Speaking: Françoise Pennings
Harry Pennings (1935-2006) started a photography gallery in the back of his furniture store in Eindhoven in 1979. The first exhibition opened in April, at Easter, with work by Hans Biezen and Ralph Gibson. The opening was performed by Rudi Fuchs, then director of the Van Abbemuseum.
(Galerie Pennings is not the first, but the oldest, still existing photo gallery in the Netherlands. Gallery Fiolet (later Olympus Gallery) started in Amsterdam in 1974, followed that same year by Canon Photo Gallery. In 1980 Galerie Perspektief opened in Rotterdam, in 1982 Galerie Ton Peek in Utrecht and in 1985 Galerie Fotomania in Leiden (later in Rotterdam). What is special is that from the start, Harry Pennings was interested in photography as a form of autonomous art and showed this in his gallery. IvB)
“Harry Pennings was an interior designer and had a furniture shop in modern furniture from Italian and German brands, including Interlübke. He had taken over the business from his father, who had started a business on Geldropseweg with his own furniture, but also sold modern Dutch brands such as Artifort and Pastoe.”
“Originally on the Geldropseweg were workers' houses with deep gardens. Harry's father had bought three plots. At number 61 he started a furniture store. Later Harry bought a plot. A renovation followed and in 1979 the furniture store expanded with the larger building at number 63. In the covered patio between buildings 61 and 63 he started a photography gallery.”
“Harry himself was an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Two photos of him are included in the photography collection of Leiden University and one in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.”
“In 1994 he handed over the furniture store to a successor, in order to be able to fully focus on the gallery. He moved the gallery to building 61B, on the first floor. Petra Cardinaal took over the gallery in 2006."
(A few months later, Harry died quite suddenly, after a short illness. In memory of him, Petra established the Harry Pennings Prize. The prize is intended to offer a stage to young talent. Sunday, April 14, 2019, it was awarded for the fifth time. The winner was Marwan Bassiouni.
On this day, Galerie Pennings celebrated its 40th anniversary, but also the official transition to a foundation, the Pennings Foundation. To be able to develop more activities, the foundation moved a year ago to the large building at 63, back to the location where the furniture store had been for years. IvB)
“For the first exhibition, Harry chose work by Hans Biezen and Ralph Gibson. Hans Biezen was one of his friends and Harry admired his photos. Hans regularly photographed his wife Jet. She worked in the catering of the Van Abbemuseum. Hans also worked for the Van Abbe, where he photographed the exhibitions. Harry came into contact with other photographers via Biezen. Peter Paul Geurts helped Harry create exhibitions. His friend Jan Buster, also an enthusiastic amateur photographer, also helped with organizing exhibitions and making selections. According to Jan Buster, Harry had an eye for photography.”
How did Françoise, a Frenchwoman, meet Harry Pennings?
“I had a Dutch pen friend and once I traveled to the Netherlands to meet the pen friend's family. She had a brother, Harry, and I fell in love with him. In 1965 we became engaged.
In France I had studied history and geography, but in the Netherlands, so I was told, I did not have much chance to get a job as a teacher. So, on the advice of others, I started following the French University teacher training course here."
“Harry went to look at photography everywhere. During the weekends I joined him to France, Germany, England, Sweden (to visit Hans and Jet Biezen who had moved there). We then had a nanny for the children.
“In England we went to a photographer in an old school to pick up photos for an exhibition. In Germany we visited Hermann Försterling, who "messed" with gold and silver in photos. We visited Jacqueline Salmon near Lyon. And we came into contact with Patrick Bailly Maître Grand through collector Madelène Millot Durenberger from Strassburg.”
Harry was able to bring well-known photographers and artists to his gallery, right from the start. Christian Boltanski and Annette Messager exhibited with him as early as 1981. According to Francoise, Harry also made an exhibition with Christo in the furniture store, with packed furniture. (When that happened is unknown. Possibly as early as 1966, when Christo made an exhibition with packed furniture in the Van Abbemuseum. IvB)
“We met a lot of photographers, particularly in Arles, during the annual photography festival Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie (R.I.P.). The organization was in the hands of Lucien Clergue, himself also a photographer. Harry was asked to review portfolios. We have been there about twenty times. We also visited the OFF exhibitions, in the courtyard near a church. There we met Charles Fréger. Jo Brunenberg (photographer and collector) and Rino Boersma (employee of the gallery) also went to Arles every year. Jo advised Harry. In Arles, Harry once exhibited the work of young Charlotte Dumas (whose work he had spotted at the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. IvB), but she soon left for a gallery in Amsterdam.”
“With the work of (among others) Viviane Sassen and Ton Huijbers, Harry participated in the fair Paris Photo in Paris. He mainly sold a lot of work by Ton Huijbers. Harry has been on Paris Photo three times (in 1998, 1999 and 2000), with the help of the Mondriaan Fund. After 2000 it became too expensive. Paris Photo changed quickly. It became too commercial, too much attention was paid to vintage."
“We also went to Houston Photo Festival once, at the invitation of the organization. Harry was asked to stand in for someone to review portfolios. Some photographers he met have exhibited at Galerie Pennings, including Margalit Mannor, who photographed envelopes. At an auction for a charity in Houston I bought photos of them for little money."
“Harry took part in art fairs, also in the Netherlands. I don't know which exactly. In the Netherlands I did not join him because I was in class during the week. I worked in high school 26 hours a week. In addition, the hours for the preparation of the lessons and the review work, and the care of four children were added. So, I didn't have time to come along during the week. I do remember that Harry was at an art fair in Germany with work by Tessa Verder.”
After Harry died, Françoise herself went to Arles every year and met the, now famous, photographers Harry had discovered early and offered a stage in his gallery. But since 2018 she's not going anymore. “Now an American is curator, and he wants to show a lot of vintage. This comes at the expense of young talent. The same thing happened in Paris.”
Irma van Bommel
(in the context of the anniversary of 40 years Galerie Pennings)
Next week: Hans Biezen