Catalijn Ramakers op het atelier van Warffemius, 2020.
How (and when) did they start their gallery, what has changed in the art world since then, what is their profile, what do they collect themselves, and what is the impact from Corona at their gallery? This week with Catalijn Ramakers (Galerie Ramakers)
Catalijn bij collega galeriehouder bezoek, solo tentoonstelling Warffemius, 1995.
Were you exposed to art while growing up?
Yes, my grandparents, and later my parents as well, mainly collected nineteenth-century romanticism and The Hague School. My parents lived - and my father still lives there - in a seventeenth century national monument, a beautiful old farmhouse with a very special interior, where at first the classics hung on the wall, but later, in the mid-1990s, the accent shifted to modern and contemporary art.
Atelier Arie de Groot, 1998.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
That is mainly from home. When I started my studies in The Hague I began visiting more and more museums and galleries. By the time I was looking for an internship to complete my studies, and I ended up at Inkt, a printing company and artists' initiative for the graphic arts. My second internship was at Kunst en Bedrijf in Amsterdam, led by Titus Yocarini and Jacqueline Oorthuys. I really gained a lot of experience there: in eight months’ time I got to know the Dutch art world well, I met many artists and clients, and the plan to start my own gallery and create exhibitions gradually arose in the process.
Galerie Toussaintkade 51, current location with a bronze sculpture by Johan Meijerink in the foreground, 2000.
What was your first job at a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
In fact, my internships were the first work experience in the art world. After I had completed my studies (hospitality, marketing and PR) I applied for a job at various museums and galleries.
I was twenty-two years old at the time and was definitely not taken seriously. Too often I was told that I had too little experience, had not studied art history and was still a bit young, despite being highly motivated. So when I was twenty-three, I started a gallery in The Hague, encouraged by my boyfriend, who is a visual artist. I was lucky that there were two galleries on the Toussaintkade in The Hague that I knew fairly well (Artline and Seasons Galleries) and they wanted me as a third independent gallery. The galleries we’re based in two adjoining buildings, and I joined them, a bit similar to the galleries on the Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam. This had the great advantage that there was a steady flow of visitors and interested parties from the start.
Initially people were enthusiastic, but also cautious and reserved towards me as a young starting entrepreneur. Looking back, I think that makes sense; an unknown young person who has completely different ideas, making different choices. No wonder people found that exciting, but gradually things got better.
Due to the many encounters with artists during my internship at Kunst en Bedrijf, I had a very clear idea with whom I’d like to work. Partly because of this, the gallery immediately its own signature style. I have been working with many of the artists from the very beginning, such as Ton van Kints, Tomas Rajlich, Sjoerd Buisman, Jan van Munster, Michel Hoogervorst and Ien Lucas.
Art Rotterdam 2000, Michel Hoogervorst, Klaus Baumgärtner.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
After four years of sharing the two buildings between the three of us, the opportunity arose to move a few doors down on the Toussaintkade to a beautiful large gallery space with a garden – opposite the Palace Gardens – where it would be easier to present the gallery in its own right.
Although the start with the three of us was very good for me, at a certain point it became a bit unclear who did what. I have been at this current place for twenty-two years now and still think it is a great place. I can offer my artists a museum exhibition here, and the garden has also been specially laid out to be able to display sculptures. I represent a lot of sculptors, and then it is nice to be able display works a little longer.
My guiding principle has always been: showing visual art that makes me happy and that I like to surround myself with. I have a great love for minimalism. Artists like Willy de Sauter, Bob Bonies, Jan van Munster, Yumiko Yoneda, Dominique Dehais and Johan de Wit - these are people I have been following for years and I have been showing most for years now.
Another important starting point is nature. I grew up in the countryside. The love for - and the importance of - nature and the landscape was born to me. It fascinates me endlessly how an artist like Sjoerd Buisman continues to focus on the phenomenon of natural growth throughout his career.
This concentrated view of artists, such as Warffemius and Klaus Baumgärtner, allows us to look in a refreshing way at the wonderful variations of natural phenomena, whereby I myself prefer a stylized approach. Not the baroque multiformity, but the somewhat more minimal approach. I have a predilection for artists such as Hieke Luik, Eelco Brand, Reinier Lagendijk, Guido Geelen, Michel Hoogervorst and Judith Maria Kleintjes, who take nature as a starting point. There is also another side to me, which you could perhaps call my dark side, although I sometimes call it "contemporary surreal". Artists like Ossip, Joncquil, Julie Cockburn, D.D. Trans, Vittorio Roerade, Pat Andrea and Gert Scheerlinck tie in with this.
Michael Johansson and Wido Blokland, an artist I just joined forces with, are more conceptually oriented. Joncquil's installations also belong in this conceptual corner. I try to build exhibitions in a balanced and clear way, you could even call it aesthetic - I think I have built a name in that. I'm not the kind of gallery that just puts up thirty works; I want to surprise visitors with intriguing and beautifully arranged exhibitions, in which I try to do justice to each work in the best possible way.
Atelier Joncquil, 2006.
What part of being a gallery owner do you like most?
Visiting artist’s studios and making exhibitions. Then I get a kind of energy and enthusiasm about me. That enthusiasm is one of the foundations of a good gallery, I think. Curating an exhibition is the creative part of being a gallerist. It is, of course, also very important that you have good communication skills; that artists, customers and interested parties feel comfortable and welcome with you. That is an aspect that I find very important and that I also enjoy. Over time, you gradually build up an intensive relationship with many collectors and artists, which is extremely pleasant. They are often very nice people.
Atelier Ossip, 2014.
Are there any galleries at home or abroad with which you feel an affinity?
I have great respect for galleries such as Onrust and Art Affairs, and I also learned a lot from Ton Berends, the founder of Nouvelles Images. Internationally, I am very interested in Galerie Von Bartha and Continua. In part, I feel related to them, I think they have the same sensitivity and care. Also, the public friendliness is admirable. At Von Bartha I appreciate the consistently high level and the beautiful modest presentations.
Atelier Pat Andrea, Parijs, 2017.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
I don't really like this question, to be honest. I represent the artists I would like to represent. Secondly, we have witnessed an international trend for years of chasing well-earning artists. I am not in stock trading, I show art that I fully support, art that makes me happy or that moves me. I like to remain stubborn and willful in my choices. And luckily you will find your audience with that attitude as well.
Anyway, if I had to name an artist I would have liked to represent, it would have been Piet Mondrian. The sensitive and loose brushstrokes in Mondrian's later work, for example "Composition No. 3" from 1917, move me time and again. For me, the work is a romantic quest for the perfect harmony, which many people mistakenly regard as rational. In many ways I think Mondrian is a predecessor of the artists I now represent.
Building up, D.D. Trans , 2019.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
The number of gallery visitors has decreased slightly (corona disregarded), but for me it is not too bad. The emphasis has shifted to the art fairs. I am participating in more fairs than than I used to. I often read that galleries earn half of their money at fairs, but I can't say that anyway. Fortunately, I can also sell enough work at the gallery exhibitions. It is certainly true that as a gallery you need the fairs to show who you are, what your vision is and which artists you show, with which you also attract people to the gallery and find new customers throughout the year.
Atelier Bob Bonies, 2019.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
We have a large collection of contemporary art, including many of the artists I represent myself, but we have also acquired works from fellow gallery owners: Lucassen, Auke de Vries, herman de vries, Pieter Hugo, Oliver Kruger, Zeger Reyers, Maria Roosen etc. In addition, we have been collecting non-Western art for years, with an emphasis on Oceania. There are many ritual objects in the house, but everything is authentic. We try to buy from reputable dealers in the Netherlands, Brussels and Paris. We have also been hiking in the Himalayas for years, and over time a collection of Nepalese shamanic objects has arisen. A third collection area concerns functionalist furniture from the Interbellum, most of which is Dutch, but also includes some German pieces. Think of Paul Schuitema, Cor Alons, Mart Stam, Bas van Pelt, W.H. Gispen. This has become quite a special collection over the years.
Art rotterdam 2020, Ossip. Photo: Almicheal Fraay.
Has the pandemic influenced your thinking about the art world?
For the first two to three weeks of the pandemic, no one came to the gallery, even though the gallery was open. People were frightened and felt insecure. After a month or so, visitors started to come again.
First, I made an exhibition entitled "For the Love of Art", with the idea of uplifting my audience a bit, which was very well received. You could notice an enormous yearning for art, and people were happy to be able to go somewhere again. The museums were closed most of the time, while galleries were opened just like shops. Subsequently, I planned a duo exhibition with Willy de Sauter and Jan van Munster. A truly a phenomenal presentation featuring two minimalist artists. This exhibition was also highly appreciated and well attended.
I have the advantage that the gallery’s floor space is 180 m2, which is very well laid out and has a garden in the back, so attendants could leave through the yard. So, the opening weekend could take place safely and, therefore, very successfully. Next, I showed another duo: Bob Bonies and Cor van Dijk. The clarity of Bonies' work in terms of colour and shape was a delightfully uplifting and energizing affair which contrasted with Cor van Dijk’s strict design language of concentrated modesty. It was a party for all of us.
Looking back at 2020, despite this Corona madness, it was a good year for the gallery, and one of the better years financially too. At the same time, I realize that it is a particularly difficult period for many colleagues, especially for those who have only started relatively recently, and I also hear sad reports about a number of artists.
I can now reap what I have sown for twenty-six years, which is very nice, of course. Hopefully the roaring twenties of this century will start after this and the art world will flourish once again in all its diversity. And as for my thinking, I am strengthened in the view that the importance of gallery exhibitions is tremendous. You often hear people say, "Gallery exhibitions are over, it's only fairs that matter," but I don't buy that.
Also, for artists an extensive gallery presentation of their work is particularly important. It’s a benchmark. However important fairs are, they are characterized by a certain volatility: the amount of works all put together makes it very difficult to consider works carefully and
The pandemic also gave me time to build a new website and fill it with content. That was quite a job, which has now been completed. One of the things that has become even more important is your presence on social media and the internet. So I had a state-of-the-art website built by Just, in The Hague. That is something that I am proud of.
If you click on the artworks, you’ll see the prices, which is unusual in the art world. The most recent exhibition by Ton van Kints and André Kruysen opened online first and comes with an online catalogue. Starting this week, visitors can visit the exhibition by appointment. I can’t wait!
In the middle of Energyfield by Jan van Munster, duo exhibition Willy de Sauter, Jan van Munster, 2020.
See the artists represented by Galerie Ramakers