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
Frank Taal (Frank Taal Galerie) First art auction De Ziechouw 2002 as part of the Kunstfestival Wereld van de Witte de With. Artwork: Amie Dicke.
Were you exposed to art while growing up?
I grew up in a warm family. There was a lot of music at home, at the table my sisters sang songs by Boudewijn de Groot, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and (two-part) Simon & Garfunkel. My father played guitar and used to play trumpet and drums, and my oldest sister played the clarinet.
The bookcase held a copy of the Encyclopedia for Women and a novel by Konsalik, both unread. That’s about what I got from home in terms of culture. Every summer, the six of us travelled by car to France, Germany or Italy, where we visited cultural destinations. The Palace of Versailles made a big impression on me. My childhood consisted mainly of playing football with friends and drawing.
Frank Taal with his son Julius, 2003.
How did you come into contact with the art world?
Through a former girlfriend. When I started studying Sociology I met a girl who had come to Rotterdam for what is now called the Willem de Kooning Academy. Within three weeks we were living together and I went through art school with her from a distance. I listened breathlessly to her anecdotes about the lives of artists, got to know many art students, went to parties and exhibitions and studied for my exams in Boijmans van Beuningen, right opposite my student house. I switched to Social & Developmental Psychology in Leiden, but continued to live in Rotterdam and became increasingly interested in contemporary art.
Earth is smaller than Thought, 2011, Marijke Appelman, Hans Citroen, Daan den Houter, Matrijs van Merg & Rufus Ketting.
What was your first job in a gallery? Or did you immediately start a gallery yourself?
My first "gallery" was a former announcement showcase at the famous Café De Schouw, on Witte de Withstraat. I started this in 2001, with a weekly presentation of a work that was made specifically for De Aanschouw by invitation. Every week, Christmas and New Year's Eve included, the opening of De Aanschouw took place. This has also been a bit of my learning experience in looking at and installing art. In 2012, after about 600 exhibitions, I passed the baton and De Aanschouw is still a fact: more than 1000 exhibitions later. I am still proud of that. I also organized art auctions for ten summers that were always the final part of the "De Wereld van de Witte de With" art festival, with viewing days in TENT, the RO theater and the Nederlands Fotomuseum. The auction was organized to keep the project going without subsidies and income.
Je Maintiendrai duo exhibition Daan den Houter / Pascal Bastiaenen. Work Daan den Houter. Photo: Frank Taal, 2016.
After graduating, I was looking for jobs for a bit. My first job was assistant location manager for a movie. Coincidentally, the movie was about an artist. I didn't like the film world. Shortly afterwards I was invited by a friend for an interview at the Hogeschool Bouwkunde. I had never envisioned a job as a teacher. I more or ended up in there, and I still teach two days a week. It is easy to combine this with gallery ownership, I have great colleagues there and an inspiring contact with students. Although I admit that ultimately running the gallery has my preference.
From 2005 to 2010 I was part of a triumvirate that ran the cultural enterprise: De Kunstsuper, in Delfshaven. With one of them, Leo de Bie, I started the gallery in 2010 in its current form, in the centrally located Van Speykstraat. The fact that the gallery bears my name arose from our mutual division of roles.
Amsterdam Art Fair 2017 – solo Bram Braam.
How would you describe your gallery’s profile?
I still agree with the text profile on our website. I value the idea behind the work, but it starts with a strong image, to want to listen to the story. The artists are highly skilled, passionate and pleasant people to work with. I think it is very important, that you also have real contact and that you grow together. Many artists in our program have a link to architecture, but certainly not all. I am often told that the work is very diverse. Especially in summer exhibitions, where many of the artists are presented together, I still see the lines in the program and that of the audience. I choose from the gut and afterwards I understand my choices better. In 2015 the gallery was voted gallery of the year. I have my doubts about this election, yet one verdict of the jury was a great piece of feedback and has stuck with me: "Art may be raw, abrasive and socially critical".
Frank Taal with his father.
I have a long relationship with many of the artists. The program has become much more international over time. Recently, three new artists have joined and I am very happy with that. The Flemish artist Pieter Jan Martyn is the first of that trio to now have a solo in the gallery. The other two will soon follow with their introductory exhibition.
Poor Traits, 2018 – duo exhition – Gerben Mulder & Stephen j Shanabrook.
What do you think is the best part of being a gallerist?
That I get to choose what the audience is confronted with. That this choice of artists and their work inspires people and imparts new ideas, and possibly makes the world experience a new perspective when they leave the gallery. With or without a new work to take home.
Curating exhibitions gives me creative satisfaction. Another great aspect of owning a gallery is the enormous variety of people I get to meet through my profession and build a relationship with. Both from the maker's side, the buyers' side as well as that of 'passive' enthusiasts.
I also find the international aspect very attractive. For example, in recent months I have been "zooming" intensively with gallery owner and curator Carl Berg of PRJCtLA and artist David DiMichele about an exhibition in their home town of Los Angeles. Curating a show together with ten Dutch and ten L.A. artists, going there and installing together, and experiencing what had only existed in our heads for a long time. And then presenting our Dutch artists - together with very good local artists - to the public in Los Angeles seems great to me. The fact that this exhibition will come to Rotterdam next year will make it a double party!
EN WAT NU - solo Daan den Houter - Dinner in the gallery by chef Milan Gataric van LUX, 2018.
Which national / international galleries do you feel an affinity with?
I admire the guts and willfulness of certain colleagues; in the steps they take and the new paths they explore. Such as Yvonne Jong from Root Gallery in Rotterdam; she recently moved from the Zwaanshals in Rotterdam to a mega-space in the Robert Fruinstraat. Haven’t been there yet, but I am very curious. And I also look forward to Art Rotterdam, to see and speak to colleagues again. I often call a number of colleagues for advice, to present things and to exchange ideas. Majke Husstege often first, also just to chat ...
SSSssshhh.....!! - Solo Exhibition Midas Zwaan, 2019.
I used to visit Emmo Grofsmid and Karmin Kartowikromo from MKgalerie on Witte de Withstraat for advice. I considered them my mentors. I cherish Emmo's worked Thonet chair in my gallery. Very tragic how they were ripped away so suddenly.
Hans Sonnenberg, Mr. Delta, was also an example in a way, although I cannot fill his shoes. As I still work for the Hogeschool, he continued to work as a ship broker for a long time, in addition to his gallery ownership.
I attended his speech in Boijmans in 2000, when he committed fifteen paintings by, among others, Schoonhoven and Basquiat (the one with the crowns) to the collection. Mr. Delta said, "You, the museum directors, should visit galleries and buy art! Or else wait for gallery owners to donate in their old age. "
I thought that was wonderful. And he was at the first presentation of De Aanschouw on 6 July 2001! Then he grumbled something like, "You, young people should start doing it now."
The Frankies Choice #1, 2019 – groupexhibition.
In an ideal world, which artist would you most like to represent?
That never crosses my mind, to tell you the truth. The artists I am now allowed to represent would be my first answer. Of course, I can name some of the great names of artists whose work I admire. Representing an artist is also a major responsibility. With big names, this responsibility also becomes much more complex. In an ideal world, however, this is not an issue, right? And are they also nice people to deal with! In that ideal world, I decide that artists have eternal life. I would have liked to have known Jan Schoonhoven. And Günther Uecker. I know from Jaap, Jan Schoonhoven's son, that Günther was a very nice man. As a person I have always found Jan very intriguing and I love his work. I am also a fan of Bas Jan Ader’s work, just to name one. Caravaggio, Louise Bourgeois and Modigliani are also allowed in my program.
Among the living: I can also be reached by Erwin Wurm, David Shrigley, Anthony Gormley, Jenny Holzer and Richard Serra, among others.
Architecture of Art, 2019 – group exhibition – curators Saminte Ekeland & Frank Taal.
What has changed in the art world since you took your first steps?
When I started the gallery back in 2010, the 2008 financial crisis really hit the gallery world. I have experienced the past decade as a great boxing match and I have also been hit hard. Especially through art fairs. Fortunately I don't have a glass chin, but sometimes it took a while to recover. One adventure took place in Leipzig: Der Spinnerei is a studio and gallery complex in a former cotton weaving mill, with an annual art fair running throughout the complex. In addition to Berlin, the Eigen + Art gallery also has a branch there and once launched Neo Rauch here. Jaap Sleper rented 1000 m2 at the fair for ten Dutch galleries. On day two we found that it remained very quiet for us, while the entire fair was very well attended. Then it turned out that it was a subsidized space for cultural projects, where no transactions were allowed to take place. This was known to the public, but was an unpleasant surprise to us.
Abstract Realism or Algorithmic Magic 2020 – duo tentoonstelling Mike Ottink & Diederick van Kleef – foto: Michel Claus.
A fair in the Louvre during the Bataclan attack, a fair in Amsterdam where it became clear at the opening that only five hundred people were allowed on the floor at the same time, fairs in Brussels and Ghent where I should not have been. Not all the choices I made were equally useful, and some decisions have brought the gallery to the abyss.
Social media have been important since I started in 2010. These days, LinkedIn and Instagram are becoming even more important, and also offer a much greater reach than when I started. I also consider GalleryViewer to be an important platform, with a particular focus on the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France - and fortunately this reach also extends further and further. Nevertheless, the physical place, the meeting, experiencing the work that you may have seen on a screen yourself, remains extremely important. And with that also the role of a gallery owner.
Sincerely Not Yours – solo Hester Scheurwater 2020 – 2021.
What / whose work do you collect yourself?
At home there are works by artists from my circle: not only by artists I currently represent, also by artists with whom I once worked or collaborated on a particular project. Great works of art, which I am grateful for being able to live with on a daily basis. That gratitude extends even further: most of the works have been donated to me. After ten years, I am fortunate to experience that the biggest hurdles have been overcome and I have high hopes that I will also be able to purchase more actively in the coming years.
The 12th Monkey – solotentoonstelling Pieter jan Martyn – on show til May 29 at Frank Taal Galerie.
Has the pandemic changed the way you see the artworld?
The pandemic has stopped social life in a way that is unparalleled in this day and age. And it is still drastic for my (now online) teaching position, my private life and my role as a gallery owner. I see the negative but also the positive sides of this special time. Galleries also had to close, exhibitions and fairs were cancelled. I have experienced the latter as both a curse and a blessing; it also gave some peace.
I love to present our signature at a fair and talk to people about the work of the artists the gallery represents. The rush of a fair is also very intense. As far as the artists are concerned, it is unfortunate to experience that some of them are going through an enormously difficult period because of Corona. For others it has been less negative or even a valuable experience.
The appreciation for (visual) art and culture may now be experiencing a revival. I read that many people - partly due to the imposed home working - have more of an eye for the art that they have at home, the art they live with. That there is a greater awareness of the importance of art and makers, now that access to culture outside the home is suddenly not self-evident.
David en Geraldiene 13 mei 2021.
See all the artists represented by Frank Taal Galerie