Trust Your Instincts
Pien Rademakers’ eponymous gallery expresses her unwavering vision—especially uplifting cross-disciplinary women artists
Since launching her gallery 15 years ago. Pien Rademakers has had a clear-eyed vision of the kind of work she wants to represent. The common thread is objects that are unapologetically cross-disciplinary, boldly atypical, and enlivened by unexpected narratives—especially those created by women working at the intersection of art, design, fashion, and sustainability. Though Rademakers Gallery's program isn't new, it is exceedingly on the pulse of this moment, resonating with the rising generation of collectors.
We connected with Radmakers as she was wrapping up her gallery’s participation in PAN Amsterdam and asked her to tell us more about her gallery’s distinct focus.
What path led you to launch Rademakers Gallery, and how did it manifest your vision?
When I studied art history two things struck me at once. Art historians love to categorize everything: garden architecture, architecture, design, painting, etc. And I didn't! I love crossovers and different disciplines influencing each other.
The other remarkable thing was the fact that there were no women artists in all my literature—they were just pushed out of history and forgotten. By mainly writing essays about women, I tried—little by little—to write them back into the history books. I also chose to specialize in contemporary art, because this is a dynamic living field that is still open to interpretation.
Later on, I tried to bring all these things together in my gallery. I represent over 35 women artists, and I still love artists who combine several disciplines and media!
Having launched in 2007, you must have felt the effects of the financial crisis that followed the next year. How did you experience that as a new owner of a contemporary gallery? Did it change anything about your program?
No, it did not. Of course, a crisis—then a financial one and now the corona crisis—is always difficult. Every entrepreneur must deal with the circumstances, and a gallery owner is no exception. But I think one never should make concessions. I still take risks, for example by representing young talent like Yamuna Forzani.
Crises have also taught me to focus not on the now, but on the future. I, for instance, hired three young people during the corona crisis. I concentrated more on online and social media, and it really paid off.
I also learned that vision is important, and you should always trust your own instincts. A clear and confident vision attracts collectors. They trust your opinion and will support you more easily. In that sense I also would also like to thank my collectors for trusting me and helping me through tough times.
You specialize in work at the intersection of the traditional boundaries of art, design, and fashion. Why does this kind of work in particular resonate with you? How does it resonate with the times?
As I mentioned, these intersections have interested me from the start. I think because the concept of crossovers and all-rounders really resonates with me as a person. I never really fit in. I was (and still am) really dyslectic and extremely energetic. I am very lucky to have supporting parents who always told me that I could trust my creativity.
That’s also why I want to fight for people who are different and don’t want to limit themselves to a singular medium. For example, Iris van Herpen who combines art, technology, and fashion in her futuristic designs. Or Kiki van Eijk, both artist and designer. She works with textile, porcelain, mirror, and glass and doesn’t limit herself in anything. Joana Schneider is also a good example of this; she can do anything she puts her mind to. She is educated as a jewelry and fashion designer and now creates sustainable art and jewelry. I find that really inspiring and am very proud to present these artists.
Tell us more about your focus on female artists and sustainability?
I’ve always focused on female artists. I am myself a female entrepreneur and gallery owner, and certainly when I started this was very rare.
Five years ago, I started integrating sustainability in the gallery. Before that, I was already incorporating sustainability in my personal life by eating vegetarian, only buying vintage, etc. I am of course no Saint Mary when it comes to sustainability, but I really want to try. The same goes for the gallery.
I want to create a yearly exhibition focused on sustainable art and reused materials. I try to inspire my artists to work as sustainably as possible. Clients also really like this approach. Younger collectors especially are interested in sustainable ways of living, and art is a part of that.
How have you experienced the more recent global crises, the pandemic and social justice reckoning?
It may be a little bit of a cliché: but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We had to change everything drastically and fast. In one week, we completely changed our focus from the physical gallery and big international fairs to online platforms, a webshop and social media. We again want to thank the collectors, mainly the young collectors, that are active online and enhanced the online art market and encouraged us to continue. In that sense the crisis also helped us a lot, because we now know how to engage with a younger audience.
With the world opening a little more, it becomes harder for us to combine all our activities both on- and offline. We did around twelve fairs a year, but now we want to focus on the six best international art fairs. Since we still see a lot of opportunities in the online world, we will launch a new online platform the coming year, full of new young talents and amazing art, fashion, jewelry, and design!
Regarding social justice, we want to be an inviting, loving rainbow family. There are of course a lot of things that need to be changed in the art world, but I think it’s also good to stay focused. In my case that’s establishing equality for men and women. To accomplish that we need more inclusivity for women, and I feel extremely responsible to make this happen.
When considering artists for your program, what draws you to them? What makes you know they are right for your gallery?
I specifically search for people that are out of this world and are completely in their own creative bubble. People that do something that I’ve never seen before are the most interesting to me. They also have to suit my creative vision while also having a strong character, including drive, flexibility, and persistence.
There are lots of wonderful young talents, but sometimes there is no click. Then it’s better for both parties to look for something else.
Can you spotlight a few works from your collection and walk us through what you love about them?
Yes! I’ll start with a young female artist, Joana Schneider. She makes big masks, sculptures, rugs, chairs, and we’ll soon launch her jewelry. All her art is made of recycled materials like found fishing ropes and PET yarn made from plastic bottles.
Jessi Strixner is a strong young female as well. She is educated as a traditional wood sculptor in Germany. Now she expresses her love for the ‘80s in wooden disco jackets, sneakers, and sport socks, which are a big hit. I honestly never expected her to be so successful, but I’m super proud of her!
Kiki van Eijk is a well-known Dutch designer and is known for her versatility. She makes ceramics, mirrors, textile art, and furniture.
Yamuna Forzani is a young talent of mine. She is originally a fashion designer, but also makes very cool textile art. Her queer personality comes forward in her work, and she is not afraid to confront the viewer with two kissing men, bright colors, or a little gender bending. I love this type of fearless, activist, and at the same time fun art.
The same fun you can find in the sparkly works of the Rotganzen. Their droopy disco balls are all about disco, fun, and brightness. This fall we co-created a new edition of their disco balls—a special Rademakers edition. I’m very proud of this collaboration and of the end result!
Jewelry in art is in my opinion an overlooked medium. You can perfectly combine art and jewelry, and Dutch female artist Bregje Sliepenbeek does this in an outstanding way. Her big flowing mobiles are jewelry in the sky and move calmly in a small breeze.
REM Atelier is a design duo that takes their inspiration from nature. For their melon skin cabinet they press melon skins into porcelain, which makes a beautiful texture for a cabinet door. They think very much out of the box and that inspires me a lot.
What’s next for you?
We’re starting a new online platform! The crossovers between art, design, fashion, jewelry, and textile are all coming together in this project. We’d love to do only female artists, to create a special place to celebrate women and their art.
Besides that, we want to participate again in the international art scene and go to fairs in Basel, Miami, New York, Milan, and of course our hometown Amsterdam.
Finally, we’ll keep advocating for women artists, sustainability, and crossovers in our gallery. Both in real life and online. Eyes on the future!
Thank you, Pien! ◆
Works from Rademakers Gallery are available through DM/BX.