Ambassadors View Tonny Holtrust

Tonny Holtrust looks back on a varied life in art, culture and education. She was director of the ArtEZ academies in Arnhem, Enschede and Zwolle for seven years and later director of education and research at the Design Academy for a couple of years. She also chaired many committees at the Mondriaan Fund and the Stimuleringsfonds voor Creatieve industrie (architecture, design and e-culture).



For me, collecting starts with fantasy; not so much a physical activity aimed at acquiring objects, but a fictional one. I can be very affected by art, without the immediate desire to own it. Also because I do not have a generous capital or lavish house that can accommodate real, physical and fanatical collecting. Fictional collecting has the advantage that your collection is wonderfully flexible and: The Sky is The Limit: from Kounellis to Turell and from Matthew Barney to Marina Abramovic. You can endlessly explore artists' and designers' work and select favourites, without the burden of physical collecting. For instance, I always enjoy the fascinating work of artist-architect Rudy van de Wint in Kröller Müller's sculpture park. Nature and sculpture form an eternal unity in that beautiful place. For at home, there is his biography to remind me. Last week, together with my 3-year-old granddaughter Yuna at the Hockney exhibition at Teyler, I got hold of his 'Reverse Perspective', renamed 'Elsa and Anna' by Yuna, after her favourite Disney princesses. We enjoy the photos of Hockney's work at home and show them to everyone.

The idea, to become a fictional collector, did not come from today or tomorrow; it developed over time. My father was a notorious collector. Not so much of art, but of all sorts of peripheral items in the artistic-historical spectrum, such as old coins, medals, stamps and securities. The collections were wide-ranging, without too much focus, arrangement or documentation. He could talk enthusiastically about those collections and especially about his efforts to add new old treasures to them. It was also important to him that his children would later reap the benefits of this paternal zeal and precious family property.

After the death of my parents, my father's ambition proved to have overshot its mark. We, heirs to his unprecedented treasures, did some exploratory research and soon became discouraged. It would take a lot of time-consuming organising and research to manage, continue or even responsibly sell the collections. To this end, family members appeared to lack an essential foundation: affinity with collecting and all that it entails. We did learn in the process that serious collecting doesn't happen by itself, but requires commitment, focus and pleasure to devote your free time to it.


At that time, I decided not to become a formal collector; not of tokens, of old securities or of stamps. Not even of art ... unless it could be done in an inspiring way, without the weight and doctrine of the serious collector. Only buy artworks that fit comfortably in my home and just replace them with new ones from time to time. But then again, 'The more you like art, the more art you like' said master collector Saatchi.

Collecting design in the form of jewellery and functional designs proved to be a welcome escape as I had by now discovered gallery Marzee in Nijmegen, which appealed to my greediness. It started with a fantastic design gimmick: 'the little red mouth' by Herman Hermsen: a plastic earring with a slit that allows you to clip it around an earlobe. A paper bracelet by Nel Linssen and a silver ring with felt by Miriam Verbeek followed naturally. My interiors were brightened up with the inevitable egg vase by Marcel Wanders, a fake bulb of garlic, bubble glasses by Borik Sipek, pretty white Makkum cups by Sander Luske, turquoise vases by Jan van de Vaart, a piggy jar and finally vitra chairs by Ray Eames. Jewellery evolved from funny Matrushka earrings from Michiel Cornelissen's 3D printer (Eindhoven) to a calligraphic necklace made of steel and silver by Yu Chun Chen and an extendable gold ring by Okinari Kurokawa (Marzee). They are often objects with organic forms and made of natural materials, intrinsically referring to the cyclicality of life as Such.

I still enjoy following the work of ex-students I got to know during my commitment to the ArtEZ academies and the Design Academy, such as Iris van Herpen, Levi van Veluw and Scarlett Hooft Graafland (Arnhem), Daan Roosengaarde (Enschedé), Dave Hakkens and Teresa van Dongen (Design Academy). Their idealism is heartwarming and hopeful.

Finally, as a pensionado, I lost my fear of collecting and now I can really enjoy actually buying something now and then. But the principle remains: add something, then take something else out. The older, Arnhem work (Ad Gerritsen, Klaas Gubbels) has to make way for new works that fascinate me now, such as those by Marleen Sleeuwits (2011) and Richard Kofi (2021) or (Bart Lunenburg, 2022). Collecting as a fantasy has thus led to beautiful, thoughtful purchases.

Tips and Tricks

For me, it is primarily about the enjoyment of art and design explorations, not the potential value as an investment. After all, material value is relative.

Collecting as fantasy works like this: through internet orientation, make a wish list of what you want to see. Suppose you want to start with design, go to museums and galleries to hone your taste. Right now, for example, there is a retrospective Women in Design at the Kunsthal. Immediately make a day of it in Rotterdam and visit the Boijmans depot and a few galleries. In October to the Design Week in Eindhoven and the 3rd week of January to the Salone del Mobile in Milan. After each visit, make a note of your best viewing experiences; in time, favourites will emerge.


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