Adopter stories: “We always had the goal to take art out of the white cube, fashion off the catwalk and design from the pedestal”

Stork’s project SALON/ is a series of exhibitions in metropolitan cities that aims to instigate a discussion and dialogue between art, design and fashion, bringing commerce back to historic neighborhoods.

Featured image: Studio Noman for Istanbul design biennial, photo by Jan Willem Kaldenbach

The questions of cultural identity and national values are becoming an issue in political and cultural debate in the Netherlands. Artists, curators and art institutions are looking at art as means of contemplating contemporary society.

Gijs Stork is one of the curators who tend to put his ideas of national identity under pressure in order to examine and challenge the processes of inclusion and exclusion. The concept of his exhibitions is to reflect the scattered worldview and to bring together the multitude of voices of Dutch artists and designers.

What do the notions of being Dutch and being a Dutch curator mean nowadays? What does national identity mean in a time of global migration? What are the narratives that help artists to research contemporary life with its cross-cultural identity and narratives, utopian concepts and the new periphery of our world view? How does one take on institutional critique and reframe iconic images?

The field of art is a unique lens through which one can examine the forms and concepts underpinning current moods of the society and most timely questions. Gijs Stork shared with us his views on contemporary curating and the enriching phenomenon of multidisciplinarity.

Photo by RVDA

What had inspired you to become a curator?
Coming from a family of art collectors and culture lovers, my whole life was filled with visits to museums, churches and contemporary art exhibitions. It was a logical step to study Art History at the University of Amsterdam. During my studies I worked in galleries, managed exhibitions and had an internship at Documenta IX, when Jan Hoet was curating it. After my thesis I started working for a private collector and philanthropist, travelling the world to support and collect art. At that moment we started Artimo Foundation, which became a well-known artbook publisher. In 11 years of its existence we published around 750 books in the fields of art, fashion and design and several magazines including Foam magazine, Manifesta magazine and Archis. After 2005 we continued under the name of Veenman Publishers. After 17 years I’ve left the publishing business in order to become a curator once again. I was curator at Castle Keukenhof, founded SALON/, started the non-profit art space Magazijn, founded X-BANK, which is a one-of-a-kind concept store and art exhibition space set in the historic building of the W Hotel Amsterdam, showcasing over 180 Dutch art, fashion and design labels and hosting unique programming year-round, ultimately aiming to bring the community together to celebrate Dutch creativity. Next to it I worked on many projects as an independent curator in Holland and abroad in Turkey, China, South Africa, Aruba, Russia, France and the US.

.ART is a global community, switching to this domain zone is a no-brainer for the whole worldwide art scene.

Currently I am working on SALON/craft in Amsterdam, a design museum, Dutch Creativity Festival, a big Amsterdam Identity project and hopefully on a Salon project in Casablanca. At the same time, I have a growing interest in supporting young musicians with monthly jazz concerts at the Stork Club in Magazijn and at the Amsterdam Grachtenfestival.

Anouk Griffioen at Magazijn

How would you define your practice?
I like to work on creating a platform, a hub. Thanks to my background in the arts I have a specific interest in all creative practices, mainly by emerging artists and designers.

 Support of contemporary art is well developed and engrafted in the Dutch society from an early age. Art institutions and businesses in the Netherlands are aimed at the active support and popularization of Dutch contemporary art and design. Few examples: Het Nieuwe Insituut – art institute, which aims to increase the appreciation of the cultural and social significance of architecture, design and digital culture and to strengthen the interaction between these disciplines. It functions not as a classical museum, but as an academy boosting the knowledge through research, symposiums and exhibitions. X-Bank – concept store and exhibition space in the middle of Amsterdam, showcasing Dutch art, fashion and design labels.

You have worked with both of these institutions (e.g. Het Nieuwe Insituut) and brands (e.g. X-Bank). What was the most exciting thing about these collaborations?
I tried to focus on providing a platform for young talented artists, designers and fashion designers. I was involved in production process and presentation and made sure they are known to the world. I always stimulate cross-disciplinary collaborations and promote trans-historical presentations.

‘in communion of goods’ artwork by sema bekirovic, ice compressor, copper tubing, ice in the 6-artist exhibition POTLUCK 1

Tell us about your project SALON/. What is the general concept?
SALON/, founded in 2010, was originally initiated by Manon Schaap, Cathal McKee and me. It is a series of exhibitions and events, which already took place in Amsterdam, Istanbul, Beijing, Paris and Buenos Aires. We have always focused on ‘in situ’ installations and presentations, blurring the borders between art, design and fashion. It is important to mention, that SALON/, apart from breaking the walls between disciplines, always focused on the dialogue between creator and spectator, locations and the city and last but not least: between different cultures. This project revives interest and brings commerce back to the historic neighborhoods with the help of new contemporary input and the method of re-framing. We always had the goal to take art out of the white cube, fashion off the catwalk and design from the pedestal! And to show all these disciplines in surprising locations, thus motivating participants to work cross-disciplinary and involve traditional crafts in the contemporary art and design practice.

Social media is for quick wins, but the world wide web is our archive.

What do you hope visitors take away from your exhibitions?
I hope to create context for them to be more open-minded, more informed and inspired by the process and the story behind objects, both historical and contemporary ones.

Why have you decided to combine the themes of art, design and fashion in your curatorial practice?
The main idea was that everyone lives in the same time frame and that artists and designers react to it in several ways, but still coming from the same angle. Another idea was to look further than your own discipline – enriching process, combining the best talent and experiences in several fields and reaching new sublime result.

Do you believe that these themes are often facing each other in contemporary Dutch culture? Is it interdisciplinary in its core?
Ten years ago, it wasn’t interdisciplinary, by nowadays it is quite common. The Netherlands have always been very strong when it comes to art and design education with institutions like Rietveld, Sandberg, Artez, Design Academy Einhoven, the Rijksakademie and the Ateliers. We have amazing art and design collections brought together in our national contemporary art institutes. From my point of view Holland has the densest museum visibility in the world. The Dutch are very much accustomed to cross-disciplinary thinking.

How would you describe the Dutch art scene?  What is it you like the most?
The Dutch art scene is mainly very well educated and has a strong international focus. The program and the management of Stedelijk museum Amsterdam is a key to the functioning of the whole art scene. Great expectations of the upcoming Rein Wolfs’s (new director of Stedelijk) era!

What is the exhibition ritual of the 21st century?
More content and storytelling oriented and less object driven.

Why do you choose to have website even though you have popular accounts on social media?
We all need websites; most people don’t pay enough attention to archiving. We tend to forget that social media has a very limited attention span. Thanks to websites we can secure our heritage and go more in depth. Social media is for quick wins, but the world wide web is our archive.

You have recently switched your online presence to .ART. What was the main reason for it?
.ART is a global community, switching to this domain zone is a no-brainer for the whole worldwide art scene.

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Daria Kravchuk
Daria Kravchuk
is a curator and art manager with an MA in Museology from Amsterdam University. Her international projects are focused on the intersection of contemporary art, architecture, urban planning and anthropology. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.