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New at Olla Art: early still life by Klaas Gubbels

Recently acquired by Olla Art: a still life with a jug and bowl, an early work by Klaas Gubbels. Gubbels’s later motifs are already present in this still life, the technique of which is oil on board. According to a label, the work was for sale in the 1960s at Dayton’s Gallery 12, Minneapolis.

Dayton’s Gallery 12
Dayton’s Gallery 12 was not just a gallery. Founded in 1964, the gallery was located on the twelfth floor of Dayton’s, a gigantic Minneapolis department store.

Klaas Gubbels, Stilleven, 1962
Klaas Gubbels, Still life with jug and bowl, 1962
Oil on board, 45 x 55 cm

Initially, the art world was suspicious of this ‘art department store’, but gradually the gallery – led by Felice Wender and later by John Stoller – managed to build a reputation as a representative of artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis in the early 1960s

According to Minnesota Asian art dealer Sean Blanchet, Dayton’s Gallery 12 ‘kickstarted the contemporary art market in the Midwest.’ Critics doubted the existence of such a market, but it turned out to be there. Blanchet: ‘The gallery was able to exhibit large collections with huge ranges of works in ways that would not be available elsewhere, due to space and other concerns, allowing artists – and even gallery owners – to display large volumes and varieties of works, creating a unique experience which benefited both artists and local viewers.’

In 1975, during a period of recession, the gallery, which mainly offered contemporary graphics, had to close its doors.

Jan van der Marck: cutting-edge and controversial
When asked, Klaas Gubbels considers it quite possible that his early still life, through Dayton’s Gallery 12, came into the possession of Jan van der Marck (1929-2010), a prominent figure in the American museum world who at the time worked in Minneapolis. Gubbels and Van der Marck knew each other and Van der Marck knew Gubbels’s work. Who was this Jan van der Marck?

Van der Marck was born in Roermond as the son of a printer and the grandson of a publisher. He seemed destined to continue the family tradition, but decided to study art history. Thanks to a scholarship, he ended up in the United States and soon made a career in the American art world. He started his museum career in 1963, as curator of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he organized high-profile exhibitions, including those around Arman and Fontana.

Jan van der Marck, lecturing at the Mountain Lake Symposium, Virginia, fall 1980

In 1967 he co-founded the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, where he organized Dan Flavin’s first museum exhibition. He had Christo and Jeanne-Claude, relatively unknown at the time, pack up the museum building, a project which led to his resignation from the museum.

In 1972 he realized the Valley Curtain project in Colorado with Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Later, in 1983, as director of the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami (today’s Miami Art Museum), he gave Christo and Jeanne-Claude the opportunity to wrap eleven islands in Biscayne Bay in pink fabric. Unfortunately, Van der Marck was also fired in Miami, due to clashes with the museum trustees.

Van der Marck’s last appointment was at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where he organized important exhibitions as chief curator, including a retrospective of Richard Pousette-Dart in 1991. In 1995, he also lost his job in Detroit, when the city’s Civil Service Commission ruled that he had violated a requirement that city employees live in Detroit. Van der Marck maintained an apartment in the city but also spent time in Huntington Woods.

In short, Van der Marck’s museum career was tumultuous. Apparently, his sense of innovative and challenging art was greater than his diplomatic ability.

In an obituary in the New York Times, William Grimes gives a more extensive overview of Van der Marck’s remarkable career.

More Gubbels
More work by Klaas Gubbels can be found at Olla Art.