For Aveline de Bruin, collecting is a family affair. She is responsible for the organization of the Dutch-based family collection, de Bruin-Heijn, and a co-curator together with her parents.
Here, Aveline de Bruin speaks about collecting, how to manage it, and why Amsterdam is important for the contemporary art scene.
Tell us about the collection. How did the passion for collecting start?AVELINE DE BRUIN
Through my work in galleries, through artists and running an art bookshop – a lot of work went into my small collection. But of course I grew up with contemporary art and collecting, something which my parents did not – they slowly grew into the collectors they are now. It is a passion I share with them.
The collection has been listed as one of the most important collections in the world for contemporary art – what is the secret behind having such an incredible collection?AVELINE DE BRUIN
Thank you. Of course this question is subjective and hard to answer. Everybody has a different opinion about art and what sort of collection they like. But we are very proud that many prestigious museums and institutions worldwide request the loan of artworks from our collection. It is an honor when our artworks become part of art history through their exhibition history and catalogues.
Is the collection something you live with? Is there an element of daily interaction and if so, how does this affect your relationship to the works?AVELINE DE BRUIN
Yes, all the members of my family have their homes filled with artworks. But we try to be sensible, so, for example, with little children some artworks can’t be installed. My parents have a sculpture by Rachel Harrison in their house that has three little wrapped chocolate cars on top of it and, trust me, children see that instantly. Luckily the work has wheels so we can move it around!
What is your process behind being the curator of the collection?AVELINE DE BRUIN
Actually my parents and I together are the co-curators of the collection, I am also the conservator. Being responsible for a collection is a lot of work, it’s not much different from the work that is done in a museum. When I started to work with the collection eight years ago, I made a new database and checked every artwork. That inventory includes everything from the measurements and installation reports to the insurance values, to how to archive or preserve the works, videos, slides, films, as well as materials such as light bulbs, plastic, etc.
We also now operate our own loan contracts, condition reports and insurance because a lot of our artworks are loaned to very diverse institutions and museums worldwide. I also travel as much as I can with my parents to view new works and to see our own artworks in exhibitions.
Furthermore, I sometimes do special projects that involve art and our family. For instance, my parents are supporters of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and in 2013 we commissioned Martha Colburn to make a work that reflects on Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony. Colburn made the animation film “Metamorfoza” with music composed by Felipe Waller. Yannick Nezet-Seguin adjusted the score for his orchestra and the music was played live with the screening of the film as a prelude to the Rotterdam Philharmonic’s performance of the symphony.
Recently I have been working on a project in the Alentejo, Portugal. Quinta do Quetzal is a winery owned by my parents, which has recently opened a new building containing an art centre and restaurant. We hope the project will stimulate wine tourism in the region and create new and more creative jobs for young people. We inaugurated the space on the 7th of September with a show of works by Pat O’Neill, Robert Heinecken and Trisha Baga.
I have a satellite exhibition of Quetzal Art Centre during Amsterdam Art Weekend, on view is Pat O’Neills film “Sidewinder’s Delta”. It’s on Laurierstraat 185.
Are there any artworks that you’d like to acquire, but for some reason or another, this hasn’t been possible?AVELINE DE BRUIN
There are times you see a beautiful work, but you don’t buy it or you wait too long. I remember seeing Henry Darger drawings together with my mother in a small gallery in Miami that we regret not buying.
Somebody actually once suggested to me that would be a great exhibition – “The works you regret not buying”!
What is the main drive behind the collection? Is it purely emotional or is there also a rational element to the collection?AVELINE DE BRUIN
My parents are emotional buyers, but they are very eager to learn and discover more about the work and the artist. Sometimes you have to accept that an artwork would be better off in a museum than in a private collection. Other times a work is super complicated but you just fall in love with it and take size or any other complication for granted. We have a huge studio installation by Joyce Pensato that still smells of turpentine because it contains all of her old brushes and paint jars.
What do you think is the key to having a successful collection?AVELINE DE BRUIN
The key to a successful collection? There are essential questions you must ask yourself. Firstly, does the work challenge you? Does it move you? Is it really good? Will this work still be interesting if it hangs above your sofa for a year? Does the concept of the work make sense? Who is the artist and what have they made before? Sometimes you really work on all these questions in your mind, and sometimes you just think “I’ve got to have this artwork”. The secret? There are many ways to build interesting collections. With our collection the key is that my mother likes to think out of the box. She is not influenced so much by the big names and has an open mind about young artists, usually collecting their work at the beginning of their careers. She trusts the galleries she interacts closely with and most of the time the artists she collects are connected to galleries they know and usually those galleries also show the artists we have in our collection. Often the artists are connected or respect each other’s work. My mother also has a love for strong women and as a result we have beautiful works by artists like Maria Lassnig, Alina Szapocznikow, Geta Bratescu, Marlene Dumas, Lee Lozano and Charline von Heyl.
Where do you see your collection headed? Is there some medium or topic that you would like to see the collection include in the future?AVELINE DE BRUIN
I loved the project I did with Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and would love to combine collecting art with more commissioned works. It is great to not only collect works but to also be able to show your artists to an audience, especially a new audience who may not go to galleries very often.
You are a board member of the Amsterdam Art Weekend. Why do you think the event and the city of Amsterdam are interesting for international collectors?AVELINE DE BRUIN
I believe that Amsterdam is a cradle for contemporary art. Amsterdam Art Weekend is a collaboration involving the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, the contemporary art galleries in Amsterdam, the city’s institutions and its collectors. Many internationally important artists started their careers at the Rijksakademie or de Ateliers and were then supported and promoted by our galleries in The Netherlands. To support an artist at the beginning of his or her career takes a lot of courage and investment. We, as collectors, are very privileged to have the opportunity to have so many good artists starting their careers here. We have collected artists like Carlos Amorales, Yael Bartana, Ryan Gander, David Maljkovic, Alexandra Leykauf, Amalia Pica and Falke Pisano from the beginning because they had residencies at the Rijksakademie. All these great artists are still represented by galleries in Amsterdam.
So, for international collectors, Amsterdam Art Weekend (24th – 27th November 2016) is a great adventure – a chance to test yourself and see what appeals to you as a collector. These artists don’t have – at least, not yet – a stamp saying “we made it to the big galleries”. It’s about following your instincts, talking with the artists, being engaged.
How have events such as the Amsterdam Art Weekend helped to change the perception of collecting and collectors?AVELINE DE BRUIN
I’m really happy to see that every year more and more people are coming from all over the world to visit Amsterdam Art Weekend and now reserve it as a special date in their calendar. It is our wish to introduce more international collectors and curators to the Rijksakademie and de Ateliers, to encourage them to visit the galleries not just at the fairs but also in the actual gallery spaces, and to see our great museums. Amsterdam can use the support and dynamics of international visitors, and in return I think Amsterdam has a lot to offer.