Since having donated over 100 artworks to the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 2013, a selection of Pieter and Marieke Sanders’ collection is now being presented in dialogue with the museum’s existing collection. Unseen speaks to the Sanders about how they began their collection, tips on how to start, and their donation to the Stedelijk.

You have been collecting art for over forty years. How did it all begin? What was your first purchase? We both come from collecting families, so it’s really something that we’ve both grown up with. When we first got to know each other we would go to galleries and museums together. This love of looking at art eventually became an itch to live around art. Our first purchases were paintings, works by Elizabeth de Vaal and Jef Diederen, but at a certain moment we moved onto photography, think Lon de Vries-Robbé and Michael Raedecker.

The works you collect are mainly those of young and unknown artists. How do you make these selections? When it comes to buying art we really try to find artists that present new concepts or ideas; we like to spot trends before they happen. It’s a knack that has developed from years of regularly visiting art fairs, galleries and museums, although we feel that art fairs give the best overview of what is currently taking place in the art world at any given time. We also make it a point to talk to gallerists and to meet the artists when we can, that’s when you really get an insight into what’s going on.

Art fairs really play a big part in our method of collecting. We attend many internationally, whether in Basel, Miami, Berlin or Madrid. Even at the more established art fairs it’s possible to see the emerging talents, especially at the side fairs. To us they present a young energy in the art world, the ones to look out for, and this is what we’re drawn to.

Do you collect as a couple or as two individuals? Namely, do you share the same taste, or do you have your individual purchases and favourites? As we attend fairs and galleries together, we really look at purchasing as a team. It’s really become quite a refined system over the years. We’ll be at a fair and sometimes we can communicate our preferences with even just the blink of an eye. We do have a veto-system in place though, so if one of us vetoes, then we don’t make the purchase.

What’s really important is that we feel a connection with the piece. We really tend to fall for works that mirror something deep inside. It’s difficult to express in words, and sometimes discussing it really isn’t necessary – it’s more about being moved by an image. That’s when we decide to buy a piece.

How have your tastes changed over the years of collecting? Do you see any correlation with what's popular at a given period? You grow over the years. You learn how to look better, to see more, and to really see things which you previously might have overlooked. This is how we spot trends, or how we end up buying what other people might not necessarily be interested in. We’ve also learned to scan expositions more quickly.

Our collection started with paintings and small objects, but has since changed to collecting newer media, photographs and video works. We find that these works present a new reality. You learn to see reality from a different point of view and the artist’s reality becomes your own. This aspect is really something that we’ve been drawn to more and more. Whose reality is it? That’s the question you need to ask yourself, the question that art makes you ask yourself.

Do you have any tips for young collectors looking to purchase art? The first would be to look a lot, and look around. See as much art as you can see. At the same time, you need to keep an open heart. Be curious. What does the artist have to say? Does the message reach me?

Then there comes the point where you need to make a choice, even if you don’t buy anything. Although, saying that, you should buy. In purchasing a work of art, you make a commitment. That commitment is what you need to really and truly appreciate art. You buy it and you grow – it’s part of your personal development.

We strongly believe in last point and have even taught it to our own children. At a young age we brought them to an art fair and gave them a small sum to purchase a piece of work that resonated with them. It’s safe to say that they have also grown up to be collectors too.

Now, for the first time, a selection of work from your donation to the Stedelijk Museum will be shown in dialogue with the Stedelijk’s existing collection. What do you hope people will take away from the exhibition? First of all, we gave this collection as a gift to show our appreciation for the museum – its reopening and becoming, once again, one of the country’s foremost art institutions. In doing so, we hope that people will follow; this is why the exhibition is titled Addition, we hope there will be many more.

To coincide with this, we also made a book about living with art and the transformation that took place when it was brought to the Stedelijk. We wanted to show how much fun it is and how much richness living with art brings into your life. It brings new ideas and energy, opening you up to new development. At the same time, the book communicates the importance of context, it is important to recognise the change that takes place when a work of art moves from one location to the next. We hope that people can enjoy the collection now at the Stedelijk as much as we did having it at home.

The book OBJECT ONDER/OBJECT BELOW was produced in collaboration with Julie Peeters, Johannes Schwartz, Cornel Bierens and Maria Barnas, and will be available for purchase at Unseen 2015.

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