20 - 27 November 2022

Duende Art Projects is proud to present the sale of the private collection of Kees van Strien (1929-2019) at the PAN art fair in Amsterdam. The Dutch architect started collecting in 1960 and brought together a carefully selected group of 25 important African and Oceanic artworks over the course of 50 years of collecting. Purchasing mostly from major art dealers such as Loed & Mia van Bussel, Lucien Van de Velde, Philippe Guimiot and Johan Henau, he built a small exquisite private collection. In 1991, van Strien lent several masks to the acclaimed exhibition “Sculpture from Africa and Oceania” at the renowned Kroller- Müller Museum in The Netherlands. Van Strien inspired many other Dutch collectors and was known to have one of the finest ‘eyes’ of his generation. Duende Art Projects honors his legacy at the PAN art fair with a special presentation and this publication with the ambition to inspire a new generation to start collecting classical African and Oceanic Art.


PAN Amsterdam is the Netherland’s leading fair in art, antiques and design. Every year, more than 45,000 art lovers are inspired and tempted by the many thousands of works of art on show. Whether your interest lies in classical antiquity, old masters, photography, contemporary art, antiques, designer furniture, decorative objects, and now also classical African and Oceanic art thanks to Duende Art Projects’ first participation, PAN is the perfect place to acquire art, gather information and make surprising discoveries.


Kees van Strien

The pleasure of collecting


Kees van Strien was born in Vught in the province of Brabant in The Netherlands on June 26th, 1929. Always drawing, as a child Kees dreamed of becoming an artist. He often accompanied an uncle on the back of his bike during painting trips into nature. His conservative father saw a different future for his son and pressed him to opt for a real job. Van Strien decided to study at the nearby Tilburg Academy of Architecture. Once graduated, he escaped the parochialism of the province and moved to Amsterdam in 1956 together with his childhood sweetheart. The young couple enjoyed the beauty of the cosmopolitan city and never had felt so free, even if they lived in a shoebox-sized apartment. Van Strien became an assistant at the architecture firm of Ted Peters. A few years later, in 1960 he bought his first work of African Art at the gallery Kunsthandel M.L.J. Lemaire on the Prinsengracht which he passed on his daily walk to work. By denying himself luxuries such as coffee and oranges along the route, he was able to save the money necessary to buy the small Baule statue from Ivory Coast he had spotted in the gallery’s vitrine. A collector was born.


Some years later the family moved to Rotterdam, where Kees started working as an architect for the municipality. He was involved in the construction of the famous Ahoy Arena as well as countless other city projects. His architecture designs would win several prizes such as the first prize for the development of a housing and shopping area in the center of the old city of Meppel in 1967 together with Dré van Stekelenburg. The expert jury chose this design, that in their opinion ’was head and shoulders above the rest’ because of its pronounced progressive ideas and its open structure within a very complex situation. The Dutch artist Jan Schoonhoven was at the time very interested to participate in this project by providing artworks. Especially in the assignments to design private homes van Strien was able to engage his boundless creativity and innovative vision on architecture. When he retired at the age of 59, he could finally fulfill a life-long dream and took painting classes at The Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. For the rest of his life, he would endlessly create artworks (exhibiting them at the Rotterdam Central Library in 2011), and thoroughly enjoyed the time with his family and collection.


Van Strien’s daughters remember him as an idiosyncratic man with a profound aesthetic feeling. He had a strong sense of what was genuine and an intense dislike for what was not. This straightforwardness and quirkiness didn’t make him an easy character. Van Strien had strong ideas about his own designs and was often not willing to compromise on them. His whole life he searched for sincerity and originality. Van Strien treasured a quote ascribed to Marina Abramovic: “you have succeeded as an artist even if you have only one original idea in your life”. In a certain way, that quest for original ideas was also his life motto. With his eclectic taste, he loved all types of art, but especially in classical African and Oceanic art he discovered a sincerity and originality that gave him much pleasure. Van Strien recognized craftsmanship and continuously trained his eye for quality by countless trips to museums and art galleries. His daughters and granddaughters loved accompanying him on this chase for beauty, while he dragged them around the country and abroad teaching them about art and architecture.


Kees van Strien was a true collector. For him it was not about the thrill of the chase. The acquisition of a mask or statue was the start of a long-term relationship. Besides the iconographic inventiveness, the story behind an object was equally important to him. He would endlessly study African and Oceanic cultures and accumulated an extensive library on non-Western art throughout his life. Van Strien wanted to understand the ideas that formed the basis for the creation of these artworks and what they had meant for their first owners.


In his self-designed house in Capelle aan den IJssel, a special place was reserved for his latest acquisition. The collection was always in flux, objects moved around the house to be admired from changing angles and in different light conditions. Van Strien loved looking at art and intensely enjoyed being constantly surrounded by it. Sometimes it occurred that after such intense scrutiny an object was returned or traded away when it did no longer stir up his interest. He only kept the objects that continued to fascinate him. Duende Art Projects is most grateful to be able to show a selection of these inspiring artworks.


Kees loved to talk about art. At least one Sunday a month he would gather convivially with fellow collectors such as Piet & Ida Sanders, Gerard & Marja Van den Heuvel, Gerard Schraverus and Eddy Hof to discuss their latest acquisitions, exchange knowledge, and share their passion for non-Western art. From these informal gatherings the Dutch Association of Friends of Ethnic art (Vereniging Vrienden Etnografica or V.V.E.) was created. In 1991, Kees van Strien was part of the team that organized an exhibition at the famed Kröller-Müller Museum, which holds the second-largest public collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh. With the gentleman art dealers Loed van Bussel and Lucien Van de Velde as the exhibition committee, the show brought together an exceptional selection of classical African and Oceanic artworks from several Dutch private collections. While the interest in non-Western art among the public in The Netherlands had been very limited before, this landmark show was an overwhelming success. It inspired a new generation of collectors, and its catalog remains a reference. Kees proudly lent a selection of African masks to the show. His collection is now on public view for the very first time since 1991. Sharing and inspiring were important values to van Strien, and Duende Art Projects is proud to honor his legacy with this catalog of his collection and the accompanying exhibition.