In the summer months, the attendance at my International Rotary Club in Utrecht dwindles because people go on holiday. The regular fortnightly dinner meetings are suspended in July and August, making way for special excursions that individual members propose.
One such event, organised by our youngest club member Sophie from New Zealand, was a private tour of the largest contemporary art gallery in Utrecht. She even brought nice wines for an elegant gathering on a warm summer’s eve.
What do art galleries have to do with music? Our experience of giving a small concert in the art gallery in Brugge, Belgium made us curious — can music attract people to come to an exhibition? It’s less formal than a concert hall.
Strategically situated in a corner building on the south end of the famous Oudegracht, Galerie Utrecht spans two floors – the ground floor and the lower ground (or canal level). The owner Eric Morren told us that it would soon be renamed with his surname for Galerie Utrecht has locations in Amsterdam on the prestigious Prinsengracht and elsewhere.
Morren led us through the gallery, introducing various paintings and sculptures on display. I truly value a guided tour by someone who knows the artists so intimately. I could see why the sale prices ranged from 500 to 10,000 euros. By telling us the reputation of the artists and the techniques they used, he educated us about art. He explained that the prices displayed were the minimum prices. I didn’t understand that — no haggling?
18 years ago Morren started the gallery with an exhibition in his one-room art studio downstairs. Over time, he gradually acquired more space and expanded to the two floors and beyond. He has a huge mailing list and his own publication. There is even a state-of-the-art kitchen downstairs for culinary events via FoodJazz&DJS.
Every single item in Morren’s art gallery has personal meaning to him, because he has gone through the process of obtaining the artwork for exhibition. He has developed relationships with the artists. In a similar vein, every single item in our homes bears meaning to ourselves in the same way. Perhaps that’s why it’s difficult to part with them.
I spotted a huge painting on the way to the toilet. It was nearly hidden in the small hallway where there was hardly any space to view the large painting. The price tag was €34,000. I asked him if that was the most expensive item on sale. Morren replied,”No. That’s not for sale. I own it. I just didn’t have anywhere in my house to put it.”
Scanning the 16-page “Galerie Utrecht Journal” issue June – August 2010, I see the world of contemporary art in Utrecht and elsewhere. How nice it would be to have my own equivalent for music — a Monument House Music Journal and a big mailing list. Would it also take 18 years to build? It’s already our 5th year of Monument House Concert productions.