Frans Oomen lives in a typically Amsterdam home where, having gone through the front door, you walk up steep and narrow stairs and you immediately understand that behind this door something special is going on.
The walls are covered in notes, posters, prints, and photographs, and in the hallway works of art are piled up in bubble wrap.
“Sometimes a person never comes back”, I read on a slip of paper. The higher I go the worse it gets: in the living room you can just about sit on a chair at a table amidst all the piles of books and pieces of art that lean against each other against the walls. It is chock-full. This man is immersed in art.
Frans Oomen started his collecting obsession early, by collecting editions, and since then it has become his specialty. I see a screen print by Rob Scholte which once came free with the magazine “Code”, and a lithograph by Erik Andriessen from 1988 which at the time was an edition from “Fodor” museum.
“Yes”, Oomen says, “art does not have to be expensive; with a small budget you can do beautiful things, just start off simple.” Editions, certainly for beginner collectors, are the most obvious way to start a collection because they are often very affordable, especially if you’re quick off the mark. Many art lovers are passionately fond of the aura of the ‘unique’. “For me it is the image that counts”, Oomen says and he quotes Schellmann from a book on art in editions: “When you look at a one-off work of art you can hardly dissociate it from the price”. Still Oomen beams with pride when showing all these works of art that he bought years ago, and that are now so much more valuable. “It shows that I saw it well, and made up my mind on time. That is what I’m proud of”.
Oomen, a full-time visual arts teacher at the College of Education in Haarlem, loves his work, and is enthusiastic that the students have the freedom to shape his field of interest. The students see Oomen’s collection frenzy on Facebook and also with the AVROTros program ‘Kunstuur’ in which Hester Alberdingk Thijm interviews Oomen about his passion. In addition, Oomen runs an on-line gallery of editions, mo-artgallery.com and arteditions.org. “The gallery earns me the money to make new purchases, and because I have contacts with many publishers of editions worldwide I am close to the source. I quickly hear which interesting editions will soon enter the market and I can subsequently strike. The result is that I am always in the red. I am a real entrepreneur, a merchant with hawk’s eyes.
What bothers me most is that unfortunately I cannot buy everything I would like to add to my collection. The other day I had a work by Gerhard Richter in my hands, an intriguing statue, and I knew it was a bargain, but at the time I could not afford it. And that hurts. Certainly when six months later it is being traded at ten times the price”.
What I appreciate most of the collection are the uncommon works like cassette tapes, long play records, a wooden musical box by Aernout Mik in which negatives lie on a lit sheet and which actually makes music. Or a purse by Rosemarie Trockel that she put together as a souvenir on a trip to Russia. It is a small, cheap brown leather purse in which she put a photograph and receipts and pieces of paper she found in the streets. Or again a simple film negative by Tacita Dean in a box.
Text by Hanne Hagenaars.
Translated by Jan Swijgman