PAN Amsterdam has been running for 25 years. An antiques, art and design auction, the event attracts the city’s most sought after pieces and its most powerful seekers. This year I infiltrated the world of the 1% for the opening night. Not as an act of subversion but as a welcomed guest with a (free) ticket!
Having bypassed the sixty-euro price tag, I felt impervious to the little elements of the evening which normally might have disturbed me—such as the unavailability of the catering service and the paranoid attitude with which gallery directors and artists sternly protested against my camera. I was, after all, in the company of good friends and sitting in the same room as a Rietveld chair and a Warhol painting, with a series of Erwin Olaf photographs hanging around the corner.
This was my first time attending a large-scale arts event that had been curated for the viewer as a potential buyer rather than a mere aesthetic or cultural consumer—an exclusive shopping mall for the elite. Instead of a food court there was an open bar, little shots of soup and tiny portions of steak. Rather than the humble descriptive labels one might find at a gallery or museum, works have surpassed intensive tests of authenticity and are now coupled with price tags in the tens of thousands and millions. While it was funny to have my experience as a spectator be influenced by the purchasing choices of my fellow audience members, the quantity of consumables and their dense labyrinthine arrangement did grow to feel overwhelming.
I most enjoyed the design pavilion, with its comfortingly manageable size and possibly the fact that it in itself felt as tacked on to the event as I did. Added to the PAN experience in 2008, this Pavilion stands in juxtaposition to the antiques and Dutch classics as a testament to the evolving nature of assigned value. Though still accompanied with the aforementioned awe-inducing price tags, these objects retained some level of accessibility.
And I did make some discoveries for more tranquil exploration outside of this event—like the hyperrealist painting, photography and installation work currently on display at the Flatlands Gallery in Utrecht. Having lived in Utrecht for three years I was embarrassed to have forgotten about this gallery since moving back to Amsterdam. I especially liked the Flatlands Journal, a mini newspaper which the gallery had for distribution at the event. Also interesting were the geometric shapes and textured color blocking from Bernard Aubertin, Walter Leblanc and Klaus Staudt at Gallery de Rijk in The Hague.
If ever given the opportunity to attend again I definitely will—as despite my grumblings, being in the belly of the beast and having the opportunity to see all these pieces before they potentially disappear into private collections, made it an experience impossible to disparage.
All images courtesy PAN Amsterdam