LONDON - When Bert Kreuk began collecting art some 20 years ago, it was something like the way other people play golf: as a source of “visual relaxation,” he says, “a counterbalance for my stressful job.”
Soon enough, though, his collection took on a life of its own; where his first acquisitions were “still about the image,” as he explains it, over time he became increasingly fascinated with contemporary art – and particularly conceptual work.
Yet many of these conceptual pieces held little relationship to Kreuk’s first acquisitions; and so he determined to de-access some of his earlier finds while adding new works more in line with the shape the collection was beginning to take.
In addition to having donated numerous works to museums, Kreuk has also joined with Sotheby’s to produce Just Now, an exhibition of works by emerging artists, carefully curated from Kreuk’s own collection.
30 January–4 March
Bert Kreuk in front of an installation Recollection Hysteria by the artist Kaari Upson. Gifted to the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. Photo: Courtesy of Gerrit Schreurs.
How did this exhibition come about?
My relationship with Sotheby’s goes back some 20 years. The idea of an S|2 show came about during one of our many conversations, where I was exploring a way to de-access certain works that no longer represent the vision of the collection as it has developed, but which I didn’t wish to bring to auction. Sotheby’s is always eager to show what is happening in the art world today. And while galleries can sometimes be intimidating to visitors, and tend to focus on their own stables of artists, the S|2 space in London is able to provide a broader picture. So it seemed the right place to present a show about what is happening Just Now.
What was your vision in curating the show?
To tell the story of what is happening in the art world today, but at the same time show the story of my collection, and the artists to which I am drawn. These artists all utilize materials and forms to tell their story – sometimes with a performative gesture (like Oscar Murillo) and sometimes flirting with minimalism (like Jacob Kassay) and sometimes exploring the limits of their materials (like Kaari Upson).
Previously you exhibited some of these pieces at a museum in the Netherlands. What is the distinction between that exhibition and the Sotheby's show, other than, of course, that the works at Sotheby’s are for sale?
Transforming the Known at the Gemeente Museum in the Hague had nothing to do with selling. It was about my personal journey with contemporary art. And it’s an ongoing journey: in the two years it took to create that exhibition, I bought about 200 new works. So I am a very active buyer, which means that I have to constantly refine and update the collection, otherwise it gets unfocused. Selling is part of refining.
Refining and, it seems, somewhat reshaping your collection. Can you describe that more?
My focus now is really to integrate the works from the emerging artists I have collected in the last few years into a more cohesive group. That will also entail filling in gaps in the collection to provide historical context with works by, say, Bruce Nauman and Joseph Beuys.
And is there a characteristic that unites the artists in your collection?
I’d say it’s those artists who convey something more than just an instantly recognizable mood, or a reflection of reality. They have to have an authentic way of communicating their ideas, concepts, and intentions, both in the execution of their art and in their use of materials, to extending the boundaries of what it means to make art, or to challenge the status quo. Or both.