Having a history that paved the path for it, producing a vast group of amazing image-makers, unique artists with their personal aesthetics doing well on the international art market, such as Viviane Sassen, Erwin Olaf, Rineke Djikstra, Inez & Vinoodh and many, many more; with its institutions and galleries, Amsterdam today represents a rich culture of photography.
In this city so open towards photography, and just outside of the touristic center, within only 10 min walk from the Central Station, there is an area called Westerdok with its old-style charming docks, harbors and re-imagined ancient warehouses. This is the place where you will find surely the best contemporary photography gallery in Amsterdam.
'Horse And Rider'| ©Freudenthal/Verhagen | Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery
The Ravestijn Gallery was founded in 2012 by Jasper Bode and Narda Van ‘t Veer focusing on, and championing conceptual contemporary photography. Working in the field of photography for over 25 years on two continents, Bode and van ‘t Veer respectively bring together decades of experience curating photography exhibitions and representing a diverse group of photographic talents.
The Gallery represents both Dutch and international artists whose work combines strong aesthetics with deeper conceptual layers that push the boundaries of the medium.
Self Service, 2006 | ©Inez&Vinoodh | Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery
“We are specialized in photography, but also anything that has to do with it,” says Bode and continues: “We live with photography. We are representing and looking for artists who use photography as a basis, who add another layer to it; building the story; who try and play around photography as a medium. For example, at the last edition of the Art Rotterdam fair we presented a solo show comprising of framed photographs combined with life-size sculptures by the artist Mariken Wessels – entitled Arising from the Ground.”
Amsterdam based Wessels was sufficiently inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s little-known studies of the motion of an obese person that she bought from an auction and embarked on a series of photographs, films and sculptures.
As I walked in the Ravestijn gallery on that beautiful sunny day, I was suddenly surrounded by the portraits of the exhibition “Love me” by the artist Robin de Puy.
The portraits in this exhibition had nothing in common at first glance. From a model named Birk on his way to fame to Randy, an adolescent boy who grows up in Ely, Nevada. There were portraits of young people and of elderly people, of broken shopping trolleys and of worn out hands. Beautiful and ugly. But does ugly actually exist? Not in the images of Robin de Puy. She finds beauty in what others regard as unsightly.
Unexpected, moving beauty is what links the photos in the exhibition. And in every image De Puy is present. As a photographer she determines who participates in her photographic world, she is the director. And in her world everyone has a very specific, undeniable beauty.
This is exactly one of so many precious things you can find at The Ravestijn gallery; this commitment to exploring new photography perspectives and a dedication to nurturing young talent, which largely contributes to the gallery's relevance in today’s rich contemporary photography landscape.
In addition to its exhibition program, participation in international fairs and museum exhibitions, the gallery holds an expansive collection of 20th century and contemporary photographs, and houses an impressive photography library with over 3.000 titles.
Distinguishing factor from the others in the field is as well the fact that The Ravestijn gallery gives a lot of attention to their on-line presence. As Bode in one of his interviews said: “With the emergence of online platforms and specific websites, buying and collecting art has become easier for everyone. The digital revolution created a brand new clientele in the art world and made the artworks more attainable and visible worldwide.”
Asking him about the artists they represent, among many others, Bode points out French fine art photographer Vincent Fournier. Fascinated by science and technologies, Fournier explores the future of our societies and the biological changes to come. His photographs are between fantasy and reality, showing us the next innovations to come and what could happen to our civilization.
“His show ‘Space Utopia’ collects over a decade of Fournier’s work on space exploration on earth. His photography evokes a tenacious nostalgia toward the science fiction of the twentieth century and reflects both the past, present, and future of international space travel. The exhibition consisted of photos from various international space stations and research centers, this was his third show at the Ravestijn Gallery.”
Black Helmet NASA | ©Vincent Fournier | Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery
Bode also mentions his admiration for the work of a Swedish-born, Berlin based artist Eva Stenram. Stenram's photographic practice brings together analogical archival material and digital manipulation, sifting through past and present artifacts, interacting with and re-interpreting the imagery she encounters.
Negatives, slides, magazines, images from the Internet and photographic prints are her source of inspiration as well as working material. These photographs are sometimes scanned, sometimes re-photographed, and subsequently changed through digital, analogue or physical manipulation leading to fantastic and arresting images.
When talking about the new movements in contemporary art photography, Bode explains: “There are new movements, of course. And if you want to go and look at the extreme, have a look at Nico Krijno. He is a young South-African artist. I saw some of his work on-line, and I was immediately gripped by it. In his studio Krijno builds installations of wood, fabrics, plants, and other materials, which he then photographs, only to cut them up digitally afterwards, ‘painting’ with the digital information of the images. Through this practice he achieves his unique and distinguished visual language that resonates with many artists working today.”
Hawequas, 2016 | ©Nico Krijno | Courtesy of The Ravestijn Gallery
As of 2018 The Ravestijn Gallery is representing the famous photographers duo Inez & Vinoodh, known for their fearless and adventurous photography. The Dutch, New York-based, artists Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin are partners and collaborators whose practice moves between genres and media, pop-culture, fashion and art.
“The duo has been exploring and pushing the boundaries of art and fashion photography for over three decades. In the early 1990's they were at the forefront of using new developments in digital technology for photography, paired with a bold aesthetic sensibility, which resulted in a signature style that has become the world-famous brand: Inez & Vinoodh.” Their friendship goes back to the time when they were students at the prestigious Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. In fact from 1990 till 1997 when Inez left for New York, Jasper Bode was her agent.
“We wanted to publish a new book with triptychs. Combining 3 images, creating an almost abstract storyline. But a tryptic on a two page spread didn’t work. So we quickly came to the conclusion that it would be best to show our triptychs on the wall.”
Therefor they discussed the idea with Jasper Bode and The Ravestijn Gallery, and easily agreed on collaboration.
Inez & Vinoodh have created ground-breaking editorials for such publications as American, French, Japanese and Italian Vogue, V Magazine, Visionaire, The New York Times Magazine, The Gentlewoman, and W Magazine, as well as campaigns for Balenciaga, Balmain, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Isabel Marant, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, Valentino and Yohji Yamamoto.
Their work has been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally including the Stedelijk Museum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Deichtor hallen in Hamburg and the Whitney Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. A retrospective show titled PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING 1985-2010 began its international tour at FOAM, Amsterdam in the summer of 2010 and has since travelled to the Pavillion Bienal in Sao Paulo, the Dallas Contemporary in Dallas and Fotografiska in Stockholm. In the Spring of 2019 Inez & Vinoodh will open the new Fotografiska in New York.