top of page

#16 From gallery to foundation

In 2018, Galerie Pennings moved to the location where Pennings Binnenhuisarchitectuur was once located and became the Pennings Foundation. photo Hanneke Wetzer

Speaking: Petra Cardinaal

Petra Cardinaal, who took over Gallery Pennings from Harry Pennings in 2006, accidentally came into contact with the gallery. “In 2004 I visited the gallery for the first time, not as a visitor, but as an employee of a business broker where Harry was a customer. During one of the following visits he told me that he was looking for a successor for the gallery, because he was almost 70. Running a gallery takes a lot of time, I now know. If you do it professionally, it is a full time job. You cannot organise all things within the opening hours of the gallery. An additional problem was that the Melkert jobs (see blog #3) were being discontinued. From now on people had to be hired on a permanent basis. Harry did not want to incur additional personnel costs. Some time later Harry had found a successor for his gallery, but this one dropped out in March, April 2005. And he had the intention to stop the gallery. Then I thought, ‘Why don't I do it?’ In April 2005 I started discussions with Harry and we agreed that I would give it a try for a year, every Saturday."

“I don’t have a background in art gallery. I had a training in HR (human resources). I knew nothing about the history of photography, ‘ne rien’. But I took pictures myself at an early age. I was interested in photography though. In 2000 I had been to The Photographers Gallery in London and I was very enthusiastic about that. Photography as a contemporary medium really appealed to me. I had something with art. Years ago I had already attended an art history course at the open university for a year. And when I had taken over the gallery, I started taking photography history classes at Leiden University.”

Harry Pennings in the Paris metro. photo Jan Buster 2005

"Harry was the curator of the exhibition ‘Onwerkelijke Schoonheid’ (Unreal Beauty) of Breda Photo 2005 (see blog # 12 and # 13). I was then at the photo book fair with the portfolios published by the gallery (see blog # 3). ”Harry and Françoise visited Paris Photo every year, together with Jan Buster (see blog # 1) and his wife Bep. André and I came along in 2005. ”(André is Petra's partner). Jan Buster took a photo of Harry in the metro during that stay.”

“The idea was that Harry and I would work together for a long time. Me staffing the gallery and Harry doing the content. And gradually we would complete the programming together. But things went differently because Harry died in 2006. Jan Buster meant a lot to me then. I had no experience with gallery work, I had no network and I knew little about photography. Jan Buster then said, "We're just going to make sure you learn a lot as quickly as possible." By studying books. And together we have visited many exhibitions. When Jan Buster died years later, I bought his legacy library.”

“In Sept 2006, I had made an exhibition in honor of Harry with photos from the portfolios that he published. And I have organized the Harry Pennings Award for young photography talent. The Award, with his name, was my present to Harry when I took over the gallery. I wanted him to be part of the jury. Unfortunately he passed away. The first exhibition with a shortlist of nominees was in 2007. The prize is awarded approximately once every three years."

Harry Pennings and Petra Cardinaal in front of a photo of Mischa Keijser. The photo was on the invitation of the last exhibition, 'Muze', by Harry, also the first exhibition by Petra. photo Bas van der Burgt 2005

“Gallery Pennings was a gallery for photography in the south. At that time the gallery was not considered as equals by photo galleries in the Randstad (the west and middle of the Netherlands). That was disappointing. Harry could be cynical about that. Harry also took pictures himself, poetic still lifes, but he did not exhibit his own work in his gallery. He focused not only on photographers but also on artists who used photography as a medium and he showed work by, among others, Boltanski, Hans Biezen, Toos Nijssen and Paul Bogaers. Harry chose photography with a story. I continued that. We have always maintained the content. Aesthetics were not normative, nor marketability. That policy was continued. Harry was an erudite, intelligent, amiable man, but he could be very resolute. He often showed intellectual, specialist, high-end, poetic, hard-to-access work.”