Behind the scenes of the world of art-dealing

Written by Babette Claassen

The world of trading in fine art: very interesting, but for many also unfathomable. What actually happens behind the scenes? And which path does a painting take from the first brushstroke on the canvas, to the framed painting above the sofa at your home or at the museum? The new podcast series ‘De Kunstkast van Pygmalion’ (Pygmalion’s Art Cabinet) answers these questions and more. Each episode opens, as it were, a new drawer of the art cabinet, bringing a different aspect of the art world to light. And guess what? There is more to it than you initially might expect!

After I graduated from the Masters track ‘Kunst, Markt en Connaisseurschap’ (Art, Market and Connoisseurship) at the VU in 2019, I was determined to combine my passion for art history with my special interest in commerce and organization. So shortly after that, I started as a freelance art historian, focused on art consultancy and the art market. One of my first commissions was at the Pygmalion art dealership in Maarssen. As a gallery they have an extensive collection of fine art objects from 1850 to 1950. My main job was to assist them at art fairs and with day-to-day affairs.

However, the Covid pandemic soon threw a spanner in the works and as a result the entire cultural sector was turned upside down. As you can imagine, it had quite an impact on the international art trade as well since personal contact with customers and art fairs are highly important factors in this field. Nevertheless, it also offered opportunities for creative and fresh initiatives, varying from organized gallery routes throughout Amsterdam and online art fairs at which exhibitors could show their collection highlights by digital developments such as augmented reality, where an antique vase appears to be on your own table just by looking at your phone’s screen.

Under the guise of ‘hidden treasures from the Pygmalion collection’, we started producing various videos, but soon the idea of a podcast series came into play. Unlike these short videos intended for social media, a podcast can offer room for personal and in-depth conversations. In addition, the medium is becoming more and more popular among a younger audience. Since the ageing of the buyers public of classical art and antiques is lurking, it is of course very interesting to attract a younger target group.

The plan for a behind-the-scenes podcast of the artworld was implemented quickly and with great enthusiasm. Together with Gabriele Gallo, who is responsible for both recording and editing the episodes, owner of Pygmalion and art historian Jaap Versteegh went on a journey throughout the Netherlands to enter into conversations with striking and interesting people from the art world. His guests range from artists, museum directors and auctioneers to frame makers, restorers and collectors: they each play their own role in this exciting field. This leads to fascinating and personal stories about the value of art and art-historical research, but above all about the love for art.

The latter is completely in line with what Pygmalion stands for as a gallery. After all, Pygmalion was the sculptor from Classical mythology who fell in love with his own sculpture Galatea and thus saw his ideal of beauty come to life. In addition, it is the first time that an art dealer has produced an informative podcast within the Dutch cultural landscape. By doing so, he provides a glimpse into this special field of work. In short: ‘De Kunstkast van Pygmalion’ is certainly worth listening to!

A new episode (in Dutch) appears every two to three weeks. You can listen to these on your favorite podcast platform. Featured guests include Sarah de Clercq (managing director of Sotheby’s the Netherlands), Jop Ubbens (former director of Christie’s the Netherlands), Barbara de Clercq (sculptor), Gary Schwartz (art historian and Rembrandt expert), Hans van Dam (painting restorer), Marcel Fleury (frame maker and owner of Gehring and Heijdenrijk) and Henk van Houten (art collector). Take a look behind the scenes of the world of art-dealing, while doing the dishes, on the road or when you are simply relaxing on the couch.

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