Galerie Paul Andriesse

Material and Metaphor. The Galerie Paul Andriesse was established on Prinsengracht alongside one of Amsterdam's picturesque canals at the beginning of 1984. That was when the young proprietor, who also worked as a photographer, took over the Galerie Helen van der Meij, where he once worked as an assistant some years before. Mrs van der Meij had been running her gallery since 1970, with German artists as Sigmar Polke, Markus Lüpertz and Anselm Kiefer forming the focal points of her programme. Paul Andriesse gave this focus more depth by including in his programme the German artists Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen, who first exhibited in his showrooms in the summer of 1984.     
     But is goes without saying that the new owner also had an agenda of his own from the outset, in particular the trio Marlene Dumas, René Däniels, and Erik Andriesse, his brother. Paul Andriesse described his close relationship with these three as follows: 'I grew up with Erik, in other words with his way of creating art. His painting is very intense and almost obsessive. I noticed this all the more because at the same time I was starting with photography. A quite different, extreme, experience was my friendship with René Daniels, whom I met in 1979. His pictures are set in an imaginary world and, from there, they open up totally new associations for me. Marlene Dumas I met a short time previously via Erik; she represents the female aspect. I am greatly fascinated by the literary and political references in her work, into which poetic levels are often integrated.'
     Here Paul Andriesse hints at an aesthetic element typical of most the artists he represents: they are characterized by a high degree of material awareness, which allows them to develop convincing metaphors. In the late 1980s, with artists such as Richard Wentworth and John Chamberlain, Henk Visch and Keith Edmier, Paul Andriesse switched to the discussion regarding the formal and narrative possibilities of contemporary sculpture. In particular the Dutchman Henk Visch, who had his debut in the gallery at the end of 1984, with his figures as crude as they are poetic, is characteristic of the gallery's programmatic attitude on this issue.
     In the 1990s the Galerie Paul Andriesse concentrated increasingly on art photography. In the spring of 1990 it was Jean-Marc Bustamante who ushered in a whole series of interesting photographic exhibitions. He was followed by, among others, Thomas Struth, James Welling, Nobuyoshi Araki, Paul Graham and Sharon Lockhart. ...
     Another of the gallery programme's central positions is represented by the Austrian twin sisters Christine and Irene Hohenbüchler and their astistic work, as collaborative as it is sensitive, with fringe groups in ous society. The Hohenbüchlers had their first exhibition at the Galerie Paul Andriesse as early as the summer of 1993. To date, they have appeared no fewer than nine times in group and solo (or duo) exhibitions. This too is Typical of the Galerie Paul Andriesse: consistency, endurance and loyalty.

Stange, R. (2005), International art galleries, post-war to post millennium. Cologne: Dumont

Galerie Paul Andriesse

“A good gallery is an unfriendly place,” wrote Marlene Dumas in 1989 as one of her answers to the question “What is a gallery?” The question, which at first sight seems redundant, was posed by Paul Andriesse, the owner of the gallery of the same name in Amsterdam, to 12 artists and other art world people. The responses were recorded in the book Innodiging voor mooie tentoonstellingen en Trio Eenzaamheid (a title derived from an exhibition in the gallery, by René Daniëls). Seven years later, Andriesse posed this question again, partly to the same people, partly to new contacts and artists with whom he had entered into relationships in the meantime. In the book of responses that he then published in 1996 under the title Art Gallery Exhibiting, Andriesse mentions the precedent for the two editions: the brochure that the gallery owner Paul Maens brought out in 1977, what do you expect – ideologically, commercially, technically – from an art gallery, functioning within the current cultural/economic structure? The heavyweight wording (typical of the 1970s), of both the question as well as the answers from strategically and politically oriented artists, such as Kosuth, Buren, and Art & Language, was not evident in Andriesse’s editions from the 1980s and 90s. The answers given here were based more on the artists’ individual points of view in relation to the outside world, with the gallery functioning as a necessary, if not desired, barrier. This, at least, is how it appears from some of the answers.

Andriesse put himself in a vulnerable position with this enquiry since the answers from those directly connected with his gallery were unpredictable, after all. They varied from “Galerie Paul Andriesse’s concern is restricted to that of delivering” (answer from a Dutch collector), to Christine Hohenbüchler’s poetic statement: “A gallery, if obsessively run, has a soul, which experiences joy, a kind of euphoria, but is also easily shattered.” Such an expectation, expressed by an artist, draws heavily on a gallery’s maneuverability. But the initiative to publish these particular manifestors (for that is what they have become, owing to the answers of those questioned and the inclusion of other articles) is a sign that Andriesse does indeed see the task of running a gallery as more than just selling work from the white space and safely taking care of purchases.

Three artists, who play the role of key figures for Andriesse, mark the origin of the gallery: his brother Erik Andriesse, René Daniëls, and Marlene Dumas. Paul Andriesse says about them, “I grew up with Erik and thus also with his way of making art, his way of painting was very intense and almost obsessive. I could recognize that very well in the way I started doing photography at the same age. A very different, extreme experience was my friendship with René Daniëls, whom I met in 1979. His paintings largely took place in an imaginary world and emerged from what, for me, were new associations. I got to know Marlene Dumas somewhat earlier via Erik and she represented the female aspect. The literary and political references in her work, often mixed with a poetic slant, fascinated me immensely.”

In 1984 Andriesse took over the gallery of Helen van der Meij, where he had already been working for a number of years. The present gallery is still housed in the same place on one of Amsterdam’s canals. Van der Meij had made her name in the 1970s, exhibiting work by the German painters Polke, Lüpertz, Penck, and Kiefer, in addition to work by Anselmo and James Lee Byars. Andriesse added his own character to the German orientation, organizing exhibitions by Werner Büttner and Albert Oehlen. Among the Dutch artists that he showed were Pieter Laurens Mol, Sigurdur Gudmundsson, Marlene Dumas, Erik Andriesse and René Daniëls. Andriesse did not particularly choose this sort of art or these artists for financial reasons. He rejects the idea of a “blue-chip” policy, in other words, showing artists who always – or precisely at that moment – sell well. Rather, he commits himself to artists on the basis of his personal preferences. It is a sort of organic process: a choice is made as a logical continuation of an artist shown earlier, or as a counter to a dominant fashion in art. The basis is always formed by the question of how far the artist concerned adds something to contemporary  issues in art, and fits strategically into the gallery’s programme as a subject for discussion. “Intense but thoughtful,” was how Sadie Cole described Andriesse’s artists, indicating as well a certain combination of feeling and reason.

This manifested itself in the second half of the 1980s in the decision to present the work of the British sculptors Richard Wentworth and Shirazeh Houshiary, the context being the new developments in British sculpture, particularly as represented by the LISSON GALLERY in London. The same year also saw exhibitions in the gallery by Dutch sculptors, such as Henk Visch, Pieter Laurens Mol and Guido Geelen, thereby creating the appearance of a synergy aimed at the discussion about the poetic and realistic aspects of sculpture in the 80s. A similar sort of phenomenon emerged in the field of painting when the gallery became a venue where Büttner, Oehlen, Erik Andriesse, René Daniëls, Marlene Dumas and Jo Baer represented different approaches to painting. As I have said, the programming of Paul Andriesse’s gallery is not only based on a detached approach to contemporary art discussions, but also on a personal affinity with the artist and his or her opinions. What links the artists is what Marlene Dumas called “the pleasures of the flesh and the touch of the hand”: the physical and individual contact that the artist has with the work. Or, as Andriesse himself puts it, “the artist who charges material with metaphor.” It has led him to such intractable choices as Richard Wentworth, the American Keith Edmier or the twin sisters Irene and Christine Hohenbüchler. Besides a feeling for quality, it is the personal view of a gallery owner that makes a gallery inherent unique rather than a place for showing a responsitory of fashion and trends. The artists are like cities, each with a different character. Together they form a coherent map.

When, at the end of the 1980s, photography was becoming less and less a specialty of photographers and was being more broadly applied by artists, this too was to be seen in Andriesse’s gallery. The relationship with photography, for that matter, is very direct in Andriesse’s case, for he is himself a photographer, with exhibitions to his name.

The broad field in which photography is engaged has been shown at the gallery. He presented Jean Marc Bustamante, Thomas Struth, and James Welling, among others. At art fairs and via his relationships on the international circuit he has brought attention to young Dutch artists who use photography, such as Jan Koster and Lidwien van de Ven.

One of the tasks of a gallery owner, as Andriesse sees it, is to strategically deploy the work of artists in order to defend the long-term interests of art and artists. His aim may well be to sell – for let us make no mistake about it, it is, after all a commercial gallery – but not at any price. The departing work gains at best a place within a meaningful context, a place where it can enter into discussion with its fellows in the collection. For Andriesse, works of art are not primarily a business vehicle, which is why he does not meddle with art dealing. In any case, another important factor is that the transit trade, which in other countries often represents a badly-needed supplement to a gallery’s budget, is not necessary in the Netherlands, where the overhead costs are much lower than in the United States, for example.

The aforementioned book Art Gallery Exhibiting bears the subtitle The Gallery as a vehicle for art. And, explicitly, not the other way around. This attitude clarifies Dumas’s statement at the beginning of this article: “a gallery is an unfriendly place.” The gallery as a place where art is problematicised and a context is sought, against which the visitor always has to determine his individual point of view in the cold light of the day.

Robert-Jan Muller, art historian.

Arco Noticias, Nr 17 (May 2000), p.36-38.