It must have been in the early 1980s when I made the acquaintance of Andris Wieg and his wife, Julia. I had joined the department of old Dutch and Flemish painting at the RKD – Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (Netherlands Institute for Art History), which houses one of the most important collections of images, catalogues and art historical documentation in the world – in December 1980, and Andris and Julia were regular visitors.
At that time, the Wiegs had already been collecting drawings and paintings for some time and would regularly discuss their findings with the then director of the institute, Joop Nieuwstraten (1925-2016), who recognized and appreciated their passion and dedication and gladly gave them his advice. Gradually, the Wieg family and I also became better acquainted, discussing works from their collection, particularly still lifes, of course, during their visits to the RKD.
The bond was perhaps strengthened by the fact that it turned out that I was living on the same street in Delft where the Wiegs had lived when Andris was still working for the Gist- en Spiritusfabriek, as Gist-Brocades was then still called. Their daughter, Kati, first through her study of art history, and later gaining experience in the art world at auction houses, also came to be a regular visitor to the RKD.
"After an auction’ he said, ‘I am always pleased. If I have been outbid, I think to myself, see, I was right in my judgment of the high quality of this piece, and if I am the winning bidder, I think, fine, I have outsmarted them all!"
When after Andris’s retirement as a chemical engineer he and Julia set up the art dealership Dr. A. Wieg Fine Art in 1993, together with Kati, contacts became more frequent, particularly around the annual Amsterdam PAN art fair. Andris and Julia, like myself, had a passion for the lesser-known, but often highly interesting and charming masters from the Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century, such as François Verwilt, Jacob van Spreeuwen, Bartholomeus Molenaer, and Franchoys Ryckhals, all of them artists represented in the Wieg collection. I remember that after buying my first painting at auction in 1985, Andris came up to me in the room and asked: ‘who do you think it is by?’ When I answered, ‘Ryckhals’, he said, ‘yes, I am sure you are right, well done!’
"The passion for art was more than apparent with Andris and Julia Wieg. Pieces for their collection were above all chosen with the heart."
Thus, their collection is a very personal one, by no means encyclopedic or following to the canon, but an assembly of works of which each has its own special charm. Also, as becomes apparent from the works on offer now, a good state of preservation was always an important issue in their decision whether or not to buy a piece. Obviously, they also had an academic interest in the background of the works and their artists, but first and foremost, Andris and Julia really needed to fall in love with a painting or drawing to want to acquire it.
The acquisition of a work was often followed by sharing and discussing such a treasure with academics and museum curators, which occasionally would lead to loans to exhibitions. Part of the success of Andris and Julia Wieg’s ventures into art dealing must have been that their clients recognized their own passion for collecting in them and were charmed by their full commitment to each piece they were offering.
It is special how a shared love of art can, almost unnoticed, forge special friendships and bonds. I was extremely moved by the phone call Andris gave me when he knew he had no longer to live, thanking me for our friendship and wishing me well. I cannot believe that that was already more than ten years ago. Andris’s passing even strengthened the friendship of my partner Carla and myself with Julia and she, too, is now sorely missed.
To the bidders in these sales, I would like to offer a piece of positivist wisdom Andris once shared with me: "After an auction’ he said, ‘I am always pleased. If I have been outbid, I think to myself, see, I was right in my judgment of the high quality of this piece, and if I am the winning bidder, I think, fine, I have outsmarted them all!"