First published: Winter 2023/24
After over 50 years of championing outsider artists, including Willem van Genk, Nico van der Endt has closed the doors of his Amsterdam gallery
Situated at Leliegracht 38, in Amsterdam, Galerie Hamer was Europe's first independent gallery for outsider art. On September 1, 2023, exactly 54 years after it opened, owner Nico van der Endt shut up shop. He had been working as a tour guide for several years, shepherding American tourists around Europe, when in 1969, he and an associate took over the languishing gallery Atelier d'Art, from his closest friend, the artist Vincent Groot. As well as new owners, the gallery acquired a new name – “Galerie Hamer” (“hamer” meaning “hammer” in English) – which had the dynamic, fresh feel that they were looking for.
Nico van der Endt in 2010
Galerie Hamer did not start out focussing on outsider art. Following a brief flirtation with contemporary art, Van der Endt was drawn to naïve art – semi-realistic representations of townscapes, landscapes and portraits, rendered in a naïve way. In 1970, he read a newspaper article about Dutchman Pieter Hagoort, a retired postman and former horse tram conductor, who had won the first prize at the Biennial of Naïve Art in Zagreb, former Yugoslavia. Hagoort became Galerie Hamer's first naïve exhibitor, and the success of the show set the gallery firmly on the path of naïve art. The timing was also fortuitous: after years of a lackluster diet of uninspiring abstraction, art enthusiasts were yearning for a change of fare. Naïve art, with its narrative character, offered a welcome departure from the bland mainstream, and enjoyed growing popularity throughout the 1970s.
August Walla, Märchen, 1989, mixed media on paper, 30 x 21.5 in. / 76 x 54.5 cm
Galerie Hamer rode this wave, and naïve art would lay its financial, as well as artistic, foundations. Prominent exhibiting artists from the early years included Alfred Wallis, Nikifor Krynicki, and the two great Ivans from Yugoslavia: Generalic and Rabuzin. However, as the gallery gained momentum, relations between the two business partners began to sour. In 1975, the alliance ended when it emerged that Van der Endt’s associate was cheating him and, in the ensuing legal battle, was ordered to forfeit all claims to the gallery. Van der Endt continued alone but he had the support of his wife, Lily, who – as well as managing practical gallery matters like framing – frequently joined him on visits to artists and workshops, her discerning eye proving to be a great asset. She also had an astute radar for the shifts in art trends which contributed greatly to the gallery's onward journey.
by RUDI SALOMON
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #117.