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07 September 2023

In conversation with Chloé Chanté Leenheer and Sophie Schade

The moment when aesthetics triumph over functionality, that marked a very clear turning point for me, I realised: ah, I am a collector

Chloé Chanté Leenheer and Sophie Schade share their art journey, the thrill of collecting, and the importance of the ‘KunstKoop regeling. Our very own Efrayim Sener interviews our two Amsterdam Art ambassadors and the two of them go into conversation while visiting each other’s homes for the first time. 

Chloé Chanté Leenheer is an actress and photographer who frequently exhibits her work. She is currently focusing on her project, ‘the last dance,’ a unique initiative for The United Ukrainian Ballet Company, a dance company established to support dancers with refugee backgrounds. Within her charming apartment in the Nine Streets of Amsterdam, she has meticulously curated an interior that combines both modern and contemporary art and design. She enjoys collecting works with a playful touch, something childlike, something that makes you think: I can’t quite place it. Her art collection includes photography as well as oil paintings on canvas.

Sophie Schade is a strategist in the creative industry and has built up a collection that leaves you speechless. Within her brightly styled Amsterdam apartment in the West, she has created a space where the artworks are beautifully displayed, complemented by design elements. She has a penchant for modern, abstract, and highly graphic and architectural works, and her collection primarily consists of photography (or works that utilise photography as a medium) and collages.

One thing they immediately have in common is their pure passion for art. They only acquire a work when they feel an immediate sense of infatuation upon seeing it.

What initially sparked your interest in collecting art?

Chloé: “It started with having a love for art in general – from an early age. The power of the stories it can tell and the inspiration it provides has always attracted me. And being able to bring this inspiration home. Each artwork gives a different atmosphere, the emotions, and thoughts of the artist. The ability to possess and cherish a piece of that creative process, to lovingly incorporate it into my own space, is what drew me to collecting art. Additionally, I am also a strong advocate for supporting the careers of emerging, talented artists by acquiring their art. For example, I was the first buyer of Cathelijne Biskop, discovered through Instagram. And recently, at Art Rotterdam, I acquired a beautiful piece by Sophie Steengracht, represented by GoMulan Gallery. It’s my biggest work so far!”

Sophie: “My love for collecting comes from my mother. My parents’ house was filled with art. I think a true collector often starts at a young age. Looking back, it was always there. I think it started around the age of fifteen for me. I began with my allowance, buying pieces for my ‘trousseau,’ plate by plate, cup by cup. Quite remarkable, isn’t it? Buying art then seemed a logical next step. This comes with a certain element of eccentricity and requires dedication and focus. And it allows you to live among works by artists like Popel Coumou, Satijn Panyigay, Boris Tellegen, Wim Crouwel, and Bart Lunenburg, from emerging to renowned artists!”

How do you decide where and how the artworks are displayed in your home, and are there specific art movements, genres, or artists you are drawn to and why?

Chloé: “I usually rely on gut feeling and listen to my intuition. Most works in my collection are in harmony with each other, although Sophie Steengracht’s work stands slightly apart in terms of mood. I instantly fell in love with the work and my boyfriend and I had to have it. I don’t think too much about whether it fits with what I already have at home. Over time, I do try to pay more attention to that. I also like change. I can temporarily remove works. If I’ve seen certain works too often and want to be inspired again, I give them a different place in the house.”

Sophie: “Funny, because I don’t do that. I never get tired of looking at them. It all developed very organically with me, and I seem to have stuck to that.”

Chloé: “For instance, all the small works used to hang where Sophie Steengracht’s large work now is. Now, I have placed a photograph by the artist Sayuri Ichida – bought at Unseen – among several small works. I’m so pleased with that! Of course, I also have to consider the fact that I have a little one and try to hang things in a way that prevents any damage. Sophie, it’s quite different for you.”

Sophie: “I love serene spaces, abstraction, and focus, and that’s exactly what you see in my home: it’s as cohesive as possible, exuding tranquility. My collection is displayed on the walls as well as on the floor, like the drying racks by Michael Johansson. There is often a play between 2D and 3D. In the beginning, I was always labeled as a collector of photographic works, but that’s not the essence for me; it goes far beyond that. Photography is never the starting point for me. I’m not specifically attracted to photography itself – it’s art that use photography as a medium, but not necessarily as the focus.”

Chloé: “You do have a lot of photography hanging in your home, but it’s often a photographic representation of something created, of a non-existing reality. For example, an artist creates something, a collage, on a miniature scale and then takes a photo of it. Like Bart Lunenburg’s work. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as photography, but more as a collage when talking about disciplines.”

Sophie: “You know what strikes me now that I’m in your home? At my place, the works are really bought with the house in mind. That’s why I can’t really leave this house; I need to keep it till the end. Even if I might not be there that often. I also foresee it becoming more of a social and inspirational place, where I host gatherings, around art and wine. The works are truly fused with the house. That’s why I don’t rehang things, it developed very organically. It’s quite different for you. Indeed, as you say, this is just a house you live in now, but you’ll be living somewhere else in the future, and everything will move with you.”

Chloé: “There’s some truth in that. It’s quite interesting. I’ve moved quite a bit, from small apartments to really large houses. This is one of the smaller houses I’ve lived in, and I’ve noticed that it’s more challenging to make all my works shine at their best. The space is simply too small. But I’m looking forward to having more space soon and giving everything a permanent place.”

Sophie: “You pay a lot of attention to detail and have a home where life happens, with a child and all. At my place, anything can get damaged. Having pets and children around is far from ideal.”

Chloé: “You sacrificed your interior for art and became very minimalist when it comes to furniture, so you could buy more art.”

Sophie: “Despite living in an old building, I strangely have no built-in closets, none. Yet, a few years ago, I got rid of my last cabinets to make space for a new work by Natascha Libbert. I haven’t regretted it for a single day, I can tell you. I’ve also become much more critical in the purchases I make. Before, I could find something very beautiful and interesting and buy it, perhaps somewhat impulsively. Now, I look more at the whole, at the composition of my collection, and whether a work adds value. That’s why I see myself more as a curator.”

Have there been any works that sparked discussions among the people who visit you?

Chloé: “The two drying racks you have in your house, which Efrayim thought shouldn’t be in the picture, are probably the items that generate the most discussion at your place.”

Sophie: “Absolutely, the work causes complete confusion every time. It’s a piece by Michael Johansson, a Swedish artist. He’s always stacking everyday objects, like a scrub sponge, a notepad, everything perfectly sorted by colour. For him, life is like Tetris, that video game. Everything fits seamlessly together. It’s also in daily view when I’m working from home, during the many virtual meetings – my colleagues often think they see a drying rack, and not infrequently actually clothing hangs to dry, but of course it is a work of art!” 

Sophie: “Can we talk about the KunstKoop regeling? A fantastic initiative! I only see more and more Flemish and German galleries at Dutch artfairs, offering works by Dutch artists, but these foreign galleries are not eligible for the KunstKoop regeling. I think that’s such a missed opportunity!”

Chloé: “I find it interesting to discuss that further. How valuable is it really that something like the KunstKoop regeling exists? If only for the artists.”

Sophie: “Indeed, the KunstKoop regeling is there to support artists and stimulate sales – without the KunstKoop regeling, I could never have collected all this.”

Chloé: “I find it incredibly valuable that it exists. It’s just a shame that it has become much stricter in recent years. They’ve set the bar so high that the entire target group for whom the KunstKoop is intended can no longer buy art. The KunstKoop can – if I refer to myself, not as a collector but as a photographer – really kickstart a new project.”

Sophie: “No, the KunstKoop has unfortunately not become more accessible; people drop out during the application process. But let me end on a positive note: often, acquiring a new work involves some financial acrobatics, but thanks to the KunstKoop, I have been able to acquire a number of works that I previously thought impossible.

If you had an unlimited budget, whose work would you acquire, or is there anything else you’d like to bring into the world?

Sophie: “I would love to purchase a work by Anneke Eussen. I first encountered her work earlier this year at Art Rotterdam. Her work would engage in a beautiful dialogue with a glass installation by Jérôme Touron, purchased years ago. When I consider buying a work, I know where it will hang in my home. The work must have a place. This is crucial for me during the buying process. Furthermore, one day I hope to buy a work by Jan Roeland: ‘de tafel.’ It’s from a different generation, but the entire body of work is beautiful, very strong, and it excels in perfectionism.”

Chloe: “I’d like to take a closer look at a project I’ve been working on for almost a year. It’s a tribute to ballet dancers forced to flee due to the war in Ukraine. This photo book has a personal purpose; it provides an authentic insight into the daily lives and situations of the dancers, highlighting their triumphs, challenges, passions, and efforts. It sheds light on the person behind the art form and, in this way, creates a deeper connection between the audience and the dance company.

To compile this documentary series into a book, I’ve launched a campaign on Voor De Kunst. I would like to ask everyone to contribute to publishing this beautiful photo book, ‘The Last Dance.’ Every contribution counts and is appreciated, and there’s something in it for you too.”