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Galerie Bart Amsterdam: Bart Invites
Bloemgracht 2, 1015 TH Amsterdam, Netherlands
December 3, 2014 - January 3, 2015

"Adoption Agency" for Art Might Herald New Dynamic in Market
by Edo Dijksterhuis

An empty wall to fill but on a tight budget? Looking for an original Christmas gift? Or are you just an avid bargain hunter? A semi-abstract print by Jaap Hillenius could be just the ticket for you. Price: somewhere between 175 and 250 euro—and that’s including the frame. If you like large formats, the reclining nude by Hans van der Ham costing 450 euro is an option. And at 175 euro a diptych by Bert Loerakker is a good deal—especially if you take into account the original price of 810 euro. A work by Eugène Terwindt has been marked down even more: from 2,393 to 450 euro.

Bloemgracht 2, Amsterdam, Bart Invites: Stichting Onterfd Goed


These works and many more can be found at Bloemgracht 2 in Amsterdam, the former location of Galerie Bart. Ever since moving to the Elandsgracht the gallery has invited external parties to use the space and this month Onterfd Goed takes its turn. Onterfd Goed (a wordplay on "heritage," "disinherited," "goods," and "good") took off two years ago in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, where it administers a former industrial building filled with discarded art pieces and other objects. The foundation advises museums, government institutions, and companies about what to do with their art collections and especially how to make them more efficient. The fact that only five percent of all 65 million collection pieces in The Netherlands ever leaves an expensive storage facility has prompted a plea for redistribution. Onterfd Goed poses as a euphemistically named "adoption agency for art," placing the poor neglected orphans with new parents in exchange for a fee.

Of course, over the years art collections—both institutional and corporate—have been disbanded and sold. Companies weeding out their endless print collections would organize cash & carry-sales for their personnel or auction off the whole lot for charity—like ING did in 2009 for Unicef. The municipal art lending facilities known as CBKs have in most cities been privatized and are selling off large parts of their collections, as recently happened in Rotterdam. But in the museum world deaccessioning was for a long time absolutely not done. Museums were supposed to collect and preserve for eternity, never to discard anything—even worthless trash that had found its way into the collection as part of a legacy. Selling top pieces in order to buy something else or to pay the utility bill was completely out of the question.

Rudi Fuchs tried it in 1988 in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag with a Mondriaan and a Picasso, Chris Dercon ten years later at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum with one of the two Rothkos in Dutch museums. Both were publicly condemned in the harshest of terms. The same goes for Stanley Bremer of the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam, who now wants to balance the books with the sale of African sculptures. Only a few museum directors have gotten away with deaccessioning. In 2005 Wim van Krimpen of the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag was the first to bring museum pieces to auction and have their provenance noted in the catalogue. The surprise record price of 3,3 million euro for an Ilya Mashkov still life enabled the museum to buy a room full of contemporary artworks. And Gerard de Kleijn of Museum Gouda has to live with the eternal wrath of Marlene Dumas for selling her The Schoolboys in 2011, but the one million euro proceeds have probably saved the institution.

Interior Bart Invites: Stichting Onterfd Goed, Amsterdam


In the US museum directors more routinely ask their staff to "reassess the collection." Being more dependent on private funding than their Dutch counterparts they have to optimize their collections and minimize administrative costs of storage and conservation. But this can lead to excesses and that’s why the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) has set up guidelines for deaccessioning, which have most recently been updated in 2010. The most important rule is that institutions may sell a piece of art in order to buy another, more suitable work, but they may never do so to merely cover costs. Quite a few times the AAMD has stepped up and issued warnings. The National Academy Museum in New York essentially got blackballed for auctioning works to ward off a financial crisis. And condemning words have been spoken about the Delaware Art Museum (for trying to alleviate a $20 million debt by selling part of the collection), Randolph College’s Maier Museum of Art (for selling a George Bellows painting to London’s National Gallery for $25.5 million) and, of course, the Detroit Institute of Art, which is seen as a kind of piggybank by the political leaders of this bankrupt city.

The Netherlands has its own set of guidelines called the LAMO (Leidraad Afstoting Museale Objecten), which has been in place since 2000 and was updated and tightened last year as a result of the upheaval generated by the sale of The Schoolboys. The LAMO dictates an extensive and strict selection procedure. Before being able to sell works, a museum must present them to other Dutch institutions to see if they are interested. A special database has been created for this, which at the moment contains about 12,000 pieces from 45 museums. But considering that only ten percent of these will find a new institutional home, there is ample room for an alternative channel like Onterfd Goed.

Marnix GoossensHortus 1, 2006 (left), Hortus 1, 2007 (right); © Stichting Onterfd Goed


Optimists will say it’s a good thing that Onterfd Goed is preventing art from dying a slow and anonymous death in dark storage spaces. In private homes the work is at least appreciated and taken care off. Moreover, Onterfd Goed could act like a stepping stone for emerging collectors, infecting them with the bug and helping build the future art market. Pessimists, on the other hand, will insist that the art market is a zero sum game and money can only be spent once. Art market newbies like Onterfd Goed compete with galleries and small auction houses. Moreover, it’s questionable what these "art garage sales" imply for the artists whose work is being sold. In the case of high edition multiples the effect is probably negligible, but it’s different for unique pieces. True, at 3,250 euro a pop the three Marnix Goossens photographs Onterfd Goed has on sale now are not ridiculously underpriced, but the shabby entourage does take away a bit of the shine. It’s not the same as buying a Goossens at his representative Nouvelles Images in The Hague.

Until now Onterfd Goed has sold off two museum collections. The work on show in Amsterdam came from the municipality of Utrecht. But the foundation is negotiating with two other museums and in light of the current cultural climate more are bound to follow. Add to this the number of corporate collections expected to deaccession because of changing office architecture (fewer walls) or plain downsizing, and a virtual flooding of the secondary market is in the offing. It’s safe to expect that with increasing volume the quality of what’s on offer will increase over time. Since a secondary market for contemporary art has hardly existed in The Netherlands up till now, the gallery circuit should brace itself for a whole new dynamic.


Edo Dijksterhuis


(Image at top: Interior Bart Invites: Stichting Onterfd Goed, Amsterdam; All images courtesy of Stichting Onterfd Goed, 's-Hertogenbosch)

Posted by Edo Dijksterhuis on 12/11 | tags: photography painting art adoption agency deacessioning museum lending stichting onterfd goed art market

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A FB Chat with the Creator of SAIC Secret Admirers
by The ArtSlant Team

SAIC Secret Admirers was started in March of 2013. The Facebook page for anonymously posting amorous yearnings quickly took off, garnering likes from over 50% of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago student body. While speculation swirled as to who was behind the page, the secret was kept until just recently when artist Anna Russett came forward as the administrator behind the page. We sat down over Facebook to chat about Secret Admirers, butt stuff, and social media as a platform for contemporary art.


You can follow Anna on instagram @annarussett, twitter @annarussett, and youtube.

Posted by The ArtSlant Team on 11/21 | tags: digital collector's catalogue veracity secret admirers Social Media Facebook

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Tony Oursler
De Oude Kerk
Oudekerksplein 23, Amsterdam, Netherlands
November 27, 2014 - March 29, 2015

Tony Oursler Hacks a Church with Reverse Iconoclasm
by Edo Dijksterhuis

True to their sometimes petty nature and deep-seated adversity to change the town folk of Amsterdam were up in arms last year when Jacqueline Grandjean made public her plans for the Oude Kerk (Old Church). The new director wanted the venue to become more than a glorified exhibition space filled with penurious looking temporary bulkheads. She envisioned large-scale installations by artists of international repute, in interviews casually mentioning the Unilever Series in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as a benchmark. In terms better reserved for the hooligans and drunken tourists roaming the surrounding red light district, local residents spoke out against what they feared would become "a spectacle." Emotions ran high in readers' letters to the local newspaper as if Grandjean were proposing to set fire to Amsterdam’s oldest building. All these protestors should now go and visit Grandjean’s maiden exhibition to find out that not only has the integrity of the 1306 monument been preserved, but the place has actually been injected with new energy.

Tony Oursler provides the star power necessary for a flying start of the new Old Church. In the early eighties the American pioneered what was then called multi-media art with elaborate installations combining video, sound, language and sculpture. He ran with the CalArts crowd of the day, even playing in a band with the late Mike Kelley, and collaborated with David Bowie. His list of exhibitions is sheer endless but Systems of Dramatic Feedback in 1995 was his last solo show in The Netherlands. For Oude Kerk's I/O underflow, his long overdue re-acquaintance with a country that was amongst the first to appreciate his art, he has made four new works. Oursler worked site-specifically, reacting to the seven-century-old architecture or—as he puts it himself in the exhibition brochure—"hacking the church."

For the younger generation new to Oursler’s work there’s the opportunity to get up to speed in the period rooms adjacent to the main space. The oldest work, X-doll from 1992, which is presented in the holy sepulcher, features a restless, spread-eagled nude figure projected on a cross. This combination of projection and three-dimensional objects is vintage Oursler and is further refined in Orbit (2007), a snake-like figure inhabiting the marble sculpture of a giant knot. An example of the evil-looking dolls with animated faces, which Oursler first presented at Documenta 9 and were popular for a while at international art fairs, can be found in the mirror room. And Talking Light (2014), a large lightbulb flickering in time with a speech delivered by the artist himself, echoes the 1997 key work Streetlight.

The four new works are large-scale projections dealing with the themes that have run like a thread through Oursler’s work since the turn of the century: virtual imagery, the relationship between man and machine, and the power of media in shaping our experiences and thoughts. Using the human figure in a theatrical way, mostly as moving portraits, Oursler questions the authenticity and integrity of digital representation. Here, digital technology and human subjectivity, face and interface, clash and mix. This is very explicit in Jim Fletcher, Jason Scott, in which a ghostly Jim symbolizes the computer unable to fully represent humans (and obviously ill at ease with this fact); meanwhile actor Jason spits out names of computer viruses as if he himself is fatally infected with digilitis.

The work, laced with fragments of Christian prayers, is projected high on a wall, next to a round window depicting a dove carrying an olive branch back to Noah’s Ark. It adds an extra layer to the work: fear for a virtual Deluge but also the promise of rebooting humanity with a clean slate. With a kind of reverse iconoclasm, Oursler cleverly plugs into the historic and religious, echoes and images bouncing off the church walls, the vaulted ceiling, and stained glass windows. Moreover, by enriching the architecture with his projections he also makes you look closer at it, reactivating the space which for a long time was mostly seen through the eyes of tourists.

In the central piece of the show, Holly Stanton/Josie Keefe, Jim Fletcher/Kate Valk, two couples take turns delivering a fragmented narrative. The work was inspired by the Turing Test, devised by the British mathematician Alan Turing, who is generally considered the grandfather of computer science. Its aim is to test whether a computer is impersonating a human. At first the older, robot-like couple seems to fit the bill perfectly, but along the way they become more warm-blooded and dramatic. At some point an apple appears and the woman eggs on the man to "make a wish and take a bite." It’s an explicit reference to Turing who, upon being found out as a homosexual, committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple. But Snow White and, naturally in this consecrated context, Eve’s original sin come to mind just as quickly.

Although the projections are massive, they are not at all intrusive. The monumental space easily stands up to them, transcends the role of temporary canvas by being a partner in dialogue. I/O underflow raises expectations for what’s to come, interventions by the likes of Tatzu Nishi and Susan Philipsz. It’s the kind of spectacle a city can never have too much of.


Edo Dijksterhuis


(All images: © Tony Oursler in the Oude Kerk 2014)

Posted by Edo Dijksterhuis on 12/2 | tags: digital installation Spectacle projection oude kerk

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Nobuyoshi Araki
Foam - Fotografie Museum
Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS Amsterdam, Netherlands
December 19, 2014 - March 11, 2015

Araki: An Exhibitionist Looking Death in the Eye
by Edo Dijksterhuis

In the film After Life (1998) by Kore-eda Hirokazu the recently deceased end up on a minimalist film set. In this purgatory they discuss and improvise with their fellow travelers until they have decided on the ultimately defining moment of their lives. They re-enact it and then pass over to whatever paradise or nothingness may be waiting for them. One by one the dead come to terms with what they’ve left behind. Except for one, who can’t decide.

That guy could have been Nobuyoshi Araki. The now 74-year-old photographer is looking death in the face and doesn’t have a lot to live for anymore—he cremated his wife long ago, his beloved cat died four years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, and recently lost the sight of his right eye. But it would be impossible to capture his life or his work—which in a sense are the same—in one image. For over half a century Araki has been taking thousands of photographs a week. He is generally seen as one of the most prolific artists in the world: his photobooks alone number over five hundred. Any retrospective other than an extremely extensive show would be unsatisfactory as a summary.

Nobuyoshi ArakiAlluring Hell, 2008; © Nobuyoshi Araki in collaboration with Galerie Alex Daniëls – Reflex Amsterdam


Fortunately, Ojo Shashu – Photography for the Afterlife: Alluring Hell takes a very different approach, although it does look and feel like a farewell. The show, which has been put together in close cooperation with Araki himself and has been shown in three venues in Japan before touching down now for the first time in Europe, takes a hopscotch approach through themes and time. There’s only a handful kinbaku-pictures—the tied-up naked beauties Araki is most famous for—and a lot lesser known work. That makes this a much more interesting undertaking than the last Araki museum show in the Netherlands, in 2004/5 in De Hallen. Photography for the Afterlife actually surprises—which is quite a feat for an exhibition of an artist as well-known as Araki.

The Japanese words in the exhibition title refer to the Ojo Yoshu, a Buddhist text from 985 AD dealing with salvation. It’s a book Araki has been interested in for a while and its emphasis on polarities and balance provide some kind of guideline for the exhibition’s composition. Photographs from Araki’s early days are combined with very recent work; images of extreme intimacy go together with snapshots in public spaces like the metro. Of course, men and women collide; nature and culture play tag. But the most important dichotomy in the exhibition, the one coloring the rest, is life and death.

Nobuyoshi ArakiSentimental Journey/Winter Journey, 1971/1990; © Nobuyoshi Araki in collaboration with Galerie Alex Daniëls – Reflex Amsterdam


The death of his wife in 1990 blew a hole in Araki’s existence. He had met Yoko at the Dentsu advertising agency where they both worked and they got married in 1971. Already an obsessive photographer and an exhibitionist to boot, Araki documented their honeymoon in detail: Yoko on the train staring ahead, Yoko naked in bed, Yoko at a karaoke bar, Yoko naked again. In FOAM this Sentimental Journey series is countered by Winter Journey, about Yoko’s illness and eventual death. Further along in the exhibition is a similar series, depicting the death of Chiro in 2010. Araki considered the black and white cat a kind of spiritual embodiment of his beloved wife, so when it died he lost her all over again.

Nobuyoshi ArakiSentimental Journey/Winter Journey, 1971/1990; © Nobuyoshi Araki in collaboration with Galerie Alex Daniëls – Reflex Amsterdam


The pictures of loss and mourning—there’s a series of Eastern Skies, windswept horizons photographed from the terrace where Yoko and Araki used to entertain but which after 1990 barely got used anymore—are offset by images celebrating life. In Araki’s world this means Eros to counter Thanatos, but the way sex and nudity are included in Photography for the After Life differs from the usual Araki fare. In the recently discovered Alluring Hell series (shown above) the artist has painted over the prints, partly covering bodies and altering images as if he were using an analogue version of Photoshop. And the massive display of Polaroids, images instantly born but with a limited lifespan, makes for a fascinating tapestry of torsos, fruits, flowers and toys rhythmically interspersed with pink and blue misprints.

Satchin and his brother Mabo from 1964 is even more surprising. This series is absolutely vibrant. The then 24-year-old Araki, getting on his knees in order to level his camera with his subjects, portrayed two kids as the uncomplicated picture of exuberant joy and innocence. They laugh hysterically, do silly dances while pulling their hair, climb up ladders, and brandish their slingshots at the man who is pointing his camera at them.

Nobuyoshi ArakiqARADISE, 2014; © Courtesy Nobuyoshi Araki in collaboration with Galerie Alex Daniëls – Reflex Amsterdam


The most recent work, qARADISE, is gloomy again. Flower arrangements are familiar territory for Araki, but this time he doesn’t show brightly colored petals and prim pistils breathing a wildly sensual parfum. Like the P in the series’ title the world has been turned around. The flowers are wilting and have theatrically been placed against a pitch black background. The plastic toys they’re paired with—another Araki mainstay—are mostly dinosaurs, extinct reminders of time relentlessly moving on and leaving everyone behind.

Seeing such diverse works together, basically being served a cross-section of Araki’s oeuvre, some insights about the man’s work present themselves. The more Araki moved away from documentary style street photography and found his own language, the more staged and formalized his images seem to have become. His conceptual turn, focusing on a limited number of subjects, made him unique but also pressed some life out of his images. Of course, this is only true for part of his work and does not apply at all to his diary-like snapshots. But looking at these, one has to conclude that individually they’re not all that great. Sometimes the composition is dull, at other times there is no escaping the in-your-face genitalia, and some pictures are even out of focus. But together they form balanced stories of a life lived through pictures and as such they are mighty impressive. Would Araki’s passage to the afterlife depend on one picture alone, he would be stuck in purgatory forever.


Edo Dijksterhuis


(Image at top: Nobuyoshi Araki, Alluring Hell, 2008; © Nobuyoshi Araki in collaboration with Galerie Alex Daniëls – Reflex Amsterdam)

Posted by Edo Dijksterhuis on 12/22 | tags: photography conceptual figurative kinbaku cats death life afterlife Japan documentary still life

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