Speaking: Rino Boersma
In 1994, Harry Pennings handed over his furniture store to a successor. This gave him the opportunity to do what he liked best, to focus entirely on photography. He continued the photo gallery on the first floor of the adjacent building. In 1997 he hired his first employee. 1997 was also the year of the very first edition of Paris Photo.
Rino Boersma came into contact with Galerie Pennings through the Projectburo of the municipality of Eindhoven. Through this Projectburo, he made the transition from an administrative position at the Victim Support Foundation to a government-supported workplace (Melkertbaan) at Galerie Pennings. He also followed a website designer course in the evenings. When he found a permanent job as a website designer in 2000, he left Galerie Pennings.
“When I became an employee in the gallery, there was more structure in the organization. We organized around six exhibitions a year. Usually two presentations took place simultaneously, one in the gallery space and one in the stairwell. I made press releases and invitations. The invitations were designed graphically and about four to five hundred were printed. These were then still sent by mail, not by e-mail. But the gallery had already started with a website.”
“Getting into photo magazines was tricky, they all had a different deadline. But due to precise planning, it was nevertheless possible to be mentioned in various magazines. National newspapers did not come to the gallery to review an exhibition. We discussed the reason, but the presumption was that Eindhoven was too far away from the cultural heart of the Netherlands.”
“My work for the gallery was very diverse. I usually did the hanging of the works for the exhibitions myself or together with Harry. Openings were often on Saturday afternoon, with a speech by Harry himself or by the artist. We didn't organize lectures at the time.”
“Harry had an eye for quirky photography. He organized exhibitions including Hans Biezen, Jacqueline Salmon, Patrick Bailly Maître Grand, Bernard Faucon, Elspeth Diederix, Viviane Sassen, Arthur Tress, Tada Masami, Dolf Kruger, Paul Bogaers, Frank van der Salm, and Charles Fréger. Relatively many French photographers, because Harry and Françoise themselves were often in France. Many photographers who exhibited at Galerie Pennings became known later."
“Elspeth Diederix and Viviane Sassen had installed their own work in a quirky manner, Elspeth Diederix in the gallery and Viviane Sassen in the stairwell. For his exhibition, Paul Bogaers had made a dark installation without light in the gallery, a video presentation with owls. That was all possible. Harry always gave artists as much freedom as possible. He was dead serious about the artists. Frank van der Salm had even moved the walls and mounted spotlights to illuminate his landscapes. The spots then remained in the gallery."
“We reserved Tuesday for a visit to the photographer. We went on a studio visit to orientate ourselves. Or we invited the photographers to the gallery. This is how Charles Fréger (see blog # 1) came to the gallery to show his series ‘Majorettes’. Photographers also often came to show their work unannounced at fairs, but that was inconvenient, because then you have no time for them.”
Paris Photo was first organized in 1997. The director was a Dutchman, Rik Gadella. Rino Boersma went to see the fair, together with Jo Brunenberg. The following year Harry Pennings also wanted to go to the exhibition as a participant. “We came through the ballot committee and with the support of the Mondriaan Fund we were able to participate in Paris Photo in 1998. Ton Peek Gallery and Flatland Gallery were also present there, along with many galleries from all over the world. Paris Photo was a success right from the start: the entire photography world comes from all continents.”
(Paris Photo is the first art fair in Europe ever dedicated to photography. Gallery owners, artists and collectors from all over the world come together for this art fair in Paris. In the first years, the Carrousel du Louvre was the designated location for Paris Photo. The fair later moved to the Grand Palais. The event brings together photographers, gallery owners and publishers from all over the world and gives an idea of the trends within photography. Paris Photo is the ideal opportunity for photographers to gain fame, for galleries to expand their network and for collectors to richly supplement their collection. The hundreds of galleries all have their own stand where they can exhibit the works of their photographers. LvdB *)
"At the time, photography was not yet fully accepted in the art world," says Boersma.
(Photography was recognized as an art medium in the 1990s, but had not yet been given a prominent place. It was a challenge to bring art photography to the attention of the people. The concept of galleries specifically focused on photography did not exist for very long. Paris Photo caused a shift within the art world. LvdB)
In November 1998, Harry and Françoise Pennings and Rino drove a van with work from the exhibitors to Paris. (Françoise and Rino knew each other. Rino had had French lessons from Françoise in high school.) In Paris they stayed in Françoise's apartment.
“Building the fair in 1998 was chaotic. Due to the arrival of the King of Jordan and all kinds of safety regulations, the parking garage under the Carrousel du Louvre remained closed for three hours. Installing the stands happened while the walls around us were still being built."
In 1998 Galerie Pennings was on Paris Photo with works by Hans Biezen, Hermann Försterling, Franz Immoos, Phoebe Maas and Frank van der Salm. In 1999 the gallery went to Paris Photo with work by Phoebe Maas again and also by Betsy Green, Lili Almog, Françoise Sauer and Ton Huijbers. Ton Huijbers' work in particular sold well. Harry also took work from Ton Huijbers and Lili Almog to Paris Photo in 2000, as well as work from Paul Bogaers, Jan Dibbets, Marnix Goossens and Tada Masami. Harry has been on Paris Photo four times, in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2002. Rino was there twice as an employee, the third time as a visitor. After 2002, participation in the exhibition became too expensive.
"Many photographers who came to the fair Harry already knew through his reputation as a gallery owner, such as Jacqueline Salmon, but also through collectors such as Madelène Millot Durenberger from Strasbourg." (See blog #1)
"One of my tasks in the gallery was compiling the portfolios. Jan Buster taught me how to cut frames in passe-partouts and to place photos in passe-partouts.” (See blog # 1)
(From 1995 on, for many years, every exhibition was accompanied by a portfolio of the artist. Each portfolio consisted of a folder containing an artist statement, a biography and two prints. The portfolios were made in a limited edition and were intended for sale. A copy of each issue remained in the gallery. The series stopped after 2013. IvB)
Portfolio number 43 in the gallery's series has been released from Japanese artist Tada Masami. Tada Masami exhibited at Galerie Pennings in 2000. (He stayed in Eindhoven that year and was in contact with Paul and Hélène Panhuysen from the Apollo House. IvB) The funny figures he drew on the floor for the exhibition are still there. “On a window at the back of the gallery he had drawn the view from that window. That drawing has been preserved for years. Harry Pennings described this skyline in a radio program for the VPRO.”
The fragment "Spoken View" (VPRO "The Evenings" by Wim Noordhoek on April 14, 2003) can be listened to via the link below (the talk is in Dutch):
* Laura van den Broek is a student in art history at Radboud University in Nijmegen. For her internship at Pennings Foundation, she is researching the history of 40 years at Galerie Pennings.