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Tableau Fine Arts Magazine column 2022

"Riding in a taxi through New York, I carried with me a valuable, custom-made suitcase. After an hour of driving, I arrived at a country estate filled with all kinds of animals, including chickens, goats, and cattle. The owner came out of his house and asked how my journey had been, his eyes fixing on the suitcase with curious intent. Inside the suitcase was Mother, a small oil painting by Jan Mankes, the "most tranquil painter of Holland," who created it in 1911. The owner opened the suitcase, examined the painting, and let out a sigh of relief. I asked him if he had a place in mind to hang it. "Of course I have!" he exclaimed. A small room then opened up, filled with paintings by Jan Mankes, five of which were displayed on the wall. I had seen these works before, but never all together in their full glory. The result was stunning. "Thank you Bob, I'm very happy with this new one. Now, go find me another one, will you?"

Jan Mankes in New York

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Sold: Jan Mankes, Mother (1911), oil op canvas on panel, 17 x 14 cm. 

The past year has been all about Jan Mankes. After buying a collection of Mankes prints and putting them on my website, I received an email from an American collector. He expressed his interest in Mankes' sensitive and tender works and asked if I could keep him informed of any offerings on the Dutch market. He felt like he always missed out and needed someone in the Netherlands who was ready and quick to act.

The entire oeuvre of Jan Mankes consists of about 180 paintings, of which at least half are already in Dutch museum collections. Collectors who own works by Jan Mankes rarely sell them, so perhaps one or two paintings appear on the market each year, if you're lucky. That's exactly what I wrote back to the American collector. But, I assured him, I would keep my eyes and ears open.

PAN Fine Art Fair 2021

The search for paintings by Jan Mankes began last year at the annual PAN Fine Art Fair. I was working for Tableau Magazine when I walked into Ivo Bouwman's booth, Art Dealer in The Hague. That's where I saw the oil painting Lelieveld (approx. 1912) hanging from the corner of my eye, which had recently been displayed at the Jan Mankes exhibition "The Reality Not" at Museum More. A beautiful, dreamy work of a field of lilies at night. Under the motto of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I asked about the price and condition of the artwork. On the way home on the metro, I emailed the American collector about the painting. Within two minutes, I received a reply and after some haggling over the price, I was able to close the deal that same night. Things can move that fast. It was clear: the American was not only a great lover of art, but also a serious client with an insatiable desire for Jan Mankes. To fulfill his needs, I reached out to several dealers and collectors to see if they could find any paintings by Jan Mankes. "Bob, what kind of question is this? These paintings come rarely on the market." This was roughly the response I received. But less than a week later, I found the painting Roses and Lily in a Glass (1912). And two weeks later, another painting: Jug with Heather (1911). And now, Mother (1911).

To America

Normally, these paintings are shipped by a specialized transport company, but this time the American collector was in a hurry. The painting had to be in New York by June 12th. It was June 6th and no transport company could guarantee delivery on time. That's why I decided to book a KLM flight ticket myself to deliver the painting personally. I had a custom-made suitcase made and had the export papers ready, so I could walk straight through customs. At least, that was my hope. It took a bit of time to explain at JFK airport what I was doing with such a valuable work of art, but after an hour, I was able to proceed the borders.

And in ten years? The Jan Mankes collector intends to return his collection to The Netherlands. Because he also believes that Jan Mankes belongs nowhere else but in The Netherlands. It is now exactly one year later, and there are now six paintings in the Mankes room in New York. And you never know what painting will come to the surface this year."

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