Dutch collector, Reyn van der Lugt speaks to IC about contemporary photography and the challenges involved when trying to integrate photography and other mediums into one coherent collection.
Here, van der Lugt speaks openly about his emotional attachment to his collection and why, for him, keeping up to date with new artists is crucial for a well rounded collection.
Your art collection consists of a lot of photography. What is it about contemporary photography that interests you so much?REYN VAN DER LUGT
I started to buy art some thirty years ago. The first works I bought were paintings, drawings and gouaches. In those years photography was not so much used by artists but mainly by documentary photographers. My first photography purchases were from documentary photographers like the Dutchmen Ed van der Elsken and Cas Oorthuys, works from the 1950’s, later followed by the German photographer August Sander. When I later discovered color photography from art photographers I was very impressed. The large formats and the different techniques opened a total new world for me. I was struck by their messages about beauty or decay, past or present, familiar or unknown societies
Then for a period of about ten years, I almost only collected photography from Dutch and international artists. Nowadays my purchases are equally divided between paintings, drawings and photographs, although many people still see me as a photography collector even though it is only some 40 % of my collection.
The photography you collect is a mixture between landscape, architectural, documentary and portraiture – how do you choose which works to show together and what is the process behind the selection?REYN VAN DER LUGT
As a collector I am not following the mainstreams in the international art world. I trust my own knowledge, taste and opinion to select new works. This means that both well-known artists, such as Luc Tuymans or Marlene Dumas, and unknown young and upcoming artists are part of my collection. This eventually results in a very personal and organic collection where every new work relates to an older piece, whether it is a landscape, still life, portrait or abstract image.
What made you want to collect art?REYN VAN DER LUGT
As a regular visitor of exhibitions in museums and galleries I got a strong interest in looking at art. The next step is that you want to look at art in your own house as well and it is then that you buy your first piece of art. You don’t start buying art because you decide to become a collector; it is not a profession but something that happens to you overnight. At some moment it appears that you have acquired 25 art works, more than you can display in your house and then people around you call you a collector. Another reason for me to buy art is that I like to support young and emerging artists. Nowadays, the collection is that large that you are not able to show it all together at once. However, I see it as a privilege that I have been invited already four times to present a selection from my art collection in public art institutions. The interesting thing about presenting your art works in another context and in another building, is that this also enables myself to experience another view and understanding of my own collection.
Although all the works used to illustrate this interview are all photography, you are also a collector of paintings, drawings and sculpture/installations. How does your emotional connection with works differ from genre to genre?REYN VAN DER LUGT
For me there are no emotional differences between photography, paintings, drawings or sculptures. I purchased all these art works because I was struck by their beauty or by the story of the artist behind the work, whether this is purely an aesthetical appeal or instead as a social, political, environmental or historical meaning. Many of the works in my collection have a conceptual approach with an added personal “twist” by the artist.
Structure and texture are important elements for me in selecting a particular artwork, but also in the connection between my photographs, paintings and drawings.
Nowadays it happens quite often that when in a gallery or during a studio visit, I see a new work by an artist that I immediately connect to another work in the collection. All classical forms of art like portrait, still life, interior, architecture, landscape can be found in my collection. That’s why it is so inspiring to mix photographs with drawings or paintings around the same themes.
The photographers in your collection are from all over the world – is it important for you to have a friendship with them in order to believe in the works?REYN VAN DER LUGT
Well, you first buy a photograph based on the quality of the particular work. A friendship with the artist might follow afterwards when you get to know him or her better. I discover quite often works of young artists while visiting the final exam presentations at art schools like the Rijksacademie, the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam or the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague and sometimes also at academies in Belgium and Germany. During these visits you also meet the artist, you comment on the works and may decide to buy a piece. Quite often I am the first-ever buyer of an artwork from a young artist and then it can be stimulating, on both sides, to meet again and to follow and discuss the developments in the artist’s career. I think that I have met almost 90 % of all artists within my collection and with many of them I have subsequent meetings in Holland and neighboring countries in Western Europe. This also leads to acquiring more works of the same artist over a longer period of time. There are artists in my collection from whom I have bought up to ten works. Moreover, I also introduce these young artists to other collectors and gallerists in Holland and abroad.
How important are photography fairs such as unseen to your photographic collection?REYN VAN DER LUGT
Next to Unseen and other Dutch art fairs I also visit the leading art fairs all over Western Europe. For every collector these are important events because you can discover new and emerging artists, recent works of your favorite artists, meet other collectors etc. At every art fair you are seduced with new discoveries.
The Unseen Photography fair in Amsterdam is showing recent ‘unseen’ work of international artists. I’m sure that at this year’s fourth edition, I will have a great time in discovering new photography as well as looking forward to their additional photography activities, especially the interesting Unseen Photography Book Market.
What is the most challenging piece you have purchased?REYN VAN DER LUGT
I think that is a work by the Danish artist Adam Jeppesen (see above) that I discovered through his gallerist Peter Lav in Copenhagen. The artist is a real traveller; some years ago he made a long journey through the Americas from the far North up to the very South during the course of a year and a half. He took daily pictures from the Rocky Mountains in the USA up until the Andes in Chile.
At Paris Photo, Mr Lav showed me this particular work on his tablet; the desert near the small town Ancon at the border between Peru and Chile. The artist still works with analog photo plates and because of the heavy wind, sand grains ‘damaged’ the photo whilst in the camera. In the upper part of the image you see a ‘crashed sky’ in beautiful colors, which makes this image an almost ‘Turner like’ painted landscape.
As I am not used to buying an artwork that I have only seen on a small screen, I was wondering whether the quality would change when on a large format. However, as I had bought already two works from this artist I was convinced by the quality of his work. Nevertheless, until the large photograph (130 x 165 cm) arrived at my apartment I was still anxious whether I had made the right choice. But after opening the package and seeing the real print with frame, I was extremely happy that I bought this masterpiece!