Jeroen Dijkstra, Museum BOZAR - Art on Paper Brussels 2019, presentation by Aaron van Erp.
How (and when) did they start their gallery, what has changed in the art world since then, what is their profile, what they collect themselves, and what is the impact from Corona at their gallery? This week with Jeroen Dijkstra. (Livingstone Gallery).
Were you exposed to art while growing up?
If art is defined as culture and culture comprises all special expressions of man - such as the Menhirs of Carnac, Pompeii at the foot of Vesuvius, the Parthenon in Athens, St. Peter's in Rome - then I got this from home. Culture equated to adventure, a journey of discovery. The urge to see for yourself what you had read about in books. Perhaps that is also where the name of the gallery comes from: Livingstone, a kind of explorer in art.
My parents did not collect art themselves, but were very interested in the art world and curious about how it functioned. They came to every exhibition in the gallery and visited all Dutch art fairs. Art Rotterdam in the Cruise Terminal was their favorite because of the view. My father helped me up to an old age with art transports and renovations in the gallery.
Foto: Raquel Maulwurf. Na de opening in de tentoonstelling ‘Train your Mental Eraser, Hippie!’ van Manfred Schneider (links). Aaron van Erp (midden) had zijn solo ‘The Drawings’ in de zaal ernaast. Januari 2019, Livingstone Gallery.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
During my education at the Reinwardt Academy for Museology (Leiden, 1982-1986) one of the courses was art history (in addition to cultural management, public relations and exhibition design). You will soon discover that knowledge breeds understanding and understanding breeds interest. From that moment on, I started visiting museums, art fairs and eventually galleries.
Photo: Raquel Maulwurf. After the opening of Manfred Schneider's exhibition "Train your Mental Eraser, Hippie!" (Left). Aaron van Erp (center) had his solo "The Drawings" in the next room. January 2019, Livingstone Gallery, Anna Paulownastraat 70 A and B.
What was your first job at a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
My first job in a gallery was at an artists’ initiative in The Hague, a good learning experience. The Hague is known for its artists’ initiatives. After three years, I started my own gallery in 1991, mainly because I longed for the freedom to fill in my program myself. That space was large, but far from the city center.
In 1996 I had the opportunity to rent a nice space in the centre of town. It turned out to be a former coach house at the rear of a shop located on De Plaats. In that shop, Vincent van Gogh started his art career 150 years ago as a gallery assistant, and in the evenings he worked in a studio in the attic.
In 2001 I was able to buy my current building on Anna Paulownastraat. After a rigorous renovation, the gallery opened on September 1, 2001. Ten days later it was September 11th. I believe it took five months - until Art Rotterdam 2002 - before sales picked up a bit again.
Photo: Livingstone Gallery. Opening with Albrecht Genin in the Hartogstraat gallery, 1997. In the photo are Jeroen Dijkstra and Albrecht Genin, signing his new catalogue. Thanks to his Berlin gallerist, Horst Dietrich, I was able to take over Albrecht Genin's Berlin studio in in 2014 and converted it into Livingstone Projects Berlin.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
International contemporary art - young art in context. I consciously search for context, as in the end everything is connected. Together with the gallery visitors, I look for a connection between the artwork the artist and the visitor; what appeals to you and what does not? How does this work fit into the oeuvre of the artist or in the collector’s collection? Explain the technique or a special manufacturing process. Providing context without immediately explaining the work. I consider thorough professional knowledge and background information about art, artists and the art world essential. Ultimately, with this information, the visitor is given the opportunity to make his own assessment.
Photo: Jeroen Dijkstra. Livingstone Gallery in Hartogstraat 11, the opening exhibition with Rainer Fetting. Two years later we would do another exhibition with Fetting and publish the catalogue "Uptown Traffic", in the presence of Rainer Fetting himself.
What part of being a gallery owner do you like most?
You become a gallerist because you want to share something; an artist you have discovered who is not known (yet), but of which you are convinced more people should see his/her work. Previous positions as curator/museum director, I did not give me that kind of freedom and flexibility.
As a gallerist, I can make my own choices, respond to current events, immediately show what I find good, exciting, fascinating or moving. In line with that, I can also design and organize the exhibition myself thanks to my training.
I regularly enjoy working as a guest curator for museums and galleries. It is a fantastic experience to be able to show art, according to my own vision.
Photo: Raquel Maulwurf. Aaron van Erp (left) holding the dummy of his latest book 'The Drawings' (Van Spijk Art Books in collaboration with Livingstone Editions and Galerie Tim van Laere Antwerp) during his solo presentation at Livingstone Gallery at the Art on Paper Brussels at the BOZAR Museum, 2019.
Are there any galleries at home or abroad with which you feel an affinity?
One of the reasons I started the gallery at the time was to be able to operate more internationally and to work together internationally. A gallery like Lelong (Paris / New York) not only fascinated me because of their extremely professional way of working (gallery, editor and art book publisher) but I also felt very close to their programme (Pierre Alechinsky, Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Günther Förg, Alberto Giacometti, Jannis Kounellis, Arnulf Rainer). A friendship with one of the gallery's directors has led to many exciting encounters with artists, which regularly resulted in beautiful exhibitions in my gallery.
Livingstone Projects in Berlin is partly inspired by Lelong, who have always been internationally active. A second location offers a broader insight into how the art world functions and gives my artists the opportunity to manifest themselves internationally.
Photo: Fabrice Gibert. During the opening of the exhibition 'Labyrinth' by Jannis Kounellis at Galerie Lelong, Paris 2002. From left to right. Jeroen Dijkstra, Patrice Cotensin, Jannis Kounellis. Patrice Cotensin (gallery director of Lelong Paris), whom I befriended in 1992, not only introduced me to many artists, but also made it possible to collaborate with them. My first solo exhibition with Kounellis was entitled "Drawing with Wire". The opening took place during Art Rotterdam 2001 and was subsequently shown in the gallery.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
Representing an artist is a complex activity. An artist is so much more than just his work. You can be a great admirer of the work and not much like the person behind it and vice versa.
The course of an artist’s career also has many highs and lows in terms of quality and popularity. But in an ideal world, I would have represented Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon.
Their work was the key for me to be able to connect with modern and contemporary art. Their method of manipulating the image - until what emerges comes closer to the reality you feel than the reality you perceive with your eyes - was groundbreaking.
For the viewer, this method can also be reversed: by gaining access to your own feelings and memories through art.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
The art world has become very volatile and individualistic. The time when a gallery like Leo Castelli’s in New York supported a small group of artists through thick and thin - and the loyalty of those artists to the gallery was indisputable - is out of date.
When I started back in 1991, I was one of the first galleries to have a fax machine, and in 1995 I had a website, something that nobody saw the point of yet. Now, our online presence can no longer be ignored and functioning without e-mail or smartphone has become impossible.
For some young artists, an art career is no longer necessarily a calling, but rather only a temporary hold-up.
Incidental collaborations with galleries are no longer feared, but desired. Firmness has become a negative thing. For many galleries, loyalty to the artist and a permanent contract have become a financial luxury that they can no longer afford.
This temporality discourages an investment in an artist's career. It seems as if the market has set an artist's best-before date at thirty-five years. For example, the important art prizes: thirty-five is the upper age limit and if you have not made it by then you will hardly get any opportunities.
Photo: Jeroen Dijkstra. James Brown in his exhibition "Orbs, Views from my other House" Livingstone Gallery, June 2018. My first exhibition with James Brown was back in 1998. Earlier this year he died in a car accident in Mexico. Together with James, I published an important series of bronze sculptures in 2006/2007 that he had started at Bill Katz Editions in New York for a solo exhibition at Leo Castelli in 1986.
What / who do you collect yourself?
Over the years I have collected a number of special objects from colleagues; ranging from a 2000 year old ceramic figurine from the kingdom of the Thracians (purchased at Kunsthandel Mieke Zilverberg), a wooden bird from the African Lobi tribe of about 100 years old (Galerie Joop Groen), a small plane by Anselm Kiefer, made from the lead of the roof of the Cologne Cathedral (an edition published on the occasion of the exhibition at the Royal Academy in London) to a 'Fallen Woman' sculpture by Louise Bourgeois (Galerie Lelong Paris).
In addition, I have financially supported my own artists over the years by, for example, purchasing work, giving commissions or making editions and books. That is of course also a kind of collection. If you look at it that way, I have beautiful work by James Brown, Mark Brusse, Aaron van Erp, Ruri Matsumoto, Raquel Maulwurf, Daniele Galliano and Robert Rauschenberg, among others.
Has the pandemic influenced your thinking about the art world?
Has the pandemic influenced your thinking about the art world?
In the three decades that the gallery has been around, the art world has gone through many ups and downs. The Gulf War, the attack on the Twin Towers, the Wall Street crash, just to name a few, which all had an incredible impact on the art world. The creativity of the gallery owner was tested to the limit in order to formulate an answer to it time and again. On one occasion this was expanding abroad, at other times a focus on the corporate collections or the smaller private market.
In the last few years this has mainly been a return to the international art fairs. Actually in the same way as in the late nineties, when I also managed to find my way back up by participating in Art Basel, Arco Madrid and Art Cologne.
The pandemic brought an abrupt end to the international art fairs. After a narrow escape from the VOLTA art fair in New York in March this year (I was on one of the last flights back), we had to face the facts. Around me, colleagues closed their gallery permanently or at least temporarily; in Berlin, New York, Amsterdam, worldwide. Even the überpowerful Art Basel barely survived, thanks to a takeover by media mogul Murdoch (owner of Fox News, among others!).
As mentioned, gallery owners need to be creative to come up with a response. We are now in the middle of that process now. Culture is under increasing pressure. The moment when the old values are more important than ever before. Loyalty, collaboration and the common good.
Has Covid-19 influenced my thinking about the art world? Yes, it has. It has confirmed to me that working intensively with an artist for the long term and building a personal bond with the collector - in order to continue creating beautiful, freely accessible exhibitions that offer insight and context for the visitor - are not outdated insights, but the only way forward. Winston Churchill said it best: the only way out is through.
Photo: Jeroen Dijkstra. I have always enjoyed attending exhibitions in Europe and America. My first art fair was Art LA in 1992. I trust that my presentation at Art Rotterdam 2020, with these two great talents, Raquel Maulwurf (Madrid, 1975) and Ruri Matsumoto (Tokyo, 1981), will not be the last in the Netherlands. We will have to wait and see whether there will be major international fairs again.
See the artists represented by Livingstone Gallery