A brief interview with Caroline Van Hoek
Image courtesy of Caroline Van Hoek
KR: Your gallery is located in a space that looks as though it’s still a humble food market. How does the everyday nature of the grocery store reflect the subtleties and universality of artworks in contemporary jewelry?
CVH: Humble is not an aspect I saw in it first although there is a lot of humbleness involved as well !
I recognized going to this kind of shop with my mother and seeing the owner taking extra care of her, she was never the big supermarket kind. He knew what kind of apples she wanted; he knew she liked her tomatoes in this way and not another way. He knew when he could have a season specialty which one he could put aside for her. He would carry it out, keeps things aside. Everything was stacked high and all over and he could still find exactly what he needed. This is the similarity with the current activity of the place. It occurred naturally to my mind, without thinking.
Do you see the gallery as an artwork in and of itself?
I never did, although people start to know of it as “the grocery store” and either they understand or it makes them think and hopefully they get it.
You are also located in an area with other contemporary art galleries. What is the overall reception of your space and of the work you carry in relation to those other galleries? Is it considered equal to the art world on a local level?
Here as for any other jewelry gallery in the world, jewelry is starting to gain more attention in general as a collector’s item. Most people do not know there is something else than high jewelry, couture jewelry, artist jewelry or fashion jewelry. All the types can exist with each other. The most important factor in this comparison is “qualitative” jewelry. “Qualitative” jewelry will gain attention and rise in value, whether it is a nice Cartier piece, a great Chanel bracelet or a Picasso pendant.
Just like many others in our field, it seems that a big part of your mission as an art-jewelry gallerist is to show jewelry from different perspectives than most people outside our sphere are used to. Would you like to speak a bit about your writing projects and what kind of language you’ve needed to develop to do so?
There is not one single answer to that. It’s like when people buy art, some want a whole explanation, some others just want to look at a piece and fall in love with it. As a gallery you feel when is the right level of education necessary for which audience.
What is the importance of travel to your gallery and attending international events like Design Miami for example; events not solely related to contemporary jewelry?
When I started there were some established galleries around. Brussels and Amsterdam are only two hours away from each other. You have to take your ball and find new friends to play with.
How often do you find yourself giving a comprehensive explanation for the type of gallery you have; Would you define your role as a gallerist somewhat similar to that of an educator?
Yes, every day, all day. To everyone, schools, clients and press.
Recently you have celebrated the 5th anniversary of your gallery. Can you talk a bit about the exhibition, This was 2007?
It is a very personal exhibition and based upon a very limited time frame. It just illustrates how little my environment was when I opened the gallery. It shows work from people I was in touch with, or work that impressed me and work from some artists with whom we work now. It is only a recollection of some interaction. Not a selection based on quality whatsoever.
What would you say has been accomplished since you’ve opened your doors?
Too much to say ! I had nothing and knew nothing, no experience in galleries, no clients, no acquaintances in Brussels, nothing.
What should we look for in the next five years to come?
Hmm, I am dying for some more organization and structure, the rest is a secret :0)
Caroline Van Hoek is a contemporary art jewelry gallery located in Brussels, Belgium.
“Open since 04.10.2007.
Previously a grocery store, the outside facade has been left exactly as it was, to honor what it represents. The local shop around the corner, the close contact with the clientele, the seasonal availability of goods, the limited number of groceries and the respect for the individuality.”
Please visit the gallery website —> here.
Note: This interview was conducted in the fall of 2012 and originally destined for AJF, facilitated by Susan Cummins. Alternatively, ≥ has the pleasure of posting it and thanks Caroline for her participation.