After visiting family in South Africa, we spent four nights in Utrecht, Netherlands, staying Airbnb with our host Cees (pronounced Keese). Dennis had originally intended for us to stay for one week in Amsterdam but he had been completely unable to book anything Airbnb for the entire week as there were holidays. Dutch friends of ours suggested that we might also consider Utrecht and we're so glad we did! The old town heart of Utrecht was the perfect size to explore by foot. The bicycle is King here so pedestrians are relegated to the more narrow sidewalks and must be watchful for the multitude of cyclists who claim the wider bicycle lanes. Goodness knows where/how the cars actually travel! And park???? So different from North America where the car is King and many cities were planned and built in the 20th century, not the Middle Ages.
Cees's house was built in 1500. He’s lived here for 20 years. The house had originally been offices when he took possession and he has done a very large renovation, very elegant and in keeping with its heritage while completely up to date in design and function. Our room took up the top floor of the house with vaulted ceiling with heavy wooden beams. Anyone with mobility issues would find these kind of places impossible to deal with as there are many flights of stairs in these old homes and many have no elevators. I guess those people have to stay at regular hotels but happily we can have a broader adventure with Airbnb which brings us into many interesting homes, some classy like this one and some very humble.
One of the first things that I noticed about the house was the fabulous art collection on the walls in the hallways. I told Cees I was here to see art galleries and visit figurative artists and asked if I could interview him as an art collector and so we were invited to visit his part of the house. He and his partner collect mainly two streams of art, sculptures by Georges Minne and artwork on theme; one artist and one theme plus a few others sprinkled in between which have caught his eye over the years at auctions.
This large abstract Armando in the living room deals with issues from World War II, a fiery palette knife canvas full of turmoil with sparks of light here and there, quite dramatic! Of course, out came our travel sketchbooks and we shared our urban sketching.
Over the desk is a 1998 piece by artist Joyce Eijkhout, a group of young schoolboys with a wonderful attitude.
The handsome black figurative sculptures of torsos by George Minne are sprinkled throughout the room. Dramatic muscular bodies full of character and vigour. Minne, a sculptor famous for his idealized depictions of man’s inner spiritual conflicts was a contemporary of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.
Finally we were led into the dining room to see the artwork on the "theme". The tall high-gloss white door opened to two walls of handsome bookcases with glass doors, nothing too exciting yet to see but when we turned, a fabulous dining table greeted us and picked out in gold frames on a deep blue wall were several pieces on the theme of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian.
He bought this first one, above, just because he found it so interesting and compelling and then found it interesting to collect upon a theme as and when pieces came along in auctions.
These two are more modern and as a whole they’re quite a fabulous collection. He collects what he loves but with as with many artists and art collectors he's simply run out of wall space!
On the stairwell we see a large group piece that echoes the same melancholic religious attitude found in the Georges Minne sculptures. The dramatic tall abstract painting was done by Cees himself years ago. It is supposed to hang horizontally but works here very well vertically too, something that can't be said for figurative works.
Upstairs are more modern pieces, this lithograph by Jeroen Hermkens, an artist who I find very interesting to me personally. I love his color confidence and decisive drawings which transcend the merely accurate.
If you can walk up three flights of stairs and would love to visit Utrecht, the quieter sister to busy Amsterdam, Cees is an excellent Airbnb host and we'd definitely stay there again. Thanks for sharing your home and art collection with us.