MEET THE GALLERY | O-68 | The Netherlands — VOLTA Art Fairs (2024)

Meet the galleryNYC

Written By Sidonie B

In this edition of Meet the Gallery, we catch up with Anne-Mie Emons Director of O-68 Gallery and previous Professor of Plant Cell biology. We discuss what questions she asks herself before selecting artists, the intersections between science and art, and find out about the artist she’s presenting a VOLTA New York later this Spring.

MEET THE GALLERY | O-68 | The Netherlands — VOLTA Art Fairs (1)

Firstly, Anne-Mie, welcome. Please tell us a bit about your gallery. Where are you based and when did O-68 begin?

Anne-Mie Emons: Art Gallery O-68 is based in Velp in the Netherlands and began in 2011 at location Oranjestraat 68 – hence the name. Velp is a small town 1hour from Amsterdam. We’re based in a building that was built as a gym in 1883. It’s been used as a church, and we moved here in 2019. Next door is Depot-O68, a beautiful Art Deco influenced villa that has works for sale by artists who exhibited in our gallery.

What sort of artists does O-68 represent?

Anne-Mie Emons: The choice of works by the gallery is explicitly based on the quality of contemporary art in the broad sense, not a specific technique or movement, as I believe there are no more movements or schools after 1990, just individual artists in a globalized environment. We have paintings, drawings, photos, installations and video. When choosing an artist, I ask myself four questions.

1) Do I Iike the work and is there an emotional appeal?

2) Is the work well-made with the highest mastery of the medium? The technical appeal.

3) Does it communicate the artist’s expertise? The credibility, ethics, appeal.

4) Does it address the present and calls action on the future? The relevance appeal.

This last one may be implicit, a message for the viewer about self, soul or society.

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How did O-68 begin?

Anne-Mie Emons: The name of the gallery is O-68 with O from Oranjestraat. After my retirement as a professor in Plant Cell biology at Wageningen University, I started the gallery. Before opening the gallery, I took five courses at Sotheby's Institute of Art in London (UK) that covered the practicalities of starting a gallery, business management, art fairs and art historical canons of contemporary and modern art. On the course about starting a gallery, the cohort was 20 students from 17 different countries.

What artists are you excited about now?

Anne-Mie Emons: Though I do appreciate abstraction in fine art very much, I am currently more open for works with narratives about climate, injustice, oppression, critique on religion, albeit this is most often implicit in the work. I am also excited about artists who push the limits of their medium. One of my artists, Daphne van de Velde, pushes photography to two sides starting with a performance and going from there to video, and photo of it, and from that to collage or even sculpture, a very interesting process of the making of an art work.

MEET THE GALLERY | O-68 | The Netherlands — VOLTA Art Fairs (3)

Can you tell us a bit about what drew you to Wieteke Heldens work – winner of the O-68 Award – and who you will be exhibiting at VOLTA New York in the Spring.

Anne-Mie Emons: The O-68 award is a €10,000 stipend given by the gallery once every three years to an artist who graduated 7 to 14 years before and was either born, lives, studied or works in the border provinces of the Netherlands, Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany and Flanders in Belgium. A professional jury chooses the 3 finalists from about 50 applications and after studio visits, my husband, John de Jong, and I choose the winner of those three. It is an international award that Wieteke won in 2017.

Wieteke Heldens is a painter. With abstract visual forms and processes she explores systems of meaning and states of mattering. Her works often start with precisely sized, un-primed canvases, the sizes in centimetres reflect meaningful numbers in her life. Other times, she uses found materials that aggregate around her and she feels the need to use them, such as paper bags that come with takeout, medical and insurance bills, gallery checklists, and useless informational leaflets that come with various consumer products.

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MEET THE GALLERY | O-68 | The Netherlands — VOLTA Art Fairs (5)

She establishes meaning, purpose, and systems of relation. Discarded materials suddenly have a purpose, and she feels entrusted with the duty to use them to their fullest extent. She also uses found or repurposed paint, markers, pencil, and pens and uses every last bit of pigment. Her practice frequently involves the creation of rule-based systems, specific to each work or series. She plays with language so that titles simultaneously hint at a meaning and destabilize its interpretation.

Wieteke's working method is not only about a large number of brushstrokes or stripes, or other actions, but also about the finiteness of them. The felt-tip pen runs out. All wrinkles in the paper have been discovered.

She works until the felt-pen is empty, the paint exhausted. She shows us the finiteness of things and points to finiteness of herself, of us, of our world. The intensity of her work, makes me, the onlooker, feel the intensity of life itself. Wieteke Heldens’s at first sight abstract works implicitly scrape self, soul and society.

Why is it important for O-68 to host the award?

Anne-Mie Emons: The O-68 award aims to stimulate artists in a period that is a turning point for many in their careers. It is comparable to what I have seen in the careers of scientists too. The good artists of those who have just graduated from art university receive lots of attention. However, even if you have achieved things, it is hard to get going alongside other life events such as building a family. Artists need to earn enough money and some form of help is needed to make an artistic career seem possible. The selection criteria are quality of work and a plan for how to apply the prize money for the development of the artist’s own career. It encourages the applicants to think about where they really stand professionally, where they want to go and what is needed to get there. It’s not only the artists who win the prize or those who are finalists, but others also thank me for what is a helpful developmental exercise.

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We also noted that you’re were a professor of Science. How did your journey and transition into the art world start?

Anne-Mie Emons: Until my retirement I was full time Professor of Plant Cell Biology at Wageningen University, a most fantastic job. My group investigated the production of cellulose microfibrils. Cellulose is the main substance in plant cell walls and is used in making paper, threads for cloth, and many other products. With a diversity of techniques, such as electron microscopes, confocal laser scanning microscopy and video microscopy we studied living cells. For a cell biologist looking is the most important aspect of learning. Living cells are among the most beautiful objects on earth. As a result, the cell biologist develops a profound, deep, sense for non-everyday beauty. In addition, John (my husband) and I have been collecting works of art since 1977 so I had some knowledge about art business and the courses at Sotheby’s in London provided professionalization.

Do you see science and art as interlinked and is this reflected in the artists that you now represent?

Anne-Mie Emons: The research done by scientists unravels the world we live in. If done well, they find facts unknown before. The scientific method is the process of objectively establishing facts through observation, testing and experimentation. And replicating! Artists talk about doing research as well. It is of a different type of research, and it cannot be replicated as a scientific experiment should be. Artists do not find knowledge about the physical world we live in. They find knowledge by observation about how we perceive the world we inhabit. This difference is inherent in the two disciplines and will not change.

The way I work has important similarities. In my job as gallerist a very important aspect is like leading a science research group - helping young, and sometimes not so young, people structure their career. I think what is the same is the search for quality, honesty, originality and authenticity, intensity. And of course… the hours of hard work.

O-68 is based in Velp in the Netherlands and is a contemporary art gallery, offering space to established, national and international artists with working across mediums.

See O-68at this years VOLTA New York from MAY 17-21

In the meantime see more of their work here and follow O-68 on Instagram at @artgalleryo68

Sidonie B

MEET THE GALLERY | O-68 | The Netherlands — VOLTA Art Fairs (2024)
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