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Pink Ammunition at Powder House & Gallery MooiMan: Ten Years of Lust and Love

by our Editors in Theatre, Art & Expo , 09 juni 2017


On Sunday June 18, Kees van Twist - former Director of the Groninger Museum - will open the gay art route in Den Bosch, incorporating the exhibition “Roze Munitie” (Pink Ammunition) in Museum Het Kruithuis. This exhibition is part of the twenty-eighth Pink Saturday that will be held in Den Bosch this year.

Diversity is the theme of both Pink Saturday and the art route several galleries in Den Bosch are participating in. But the art route will also have its gay headquarters at Museum het Kruithuis. Gallery MooiMan will be at this historic location with the exhibition “Pink Ammunition,” about the ten books that were published by the gallery, besides a large number of lectures and activities.

Books on male art or gay art – Not only is it unique in the Netherlands, but nowhere else in the world a gallery such as this one exists. It now also has a very well-stocked bookshelf with art books. It’s remarkable that they did so without any subsidy. How did they do it? All the more reason for an interview with gallery owners Jan van Stralen and Sandro Kortekaas from Groningen, about the world of male art, gay erotica, and the gallery world in which male nudity is often avoided.


Why did you start a gallery for male art?
“It’s a question we often get. In the art world, the gay man is still a taboo not all gallery owners are willing to tackle, certainly not ten years ago. Luckily, by now that is changing. Up to 2006 gallery Faubourg in Amsterdam was the place to be for this. After they suddenly ceased their activities, the question came from different artists who were exhibiting their work with them: Where to now? Prior to this, Villa Lila in Nijmegen was a household name and was active for many years, just as gallery Ho eens Even in Arkel was. We - Jan and Sandro - at that time had a large network of artists because of the ‘Homogenda’ we published: voluntary work as involved graphic designers. Because we often had a lot of work in the weekends as well, it seemed a viable option to start our own gallery in our very own property. After ten years we are now well aware that running a gallery takes a lot of effort indeed. Unlike the gallery in Amsterdam, we have focused entirely on the artists and, for example, actively go to art fairs to open up the theme to a much larger audience than the ‘happy few’ from the Amsterdam gay scene. Thus, we are actively contributing to the integration of homosexuality through art.”

Sandro and Jan


Facets of the Male

Is it male art or gay art you are showing?
“Male-art or gay-art is extremely underrated in the art world. In the beginning, we called it a gallery for men’s art, but that at times created confusion. For example in the case of Soreh Hera, an Iranian photographer whose portraits of Arab gays were turned away by The Hague Municipal Museum because Mohammed was depicted on them. The artist got a lot of media attention because of the treats that were made against her. We offered her a show in our gallery, but she thought the gallery was men only. Male-art actually refers to our theme of showing many facets of the male in art, without looking at whether the works were made by a man or a woman.

A good example of this was the exhibition ‘My Female Eye’ in which just female artists showed their vision on the male. It was one of the shows in which we sought depth in the theme, surprisingly showing that women in their quest for the male in art - or even the very young man in art - would go much deeper. The theme may seem as a limitation, but in the scope of it you can discover the many facets we are looking for.”


How was the connection made between the gallery and Pink Saturday?
“We have known each other since 1985, when we were both active for the Pink Saturday in Groningen, ‘Pink Pronkjewail’: Jan as a designer, and Sandro as a volunteer. It turned out to be an excellent combination of love and work. In 2011, we were co-initiators of the second Pink Saturday in Groningen with no less than sixteen exhibitions distributed throughout the city. In that year, we showed one of the largest collections of Tom or Finland originals in our gallery, combined with showing his influence on contemporary artists. An internationally oriented and very special exhibition indeed. In fact, we were the front runners of how he is used as a means of fighting for gay rights, for example with the Finnish stamp with with Tom or Finland art that was refused in the Russian Federation.”

“In many of our exhibitions, human rights as an underlying theme comes back, for instance in our controversial exhibition in 2013 ‘QueerRussia: the hidden (p)art,’ the only exhibition in the Netherlands-Russia year that was openly criticizing the violation of human rights of GLBTs in the Russian Federation.”


Organizational Ignorance

“In 2015, we were asked by the Board of the Pink Saturday Maastricht to use our expertise for an exhibition at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. It was agreed that part of this Pink Saturday would be an exhibition in this municipal museum. We see museums as a mirror of society that also should reflect GLBT subjects. A Pink Saturday is a good tool in order to achieve that. The curator didn’t know enough about contemporary artists in relation to the Saint Sebastian story. In only two months, we made a concept and layout for the exhibition ‘Sebastian: the Colours of a Gay Icon.’

The story was highlighted in two different ways: from the gay liberation perspective, and how the story became known throughout the world, linked to religion. It could have a selection of international artists, such as Pierre et Gilles as possible participating artists. For no particular reason, however, the entire show was cancelled at the very last moment by the new director, without involvement or knowledge of the curator. With sad results, as only one painting was shown during that Pink Saturday in combination with a billboard you put your head in for a Sebastian selfie.”

“In 2016 we attempted not only to extend this exhibition elsewhere, but also developed a plan to show a wide variety of artists during Pink Saturday and EuroPride in Amsterdam, for which we were approached by a cultural fund. In fact, all proposals of in total twenty-five exhibitions in museums and outdoor spaces, such as Central Station and Schiphol Airport were not considered by the EuroPride and Pink Saturday organizations. It is unfortunate that a wide selection of cultural offerings did not get the attention of the organizing parties it should get. It shows that exhibitions in our own area are easier to organize.”

“In 2016, the organization of Pink Saturday Den Bosch was contacted to again draw attention to the Sebastian exhibition concept. This consultation resulted in the venue the Museum het Kruithuis. It would be less suitable for the Sebastian show, but would be extremely suitable for several smaller exhibitions. The plan for ‘Roze Munitie’ was born from this: a journey through the ten books that were published by this gallery.”

The theme of this exhibition is ‘Roze Munitie’ (Pink Ammunition). Why this name?
“It is word play, of course. Kruithuis (House of Powder), Roze Zaterdag (Pink Saturday), Roze munitie (Pink Ammunition). We tend to see our books as ammunition. It gives justification to artists, it gives a face to themes, such as human rights and gay emancipation.”


Human Rights, Gay Rights

How long has the gallery been making books? And is this usual for galleries?
“We know of galleries publishing catalogs during exhibitions, but not, as we do, complete and well-designed hardcover books. From our field of expertise as graphic designers, we make the design and layout ourselves in consultation with the artists, creating a custom made publication. Our first books were compiled, created and published in 2011.”

What are the themes in these books?
“The artists take centre stage in them, but often the books tell more than just that. In the book ‘Asylum,’ the photographer Aleksander Kargaltsev shows the naked photographing of Russian gay refugees, in their most pure, but also vulnerable form. It’s not so much about being naked, but to show that you as a refuge bring nothing more than your body, your identity. His book and that of Gonzalo Orquin, ‘Si, quiero,’ are indictments through art, the artist also being an GLBT activist. Alexander Kargaltsev as indictment of Poetin, Gonzalo Orquin of the Pope and the Catholic Church as a system in Italy. The book helps to do that.”

Are there any overlaps between the books and the exhibitions?
“Showing male-art is not possible everywhere. We see that showing this goes hand in hand with human rights and that it is a freedom of artists to show their (gay) sexuality without being banned by anti-gay laws. But here too we are dealing with a certain form of censorship. Facebook is a platform where not everything can be shown, and this also holds true for art fairs: we have to make choices in order to make it accessible to a wider audience.”

Where can these books be bought?
“Unfortunately not that many physical places. There aren’t that many gay bookstores left in Europe. Our books are for sale in the gallery and via our website, which also includes the addresses of bookstores that sell them.”

What else is going on relating to Pink Saturday?
“In the week prior to Pink Saturday there is a lecture every day by one of the artists from Wednesday June 21st in Museum het Kruithuis. On Friday, June 23th, there is an evening of lust with author Eric Kollen, and on Saturday, June 24th, people can get their picture taken by photographer Ewoud Broeksma for a double portrait for ‘Double Pride.’”   The exhibition “Roze Munitie” in the Kruithuis in Den Bosch is a true gem, as the building itself is from the seventeenth century and was part of the old fortifications. The Kruithuis originated from in the eighty-year war between the Netherlands and Spain. Arms and gunpowder were stored in several places. Due to fires near these depots, the city council decided to build an ammunition building. 1621 saw the completion of the Kruithuis, resulting in a distinctive six-storey building with a beautifully enclosed courtyard. The Heritage building consists of two layers. The ground floor has many rooms up to five meters high, which can accommodate wonderful exhibitions.



The opening of the art route on Sunday, June 18th and the
Pink Saturday on June 24th are free of charge.
The foundation managing the museum charges an entry fee of 3.50 Euros.

See for more information MooiMan’s website and the website for
Pink Saturday: www.mooi-man.nl, rozezaterdag2017.nl.
“Pink Ammunition” can be visited until July 16.


 



 







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