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From Collecting to Caring


Love at first sight really does exist. When I saw the exhibition Pipilotti Rist: Remake of the Weekend at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in May 1999, I was absorbed in the universe Rist created with her videos. I smelled the wet earth, I felt her skin against mine, and I swayed along with her singing voice. When I left the museum two and a half hours later, I knew I wanted to be a part of that world and share what moved me with other people.

Since I’m not an artist, the only way to do so is by collecting work that is shown at art institutions. The first work I bought was a video installation by Pipilotti Rist that is now on long-term loan as a promised gift at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen along with 450 other works lent to different museums.

Along the way, I found out that many artists, even well-known ones, often find it difficult to finance new productions. So, instead of buying art I started to commission new works in collaboration with art institutions. The directors and curators of the museums and I would discuss proposals from different artists, and I was able to follow the creative process from inception up until completion. I saw that the end product would often be very different from the initial idea and I realised that making art was not the rigid execution of a fixed plan, but an organic process where changes are made along the way. I took that as an example of how I wanted my Foundation to work. 

I also got involved in the production of cutting-edge fashion and I created ArtAids, a Foundation that fights the stigma around HIV/Aids through art, a subject close to my heart since I have been living with HIV since 1987. I even set up grants for Spanish-speaking writers. However, as time went by, I began to realise that since these projects were situated in such different disciplines, they did not strengthen each other. On the contrary, the identity of my Foundation had blurred, and my efforts, both financially and attention-wise, were too scattered.

That is why in 2016, I decided to focus exclusively on my first love, video art. The Han Nefkens Foundation now supports emerging international video artists through Awards, Production Grants and Mentorship Grants. We work intensively with artists in a made-to-measure way, according to each artist’s needs. We not only produce new work with them and find international platforms to show that work, but we also finance residencies abroad, produce books, purchase working tools such as new cameras, find technical support, bring them into contact with art institutions and other artists, and we take care of travel arrangements and red tape. Equally important, we serve as a sounding board and provide curatorial assistance if required.

The approach of the Foundation is both personal and personalised in an effort to give artists the most precious commodity we have: our time.


Han Nefkens © Roberto Ruiz

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