|In 1986, the
founding year of the Galerie Lieve Hemel, I was a student of political and social sciences
at the University of Amsterdam. I wasn't that sure about my future; the last thing I could
imagine was being an art dealer for the rest of my life. My first wife attended art school
before I married her. After the birth of our son she did many artistic things, and also
started a unique boutique in which art played a dominant role.
"I realized that to merely select artists to
represent based on the fact that their work sold frequently was not totally
In addition to paintings, there were jewelry, ceramics, and very special textile dolls
that my wife made. These bizarre dolls sparked a lot of publicity. Eventually the gallery
began to require all of my attention, which caused my studies to suffer. Life soon turned
into a tragedy because of my wife's mental illness. I continued to run the gallery alone,
never completing my studies.
It was within a year that contemporary realism had caught my attention. One thing that
influenced me was a unique exhibition of the works of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), one of
the most well known old masters of the Netherlands. Through the years I exhibited a
variety of realistic works of nearly one hundred and fifty artists. After twenty years, I
decided to focus on a smaller group of artists that I viewed as the most talented, which
allowed me to promote them in a way that was not possible before with the larger group. I
also realized that to merely select artists to represent based on the fact that their work
sold frequently was not totally satisfying. I decided that it was more satisfying to
handle artists work that I found to be the best work. Eventually, I reduced the
number of artists to about fifteen of the strongest artists in the Netherlands.
I owe part of my development as an art dealer to exploring the American market. I
learned a lot from Alexander F. Milliken, with whom I worked with from 1985 to 1990. This
experience also affected many of the artists I handled at the time, causing them to ponder
the idea of exhibiting abroad. I was aware of this influence, and had my own
considerations about keeping my artists in the gallery instead of sending them away. Many
of them have complicated painting techniques, which limits the numbers of paintings they
produce. The average solo exhibition features about twenty paintings, and takes place
every two to three years. If my artists exhibited elsewhere they would only be able to
produce a body of work for an exhibit in my gallery every five years. This would not aid
in building a reputation.
Nevertheless, I still wonder if the artists I represent
would prefer to exhibit abroad, too? In the past, I have exhibited my artists in
exhibitions in Basle, Athens, several cities in the States, and Tokyo.
|Its possible to create a
market in these locations, however, due to the limited number of works available, I find
they can be promoted more successfully at a single location.
William Bailey's "Strada Bianca"
Oil on Canvas, 1990
Also, the artists appreciate being able to see their paintings, and to meet the
collectors. It is interesting to note that all the artists I represent are Dutch, which
enables me to communicate with them at a very deep level, building a strong relationship
with them. It is my belief that different languages can be a source of insurmountable
Ironically, none of the artists I represent are actually from Amsterdam. They all live
somewhere else in the country, and don't feel the urgency to live in the area that is
supposed to be "happening." They choose to just watch from a distance in their
own world, following their passions, and do not need to wonder if they are contributing to
a new trend.
Part of the advantage of my new location in the Spiegelstreet quarter (a concentration
of antiques shops and galleries in and round the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat) is the proximity of
the Rijks and Van Gogh Museums. Although only a very small proportion of museum
visitors buy art, there are still hundreds of thousands of visitors each year that
are dedicated art lovers. These people come from all over the world, and purchase a
substantial part of my collection. Since I moved to the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat area, an
international following has been possible. There is one disadvantage though; Dutch clients
are able to respond faster, whereas many clients from abroad are too late.
During my first visit to New York in 1984, it was a relief to notice that a strict
distinction between realist art and other art didn't exist, unlike what I had been
accustomed to in the Netherlands. Looking back I feel proud that only four other
colleagues and myself, resisted the attitude that realism wasn't art at all. That it
exists just for the sake of technique; it lacks brushwork, spontaneity, and is created
solely for the consumers pleasure. One of the characteristics of avant-garde is the
risk of the new, and the daring. I find it daring to be exclusively dedicated to realism.
Currently, the part of the art market that is leaning
towards avant-garde is complaining about the number of sales compared to the eighties. At
the same time, one of the leading art magazines is brimming with solidly built still
lifes. But who am I to judge these ongoing waves? In my opinion, the Dutch art market is
more of a dream than a reality, with only fifty out of more than seven hundred galleries
able to support themselves.
|In this sense, there is a real
market to be developed! In another sense, a market does exist. There are a growing number
of companies involved in building corporate collections. Several private museums have
opened in the past decade, which has given the average citizen more exposure to art. The
Dutch museums tend to spend a great part of their budgets on art from the United States.
often leads to resistance from artists, the public, and art critics, due to the fact that
museums budgets aren't very big. Once again, I'm not interested in the majority of
Dutch and American art I only like certain kinds of art! The art created by de
Kooning, Warhol, and Twombly isnt my interest, however, I love and greatly respect
the work of William Bailey and Steve Hawley.
"During my thirty-one years as an art dealer I have
learned to respect all art as long as it doesn't harm anyone"
During my thirty-one years as an art dealer I have learned to respect all art as long
as it doesn't harm anyone. If just one person likes a particular work of art, it has the
right to exist and be respected. When I was young man I remember being misguided and
attempting to prove that there was something wrong with abstract art. Now I am very
content with my new perspective on art.
There are nearly one hundred and fifty galleries in Amsterdam. They exhibit a variety
of art, from super-realism to naive paintings, from Indian to Aboriginal art, from Cobra
to installations, from zero to super subtle ceramics, from feminist to gay art, and from
tattoos to body art. In the end, I realize that western art as I once viewed it in
Houston, Texas, has never been shown here.
Here in Amsterdam there are admirers for every kind of art made. It is amazing to
observe how people that favor one style of art are oblivious to other popular styles, and
at the same time are not very aware of the people that are interested in these styles.
Oftentimes, this even goes to the extreme that a connoisseur of one kind of realism will
be unaware of other kinds of realist connoisseurs. However, the Dutch love beautiful art,
and hate high prices!
The Galerie Lieve Hemel has been successful for the last thirty-one years because of
the qualities that my artists possess. Also, as my wife recently mentioned, the
relationship I have cultivated with the artists I have represented over the years has
significantly contributed to the gallerys success, too! In the end, I never did what
the art world expected me to do, nor was I ever familiar with any market-oriented policy.
I have done, and continue to do many things that could be considered impractical and
superfluous. However, after more than thirty years in business, the outcome is that it