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Question & Answer with Han Nefkens

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen posed several questions to the art collector, writer and patron, Han Nefkens. This summer there is an exhibition about the first ten years of his patronage in the Willem van der Vorm gallery. Are you also curious about the motives of an art collector or want to know how you too could become a patron?

How do you become a patron? 

Practically anyone can become a patron. It a question of engagement, not money. If twenty people each contribute a thousand euros you have enough to purchase a work of art or to fund a catalogue.

You are often called an unconventional collector. Can you explain this? 

That is perhaps because I do not desire to ‘possess’ the work but prefer to share my pleasure in it with others by immediately giving it on long-term loan to a museum, often as a ‘promised gift’. What also sets the collection apart is its international character, not only of the works themselves but also because they are housed in museums in different countries.

Have you always had a passion for contemporary art?  

No, it began around eleven years ago in New York. My best friend, who had recently become acquainted with contemporary art, opened my eyes to it and I discovered a new world, which I wanted to be part of.

What does Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen mean for you?  

My mother used to have guided tours of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and would come home with enthusiastic stories. It’s the place I loved to spend afternoons as a child looking at paintings, and it is the place to which I feel truly committed.

Does the H+F Collection have a cohesive character even though it is spread across several different museums?  

I think so because I have chosen each of the works personally. What links the works is that they have move med, that they have a certain poetic element, a modest and power and are sometimes mysterious.

Which of your purchases means the most to you and why? 

That would be ‘Children’ by Jeff Wall, because it was the first work I bought after recovering from a serious illness. The nine photographs of children are full of life and hope. That really appealed to me at the time, and still does.

Is private patronage the alternative to government arts funding, which is currently being slashed? 

Private patronage can never replace government funding of the arts, but can only supplement it. Art and culture are of crucial importance for everyone. The government must recognise that and act accordingly.