Contemporary Art | Annette Gelink

‘You can see that many artists today suddenly become very famous at a very young age. They flicker and often disappear quickly. It is important that you can guide talent. But it’s getting harder and harder to bring them to Art Basel. It has become far too expensive.’

‘A photo of Ed by Jacky Kennedy taken four years after her husband’s murder, in a similar open car and again in a pink suit. Of all the photographers around, Jacky is looking at Ed for some reason.’

“A couple of Moluccan boys confidently hanging around in a car in Tiel. They look defiantly at Ed as people around watch intently. That image is very much about now. That’s what a good artist does’.

Another Gelink with work by the young Curaçao artist Rinella Alfonso, who created the Ateliers and who last year won the Royal Prize for Free Painting in 2021. ‘The longer you look, the better it gets. I expect a lot from her, also internationally.’

Gallery owner Annet Gelink on the international contemporary art market

‘I get interested when I don’t fully understand’

Annet Gelink has been active in the international market for contemporary art for over thirty years. What has remained the same and what is different?

Despite the fact that the Netherlands is not a typical collecting country, according to Annet Gelink there is still a rich art scene in the Netherlands. “Amsterdam in particular was and is an important city when it comes to contemporary art. One of the main reasons is the presence of two internationally recognized postgraduate academies, the Rijksakademie and the Ateliers. Both are fertile ground for young new talents. And also very international. As Dutch galleries, we are particularly strong in young artists. I discovered Ryan Gander in 2004 at the Rijksakademie and his career has taken off tremendously since then. For example, we once started working with Rezi van Lankveld and Erik van Lieshout, who then also tipped us to young artists. Rinella Alfonso, whose painting you see behind me, was recommended to us by Rezi van Lankveld. I get interested when I haven’t seen something before and don’t quite understand it right away.’

,‘Everyone is bombarded with e-mails these days, and indeed the internet is becoming increasingly important in the art market, but we focus on the personal contact in the gallery.’

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Young artist

Together with Diana Stigter, Annet Gelink started the Bloom gallery in Bloemstraat in Amsterdam in 1992. From 1999 they continued separately, founding both leading galleries for contemporary art, both still emerging from Amsterdam, the springboard city, and where many artists break through internationally. Gelink: ‘Amsterdam has the advantage for collectors that the work of new artists is still relatively affordable in contrast to the prices in e.g. New York.’ Sometimes as a gallerist you also lose such an artist, just as Ajax loses its top players to Barcelona. But an artist can in principle – to stay in the metaphor – play in different competitions for different teams, and some artists stay here. Gelink: ‘At fairs such as Frieze in London and Art Basel, we establish contacts with international collectors and foreign museums. We are increasingly able to serve the artist worldwide in this way, sometimes as the first gallery, which is mainly due to these fairs. But it remains a fragile relationship. It’s about selling their works for the artist, but also getting them in the right museums, which helps to create a reputation.’

In addition to things that still apply, there are also new developments in the art market. Gelink: ‘You can see that many artists today suddenly become very famous at a very young age. They flicker and often disappear quickly. It is important that you can guide talent. But it’s getting harder and harder to bring them to Art Basel. It has become far too expensive. There is way too much pressure on it and it is not good for the art market. It also pressures artists to make their works bigger and more expensive without necessarily making the work better. The market today also primarily wants traditional materials, such as canvas, ceramics or bronze. The first thing that strikes me when I walk around Basel is that it is very figurative, lots of colors and lots of paintings. Art with not too much explanation. People are less interested in art.’

Money

At the top of the international art market, it seems to be all about money, especially at a fair like Art Basel. Gelink: ‘That’s certainly true, but you don’t just get admitted there with a lot of money. We look primarily at the bond you have built with your artists and what you have meant to them. How you help develop their careers.’ How does Gelink position itself with its gallery on the international contemporary art market? ‘We try to have a balance between artists with paintings, sculptures, installations, video art and photography. Artists also at different stages of their careers, all of whom stick to themselves as much as possible and don’t go along with the hot stuff. We try to make as few concessions as possible and always present a mix of exhibitions of more experimental and more mainstream work. Of course you need to keep the gallery running. But you also have to keep your own face on the market.’

The Internet is becoming increasingly important in the art market. How does Gelink handle it? ‘Everyone is bombarded with emails these days, but we focus on personal contact in the gallery. Gallery director Floor (Wullems) and I split up the customers and artists to maintain as much personal contact as possible. We therefore organize dinners, openings and masterclasses around exhibitions. We want to make sure people really connect with the work. You can see that the random meeting also comes back from before the corona era. I feel that especially young people are interested in art more than a few years ago. We have just hired a lovely new colleague from China who had worked at a Chinese gallery that is also at Art Basel. She can introduce our artists to the Chinese market. It’s also about who you know’.

Update

How important is young and hip for a gallery like Annet Gelinks? ‘Art is not age-related’, says the gallerist. ‘My husband got a form of dementia at a young age and now lives in a nursing home. He can still enjoy art a lot, and so do most of the older people who live there. Art gives comfort and that is also important to me. The residents come by when we have a new exhibition, and then they really revive, especially at an exhibition about Ed van der Elsken, who they often recognise.’ But it is certainly the case that as an artist and also as a gallery you must constantly renew yourself, says Gelink. ‘I especially see experienced artists doing it. You can see that in the work of Marijke van Warendam, who now has a big show at the Landhuis Oud Amelisweerd in collaboration with the Central Museum in Utrecht. Our other artists also continue to surprise us, both the more established and the new artists. And we have been representing Ed van der Elsken’s legacy since 1994. There is still some great work by Ed that has never been in a book or museum exhibit. There are unique images in between, such as the image of a couple of Moluccan boys confidently hanging around a car in Tiel. They look defiantly at Ed as people around watch intently. That image is very much about now. That’s what a good artist does. And look at this photo of Jacky Kennedy taken four years after her husband’s assassination, in a similar open car and again in a pink suit. Of all the photographers standing around, Jacky is looking at Ed for some reason. A nice picture that has never been in circulation before. A find!’

Finally, the gallerist takes a few steps down to The Bakery, the place where young talent gets a stage. This is where Ryan Gander once started and now you can see works by Rinella Alfonso, a young Curaçao artist who created the Ateliers and who last year won the Royal Prize for Free Painting in 2021. ‘For this show she made paintings on wood and used various materials in addition to oil paint. For example, she uses materials such as silicone and synthetic hair. The longer you look, the better it gets. I expect a lot from her, also internationally.’

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[2022]

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