Decollected

Over the last four decades, Otto L. Schaap has built an impressive collection of contemporary art, with a strong focus on works by Dutch artists. His collection is a beautiful reflection of Dutch contemporary art. But, after enjoying these works for so long, how does one go about decollecting? In January 2019 I started registering the collection of Otto L. Schaap, after which I was asked to assist the process of de collecting. On behalf of Otto I have consulted with museums and auction houses to find new locations for these wonderful works of art.

Otto Schaap, 2012. Photo: Thijs Wolzak | Human Interior.

I wrote a short text about Otto and his collection:

Upon entering the home of Otto L. Schaap, it is immediately clear, this is the home of a passionate collector. The walls of the hallway present a beautiful selection of paintings and drawings from Otto’s collection, and every room in the house is filled with the extraordinary and diverse artworks that Otto has collected over the last several decades. Works of art are displayed on the walls, over the fireplace and even on the dinner table. Sometimes, when I have not visited the house for a while, I notice a change: a sculpture is suddenly displayed sideways, or a portrait on top of a cabinet has been moved a few centimetres to the right. Otto’s collection is always in motion, as it is constantly curated by a loving collector. 

Otto’s love for art derived from his parents, who maintained a small collection of antiques and several 18th-century paintings. The family often visited museums as well. Otto’s collection has always been focused on contemporary art. He bought his first artwork in 1974, when friends from Utrecht visited him in Amsterdam. They were on their way to see an exhibition at gallery Petit, and they invited him to join. According to Otto, at this exhibition, he was immediately drawn to a work by the artist William Kuik, who later became known as Dirkje Kuik after a gender reassignment surgery in 1979. When Otto purchased the drawing, he did not yet know that he was at the start of several decades of serious collecting. 

Artworks from the collection of Otto L. Schaap at the Post-war and Contemporary Auction, Christie’s Amsterdam, 2019.

Many collectors focus on one medium or even one artist. Otto’s collection is different in that regard; it is eclectic. When I asked him about this aspect, he explained that he particularly appreciates the diversity. He did follow certain artists throughout their careers, and he bought works from them during various periods; however, he also ‘could not resist also looking at what other artists did’. When I asked him to identify his favourite work in his collection, I expected it to be a challenging question, but he had his answer immediately ready: The Unicorn by Stephan Balkenhol. The unicorn is a strong iconographic symbol in art history, which Otto noted as one reason for his appreciation of the work. When I asked him which factors are decisive when buying a work of art, he answered, ‘it should be aesthetic; however, just as important is that it is somehow interesting’. Otto and I allowed our eyes to wander the walls of his living room to decide if any artwork was interesting but not aesthetic, we found no cases. We ultimately decided that art might need to be both aesthetic and interesting, and these two characteristics, and may be inextricably linked’.