfN: And how is that connected now to Art Amsterdam?

Ms. Oele: Art Amsterdam is the entrance and center of the museum.

AfN: Every year Art Amsterdam will be also conceptual museum?

Ms. Oele: The city, the city is the conceptual museum.

AfN: ... the Art Amsterdam is the beginning of a walk ...

Ms. Oele: The entrance of a conceptual museum. It changes the city, the institutions in a museum as a total. The rooms of a museum. So, the Stedelijk Museum is a room. The Fotografie Museum Foam and Huis Marseille is a room. And the art fair is the entrance from which you go to the other institutions. The idea is of course that it will be more attractive for a foreign collector to come this week to Amsterdam.

AfN: Yeah, this will a question later on, when ask you about the city and the fair. But, this is the 22nd edition of Art Amsterdam. Is this the first year you are organizing?

Ms. Oele: The fourth year.

AfN: The fourth year. So, this is the fourth fair you are organizing. The KunstRAI, no, the Art Amsterdam is a fair with an old name and not quite a small fair. What are your goals for the development of the art location Art Amsterdam? I mean, this is now the fourth fair you said. What is the path you are following, where does this go to?

Ms. Oele: The first three years I had this goal to make it like it was in the first years. So, I had to make it smaller. I had to take care that every top contemporary art gallery , the top of the galleries from Holland should be back. So this was realized last year. Last year every one was convinced that this is going to happen.

Mary Younakof
Mary Younakof, foto-collages from Art Affairs Gallery, Amsterdam

AfN: So, it took you three years... to convince the galleries?

Ms. Oele: The first year a lot of galleries came back, but of course not everyone and especially the international operating galleries. This was a bit more difficult to have them back. But now they are and they love it and they love it because every collector loves it. Every one is happy in Holland, you see. I think that we are all happy that we are doing it and they like it that we have a good show.

AfN: The Art Amsterdam will reach everything then or not?

Ms. Oele: Yes, yes everything; in the first three years we reached everything we wanted, yes. I think more than I expected for the first three years. And this time we made new goals of course because I think it should not stop you know. You see these art fairs, where every year it is the same. I think you should do something to change it every year. And make it better and better. And we still can be better.

AfN: As you said in the beginning: panta rei.

Ms. Oele: That's it. Really.

AfN: So we come to the city. Art fairs are a vivid part in the development to an event orientated art world. The art fairs are a lively part that the art world goes more and more into event orientation. Entertainment if you want. Will you use the phenomenal flair of the city of Amsterdam to market the Art Amsterdam as an international event? Besides the museum thing what you intended, that the Art Amsterdam is the virtual entrance. Will there be a deeper mingling with the cities flair?

Ms. Oele: I think my first goal is to have a week, the fair and then - you call it an event - but it should be a contemporary art week. Where all this institutions are reflecting on this art fair... We are talking a lot with the institutions and are working on it. The city of Amsterdam is helping us out as much as they can. The Amsterdam promotion slogan is "I Amsterdam

AfN: Yes, the slogan. I like it....

Ms. Oele: ... and well, you see it already here. They are very happy with my initiatives and the mayor of Amsterdam opened it last night..

AfN: The city and the fair...

Ms. Oele: We are helping them marketing Amsterdam as a cultural city, which it is.

AfN: How many galleries are participating this year?

Ms. Oele: 125

AfN: And last year?

Ms. Oele: A bit the same.

AfN: And roughly two thirds of the participating galleries of the Art Amsterdam are Dutch? Do you see the Art Amsterdam mainly as a national fair?

Ms. Oele: Till now it was mostly a national fair.l. But it is changing. This year it is changing for the first time because we doubled the number of international galleries. And I think I need to be more international because I want to have Paul Andriesse, Fons Welters, Annet Gelink and Diana Stigter in the show. It is important for them to have an international environment and international collectors..

AfN: And they claim it?

Ms. Oele: No, they don't claim anything.

AfN: Maybe it is also interesting to see a national fair, how the Dutch market is. It could also be interesting because everybody speaks about international, and international is important, OK, but when I want to see that I can go to Basel, there I have a lot of international.

Ms. Oele: I don't want to be Basel, also. No, no, but what we are planing is in fact, the most important thing of this fair, that we don't want to grow. We want to stay the same measure but we are growing in quality.

AfN: Mmmhh

Ms. Oele: And we really do. We always tell everybody that we want to be international in the sense that we look for young upcoming galleries and vivid galleries. This is very nice for Dutch collectors because they love to see young art. Collecting young art is a typical dutch thing. People want to look with the gallerist for new art. And they make these steps to promote young art.

AfN: These young galleries. Especially I have talked to Kuttner and Siebert. A very small Berlin gallery and they enjoyed it very very much and they just invited collectors and the collectors come and see the art.

Ms. Oele: I heard it from Röhr + Ripken also. This afternoon. They said: Everyone is so nice. And these are the Dutch collectors, they love these young people and young art.

AfN: They feel invited.

Art Amsterdam
Pre selection Art Amsterdam

Ms. Oele: I love it. I want them to come back and get acquainted with the Dutch market.When a young gallery has the quality we want we will invite them.

AfN: You invited some high level international galleries. Just to name a few. This is Paul Andriesse and Diana Stigter both going to Armory. Then Ellen de Bruijne Projects. She is in Basel and Basel Miami. Fons Welters we talked about him in the beginning. Right, that he started so small. He is now in Armory, Basel, Miami everywhere.

Ms. Oele: Fons is perhaps our most important gallery.

AfN: And you? Are you planning to exceed this?

Ms. Oele: I think when I make an art fair in Holland and they are not there than I should not make it because these are the best and we have to have them.

AfN: But you said you will not be Art Basel. So, you won't need to increase this number of names?

Ms. Oele: We are going to make an art fair with our own right of being. Not like one of the other fairs but a typical Art Amsterdam, where you can have de top of the dutch contemporary art galleries and the upcoming young galleries of the countries around us.

AfN: Ok.

AfN: I understand. I is just the program. You don't care where they show elsewhere?

Ms. Oele: Not, no.

AfN: Ok, program counts, that's good.

Ms. Oele: And Christa Schübbe is here and she is not young

AfN: She is marvelous. Isn't she? We see her everywhere in the world!

Ms. Oele: Unbelievable.

AfN: I don't know how she makes it physically. We just saw her in China, than she was in Miami. She was in New York.

Ms. Oele: I love it. This energy.

AfN: Yes, yes. A nice woman. And she was an outsider by the way. I saw her in Lisbon. Where I first started talking to her.... and in Moscow I've seen her....

Ms. Oele: It is good that she has this young program and an old program also.

AfN: I said to her. She should just go. Wherever she is invited and enjoy her live and then she sees it. Figure out, as you say it. It will all flow. And this is what she's doing and she's very happy with it. In China I could not talk to her. All this people around. And everybody said. In China you can only sell Chinese art.

Ms. Oele: Yeah, it is not true.

AfN: It is not true.

Ms. Oele: But she sells everything, you know [laughing]. But she's much like the gallery owner where I worked. Eva Bendien, he woman who did it was like her. The same kind of woman. Very good. And Michael Cosar of course is very good.

AfN: Cosar, yes, I actually ask him what I shall ask you.

Ms. Oele: [laughing] OK

AfN: I will tell you. It is hidden in a question. But of course he is very very good, very pushy and very very happy.

Ms. Oele: And of course Stella Lohaus. I am very happy that she is here. That is good.

AfN: Yes.

Ms. Oele: She is here for the third year.

AfN: No we come to another issue. That is kunstkoop. Kunstkoop is a subject. As far as I know is kunstkoop a national initiative to boost the contemporary art market in the Netherlands. Dutch collectors can buy with an interest free credit contemporary art from Dutch galleries selected by the Mondriaan Fund. Do you think that Dutch collectors will therefore preferably buy from Dutch galleries instead of the foreign galleries you invited?

Willem Hussem (1900 - 1974)
Willem Hussem (1900 - 1974), Compositie met roze en rood olie op doek, 125x200 cm,l.o. gemonogramm. en gedat. 1963. Paol & Co. Fine Art, Amsterdam

Ms. Oele: I hope not. I hope not of course. And I don't think it is the definite argument. I don't think it is that. You know, most collectors are using it to buy more art. Not to buy but to buy more. That is one of the nice things to have this gallery for so long that I know that the collectors do it. All this collectors I know them from my own gallery. So, I know them very well and I don't think they will hesitate when they want to buy something from a foreign gallery. The strange thing is that if Michael Cosar for instance brings a Dutch artist and another gallery in Amsterdam has this artist too and they have it together in the fair. Then they can buy in the Dutch gallery without interest (with credit). Sometimes, if necessary, the make the solution themselves.

AfN: In terms of possible substitution. Because maybe they like the one Cosar has. Because they like specially this one.

Ms. Oele: I know what you mean.

AfN: To come back to Michael Cosar. He said, that he would have wanted that this initiative would be possible for example in Germany. Germany is a country that exports a lot of art but is not supported by the government at all, in the moment. But anyway. I did not think that this was a problem to be honest. I was hearing about this for the first time. And some galleries said it to me that people were asking. There is maybe a fraction of people. But they are not bothering in terms of this with the fair because they are selling anyway.

Ms. Oele: I was always talking to Mondriaan Stichting for the only week that the fair is could we do it in another way. Could we do it for one week for the foreign galleries. I am talking about it and I am trying, but it is difficult. If it would be possible they would do it I am sure.

AfN: The next question is: networking is a vivid part of the art business. Nearly all art fairs have a collectors program. The Art Amsterdam as well. Can you tell me about your program? Your collectors program, if you have one?

Ms. Oele: Yes, we have one. We have a very special program. We have a day. Tomorrow is the day for starting collectors. We call it the day for starting collectors. We ask the galleries to mention their young collectors and we are inviting them to come to the fair and we entertain them for a whole day. I have invited four experienced collectors. In the morning we have an hour where these collectors are telling them how they came to collecting and what is the worst thing about it, what the best thing. This is a very nice hour. Because they are telling everyone: Don't start doing it because you will be hooked on it. I have also a corporate collector and tomorrow we have an artist that is also collecting. These kind of various things. And a hundred people are there. Eighty to a hundred and they get lunch and they have a talk show about collecting in various ways. They have a round tour of the fair in four groups. Then we have a drink. These young collectors are asking always did you buy this and why. This is also very nice. And then we have a sponsor and tomorrow we are going to give one of them an art work. It is quite unorganized a bit and it is very smooth. Besides it we invite foreign art collectors for a 2 days stay in a hotel in Amsterdam. We did it this year and we will make it bigger coming years. Yesterday these collectors made a boat tour through the Amsterdam canals and arrived by boat at the Art Amsterdam.

AfN: But is the language ....

Ms. Oele: Yes, Dutch, till now it is dutch. Perhaps we are going to change it in the coming years. Yes, why not. Perhaps. [laughing] Well Panta rei.

AfN: Panta rei. There we close the circle.

Ms. Oele: Yes, I wait what is happening and then we can do things or don't.

AfN: Thank you Ms. Oele

Niklas von Bartha, Gallery N. von Bartha, London

AfN: Mr. von Bartha, can you tell us why did you choose Art Amsterdam as a fair for your gallery?

Mr. von Bartha: Because of already existing contacts with Dutch collectors, even those who live abroad visit Amsterdam. I think people here in Holland are definitely much better informed than for example in the UK. This fair is a great platform for younger galleries. The feedback from the fair organization is a lot better than elsewhere.

Baudi Eskens, Galerie Onrust

AfN: Ms. Eskens, what do you think about the fair?

Ms. Eskens: The atmosphere at the opening reception was very good. Because of the good weather there are relativly few visistors in the moment. It is very good to see more international galleries (or galleries from abroad) joining the fair. Now we are waiting for the international collectors.

Cokkie Snoei, Galerie Cokkie Snoei
Cokkie Snoei, Galerie Cokkie Snoei

AfN: Ms. Snoei, what do you think about the fair?

Ms. Snoei: Art fairs are important but it has to be bad weather.

Jan Hein Sassen, ex Stedelijk Museum, curator
Jan Hein Sassen, ex Stedelijk Museum, curator

AfN: Mr. Sassen, what do you think about the fair?

Mr. Sassen: It is a very pleasant fair. I see a lot and there are surprising works from already known artists.

Ellen de Bruijne, Ellen de Bruijne Projects and Stella Lohaus
Ellen de Bruijne, Ellen de Bruijne Projects and Stella Lohaus

AfN: Ms. de Bruijne, what do you think about the fair?

Ms. de Bruijne: The 1st Ave of Art Amsterdam is very vivid. Gallery owners are partying with good company and hope for bad weather.

Nico Delaive, Gallery Delaive
Nico Delaive, Gallery Delaive

AfN: Mr. Delaive, will the market react after the sudden death of Karel Appel?

Mr. Delaive: All rights on the archive of Karel Appel are in the hands of a foundation. Works of art are available for exhibitions around the world.
Last year the prices have jumped 40 %. In my point of view nothing unexpected will happen. I don't know what others like to see. After the death of Sam Francis his family dropped 5000 works at once, that led to a fall in prices. Appel kept hold of everything and only sold sporadically.
In Italy he took things from the waste dump. He produced sculptures out of it and casted it in bronze. 1948 he created a lot of scultptures out of rubbish. Lots of theses sculptures are in the possession of the community museum of Den Haag.
Appel used to have a studio in Amsterdam. When he moved he threw some of his plaster sculptures in the canal because nobody wanted to have them for 1500 guilders.


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