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Art dealer Thim Muskee about good art

30 years ago Muskee sold his first painting as an art dealer. It marked the start of a business that he managed to make very successful in his own way with a sharp vision.

This year, art dealer Thim Muskee has been in the art trade with art dealership Muskee. Started as a specialist and appraiser of nineteenth-century paintings, he was later taken by Cobra painters such as Appel and Corneille. Today, Muskee is seen as the expert in Dutch modern and figurative art and a forerunner when it comes to scouting new artists. He is successful with four galleries in the country and as a Whoppah art curator monitoring the quality of art on Whoppah. Muskee shares his story about trade and his vision of good art.

Thim Muskee Kunsthandelaar

How have you become an art dealer?

“I started as a portrait painter. I was pretty good at that, but I really didn't have the passion to sit in the studio every day. I did, however, come into contact with art a lot and decided to buy a number of paintings, including a remarkable painting by Han van Meegeren, the famous painter and forger from the beginning of the 20th century. I bought an original painting for 600 hundred guilders and had it auctioned at Sotheby’s for 3200 guilders. There they said to me: "You understand Thim, can't you scour the North of the country in search of beautiful art?" And so it happened. That was the trigger for me to enter the art trade and I have been doing this for 30 years now.”

Fewer and fewer art dealers are active. You have been active in this field for 30 years. What makes you successful?

“First, I have a sense of art. That is the basis and you cannot learn that. You can develop it further and become even better by deepening yourself. When I started, I set up a library with biographies of all artists starting in the 19th century. I spent four hours a day on research. Deepening always remains important. I am also entrepreneurial and I know what the market wants. I have been responding to what people want for 30 years and I have been trying to lead the way. Beyond the trend. My strong point, as it turned out afterwards, is that I discover artists early. Actually, while the market is not yet ready. That is the right time for me. Of course you should never underestimate how difficult it is to sell art. Sales are all about trust. You build that up through experience and a good name.”

What does the market want today?

“A lot has changed in recent years. Modern art has taken risen and classical art has become more niche for a wider audience. People want to admire it in a museum, but not hang it above the couch at home. Certainly the thirties. The revival of this group is in full swing. The prints and posters on the wall are increasingly giving way to modern art. Quality is becoming more important to them and that is a very positive development.”

What kind of trends does art know?

“There are always trends. But I try to ignore that. The point is that a work of art is good and is separate from the trend. For example, you can now see that there is more demand for sexy art. It is all a bit more volatile. For example, look at "mixed media". That is very trendy now. Playing with photography and photoshop I can sometimes find more and sometimes less interesting."

So can we say that there is still enough good art on the market?

“Nowadays there is much more on the market than in the past. Only 5 percent of it is tradable, which means it will be easy to sell again in 10 years. At the same time there is more money in the world than good art. That also explains that you pay the main price for some works. It is increasingly difficult to find qualitative art at a good price. Those are the gems. At the moment there is only a small group of good modern artists in The Netherlands who are interesting to buy and trade. For example Peter Klashorst, a wayward artist who has gone his own way. He ignores trends, has a unique use of color and a strong identity. No mediocrity. You can buy his work from 1000 euros. That is a smart investment.”


Work of Peter Klashorst. The girl with the pearl. For sale on Whoppah.

“Good art doesn't bore.”

When do you speak of good quality?

“A work of art must have a powerful identity. The use of color is refined, not too woody and the quirkiness must be seen again. This of course all depends strongly on the story of the artist. That is the depth of the artwork. If an artist has nothing to say, it is a few stripes on a canvas. Ultimately, it's about good art never bores you. Mediocrity becomes bored and perhaps even irritating. That is the same as with design. If something is well designed, you will see it back decades. I have had an Eames dinner set for 20 years and a designer chair from Mies van der Rohe that I still enjoy. The quality of the design makes it timeless. So that also applies to art.”

Isn't that hard to see in modern art?

“Quality is easier to perceive in modern art. For example, you can practice on a still life. If you practice long enough, it will look like something. This is different in modern art. It is all about the depth, the story behind the work. Of course I also look at refinement in the use of color, stiffness and individuality. But if a work does not tell a story, it is often not good enough.”

“There is much more money in the world than good art.”

Do you have buying advice?

“Buy something that is good in its genre. Take a look at what fits into that movement and see if you are dealing with a good artist, a bad artist or a mediocre artist. Never go for mediocrity. Always look beyond what is now the trend and in particular whether the work has something of its own. If you really want to buy something good, you also have to delve into it a little bit. The time to buy is certainly good. The market is now certainly not at its peak as with the housing market.”

What appeals to you?

“I think the Cobra movement is the last interesting art movement that we have had in the Netherlands. Cobra was a reaction to civilian detention after the war and it resulted in an enormous urge for liberation. The children's drawing as art was suddenly appreciated. That freedom and aversion to box thinking led to a new form of modern art with a clear philosophy and story that needed to be conveyed. That not only appeals to me, but is certainly also a smart investment now. For a Karel Appel you paid 200,000 euros in its heyday. Now you can get this for around 80,000 euros.”

“I stood there, overwhelmed by my admiration for his level of creativity and craftsmanship.”

Is there a certain work that has stayed with you?

“I remember years ago that I was at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and was greatly impressed by his work. I stood there, overwhelmed by my admiration for his level of creativity and craftsmanship. He had the gift of adopting different styles and always leading the way. His work at the time motivated me enormously to continue in this profession.”

“People are generally satisfied too quickly when it comes to art.”

What is your mission?

People are generally satisfied too quickly when it comes to art. It would be good if there was more enthusiasm for deepening and curiosity. As a result, you learn to see and appreciate quality. The world-famous Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, in New York is now cleverly tackling that. They intertwine works of art. Modern art from the 40s or 50s hangs alongside contemporary work. Well-known classics hang alongside new works. This "mixing" ensures that people can switch quickly between good works from different periods. You learn to see connections and escape thinking in terms of time or flow, but in quality. As soon as you learn to see and appreciate quality, you are less satisfied. If more attention is paid to good quality, that is good for all artists.”

See more works for sale at Gallerie Muskee.


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