In the section 'The gallery of' we talk to a host of gallery owners from the Netherlands and Belgium: when and how did they start their gallery, what has changed in the art world since, what is their profile, what do they collect themselves, and what has been the impact of the pandemic on their gallery? In this part: Lobke Broos (ROOF-A Gallery)
We’re you exposed to art while growing up?
I was raised surrounded by art. At our dinner table art, culture, history and literature were discussed. My mother recently celebrated her anniversary with 25 years of gallery 'Dom 'Arte'. I have seen up close what it is like to build and manage a gallery. The enrichment that art brings is a shared motivation. In addition, we share the passion for substantive art and the mission to convey it to the public.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
I have visited many cultural sites and venues from an early age. During my study 'communication creative' my passion lay with artistic projects and assignments. I shared a student house with architects and artists in training. After my studies I went to study art history at the UvA in Amsterdam. During this period, I was also involved in All About Rotterdam / Liever Een Origineel Advies. We focused on the cultural sector and organized debates, workshops and dinners at various locations to find out what is going on in Rotterdam. Around the age of 22, I discovered the world of Joep van Lieshout through an assignment from art history and the establishment of the cultural free state AVL-Ville (= Atelier Van Lieshout in Rotterdam), where I still get the same feeling today as back then: the dynamism, innovative and grandiose thinking about art and culture then stimulated and motivated me to study art history and to continue working on creating a beautiful and substantive concept under the name ROOF-A.
What was your first job in a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
I have held various positions in the cultural sector for almost twenty years. My first position in the public sector was for the municipality of Dordrecht, for the Dordrechts Museum, Kunstkerk and City Archives, among others. From there I went to the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam in 2006, where I worked with a great team for over six years. I remember my first exhibition – curated by Wilma Sütö – well. It was the impressive video "Rich Cat Dies of Heart Attack in Chicago" (2004) by Fernando Sánchez Castillo.
Starting out with a completely new team, we’ve managed to place the museum firmly on the national map, created beautiful exhibitions and went big with opening performances that have stayed with me. From my board role at the Rotterdam Museums Association I moved to the Nederlands Fotomuseum in 2012. Here too, I look back on a succession of vibrant collaborations and wonderful projects over more than eight years. I am proud of the pioneering role that I have had within the museum together with the entire team. I have built, developed and created with an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm from marketing and development. Connection was key in all projects and initiatives. From the content and creativity we added value to partnerships and memberships and doors were opened from both sides, crossovers were possible and we brought several worlds together. To this day I work from this conviction. Strengthening each other's mission and vision, with the artistic and social value of art.
I am convinced that there is a need for a concept such as ROOF-A to meet the current demand for connection. How can artists, companies, galleries, patrons and museums strengthen their social embedding? That is the main motivation for me: connecting people and culture starting from the content and by offering an inspiring meeting place and opening doors between and with artists, museums, galleries, companies and private individuals.
I am immensely grateful to my colleagues with whom I have worked in recent years. ROOF-A was established thanks to the knowledge, experience and network gained over the years.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
An important condition for me in this next step was that I would stay close to myself and would be able to draw on my accumulated knowledge, experience and network. In the development of ROOF-A, the establishment of a healthy company was also carefully considered. This has led to the choice for two wings. ROOF-A Development started in May 2021, with a strategic consultancy assignment and ROOF-A Gallery opened in November 2021 with three solo exhibitions (Gijs Assmann, Tania Franco Klein, Marjan Teeuwen), three previews (Kalliopi Lemos, Marc Mulders, Diana Scherer) and a roof-top installation Atelier Van Lieshout. Together with well-known and starting artists, both nationally and internationally, I am committed to a multidisciplinary policy. Visually appealing, diverse and challenging. During my spell at the Nederlands Fotomuseum I missed the visual arts, hence the multidisciplinary programming. I find it exciting and inspiring to show the different disciplines side by side, and to have collaborations with photographers, painters, sculptors and artists who work in other media such as textiles, ceramics, glass. I like to work with artists who are ambitious, innovative and committed. They are close to their subject, extensive study/research is the basis of their work. Knowledge about materials and technology and continuity are essential for me.
Once a year, I focus on a young talent & experiment programme: a mix of coaching, investing and presenting. This programme is a cross-over between ROOF-A Gallery and ROOF-A Development. The AkzoNobel Art Foundation is the first partner in this long-term programme to provide a unique stage for a young talent. Sometimes I link this programme to a company and sometimes to a patron, in order to increase support. Crossovers are also used within this programme and a photographer is selected one year and a painter, sculptor, video artist or artist in a discipline not mentioned here the next.
Finally, the gallery as a meeting place. Thanks to Henk Roskamp – also ambassador of ROOF-A – I am based in a beautiful location from the fifties, which is a discovery in itself. It is the old society of Scheepvaartmaatschappij Nedlloyd in the Scheepvaartkwartier of Rotterdam. The gallery as a meeting place is an essential part of ROOF-A, which is why we organize our own events such as VIP openings and opening weekends. I also look for connections with existing events where there is a crossover in target groups such as North Sea Around Town (jazz enthusiasts are usually also photography enthusiasts. During the festival in July we programme a concert with substantive connection to the exhibitions of Hans Broek and Michelle Piergoelam about slavery in the former Dutch colonies), The Open Roof Days and, of course, The Rotterdam Art Week and the Galerie Weekend. I am very proud of where ROOF-A already is today and I am looking forward to further expanding and developing the concept in the years ahead.
What do you think is the best part of being a gallerist?
Naturally, my role has changed once ROOF-A Gallery opened its doors in November 2021. I've been a gallery owner for seven months now and it feels incredible to offer more than just a stage. Creating support for the cultural sector is something I have continuously focused on in recent years. I see it as my mission to welcome and seduce enthusiasts to enjoy art privately, publicly or for business. Art is a gift to the world, where we stand shoulder to shoulder with artists and other partners at the forefront to open doors to getting a stage and/or making purchases.
I find it interesting to make the disciplines and specialisms visible from a private initiative such as Roof-A. The role of the artist, the role of the curator, writing texts for the works/exhibition I show. The number of hours put into all this are often overlooked in the cultural sector. I am a big proponent of fair practice.
Being a gallery owner is already a way of life for me. It is a dynamic role, in which I enjoy the intense collaboration with the artists in terms of content, creating beautiful/inspiring exhibitions, studio visits, selecting works, and seducing enthusiasts for their work. The best thing is when people are directly touched, can no longer let go of the work and we can have a dialogue about art. For me, art adds value, and there are still worlds to be won by linking artists, collectors, companies and museums. I think it's a great feeling that there is still plenty of potential. I really like building. This also ties in with the city of Rotterdam and the dynamic vibe that prevails there now.
Which national / international galleries do you feel an affinity with?
The first one I would like to mention here is Hauser & Wirth. I was ready for a next step and it seemed fantastic to bring their concept to Rotterdam. Based on my experience and ambition, their concept closely matched the possibility of opening a branch in the Netherlands in a similar way. The idea and enthusiasm for this arose during a working visit to Los Angeles from the Nederlands Fotomuseum. I also feel an international affinity with RoseGallery in Santa Monica, Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York and Les Filles du Calvaire in Paris.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
I like to first mention a Dutch artist: Viviane Sassen. I have been following her work for quite some time and am always impressed by the way in which she continues to renew herself. She has such a beautiful visual language and the crossover with fashion also appeals to me. In 2014, we presented a very nice project with her entitled UMBRA at the Nederlands Fotomuseum. This was an important step in her autonomous work. Another artist would be Christian Boltanski – now deceased – but his installation 'Chance' at the Nederlands Fotomuseum will always stay with me. I admire his ideas and his work enormously, which is dominated by opposites – life and death, happiness and misfortune, then and now, movement and stillness, black and white. The same goes for the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar. Thinking up concepts and propagating ideals intrigues and inspires me. Such as his project in a city in Scandinavia, where he designs/builds a museum with Tetrapack and temporary materials and gives it to the population. He challenges people to fill the building with art. The moment the locals start fighting for the preservation of this museum temporarily built by him, he burns it to the ground as said from the beginning. His goal was to give a glimpse of the value of a museum. Now it's up to the city itself to raise the money for their museum.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
My first steps into the art world somehow felt much grander. There were greater budgets for exhibitions, purchases, marketing and education. We also went to domestic and international art fairs and conferences. I thought it was positive to see a lot outside of your own institution, to gather and share knowledge, and to gain inspiration. This is a branch in which you have to be creative and inventive in order to properly substantiate collaborations and presentations. It is not an easy sector, the capacity is limited, the rewards low and the stakes high. I think it's a shame that so much has been cut, and that we still have to fight so hard for something so essential in society. It would be great if we could place the cultural sector on a stage and the support would be unprecedented. It hasn't gotten any easier over the years. It continues to be a challenge for artists, galleries and museums. I’ve cherished Lucebert's statement: 'who wants to shine must burn', from the moment I bought his collection of poetry back in 2007 at his major exhibition ‘Schilder, Dichter, Fotograaf’ in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
I mostly own works by artists/projects that I have been involved in, and that have an emotional value to me. For example, I have a series of female portraits by Alex van Warmerdam, on the occasion of the first major retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. I also have work by various photographers, the result of my period at the Nederlands Fotomuseum. I really want to buy work from all the artists I bring now. At the moment, however, I am investing everything in my business to ensure that ROOF-A becomes a healthy cultural enterprise within three to five years.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see the artworld?
My thinking has not changed so much, but my starting point and motivation have. Due to all the restrictions imposed on the museums, I felt an enormous need for innovation. During this time I made the decision to develop and realize a sparkling new cultural concept. After the lockdown, everyone was hungry for cultural connection and encounters in accessible/intimate cultural spaces, away from the screen and all digital connections. The pandemic has been an extra fruitful period for me for the development of a new initiative such as ROOF-A. However, it remains a capricious industry, and it is important to move with it in time and space with an eye open for new possibilities. I like to think of a bird that floats on the thermals, because that suits my way of working. I am incredibly happy with the choice to start a new adventure in the sector.