Use of Space

The studio as storefront.  The home as studio and as gallery.  Mixing commerce and artistic creation.

I witnessed two forms of this type of hybrid space today.  One was Rembrandt’s house/studio/gallery.  The other was fashion designer Melanie Brown’s storefront/atelier, Brown Clothes.

Rembrandt may have been one of the world’s great painters, but he was a businessman as well and his clients were the city’s top merchants who hired him to paint their portraits.  Perhaps he was a better painter than a businessman, because he lost his house late in his career. But, before then, his house on Jodenbreestraat, here in Amsterdam, served not only as his studio, but also as gallery where he sold the works of his friends and assistants.

Today, artist’s struggle with the idea of whether or not to live and work in the same space.  Gallerists often look down at an artist who lives and works in the same space, thinking they are not serious about their practice, unless of course they live in an industrial space, then that is fine.  However, business men and women have remodeled all of the affordable industrial space in most urban areas so they themselves can feel like artists, pushing artists to garages, or abandoned storefronts and houses, or as in some cases here in Amsterdam, brothels.  And then, of course there is this completely ridiculous notion that the artist should not sell their own work, or even have work that is sellable, which is often the case for the recently graduated, deeply financially indebted art student.

I enjoyed seeing Rembrandt’s gallery, living space and studio.  It felt very whole and complete. It was a space where a life as an artist could be lived in unity.

Afterward, I went to a store called Brown Clothes a studio-storefront run by designer Melanie Brown.  Melanie happened to have graduated as fashion designer from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, the school connected to the Sandberg Institute where I am doing my artist-in-residency program.

The front of the space is the storefront that has Melanie’s designs all cleanly displayed and every one of them is excellently constructed and beautifully designed. The back is her studio where all of her patterns hang above future collections and across from her sewing machine and ironing board.  In the very back is a dressing room.  The entire process of clothing the body, all housed in one well used space.

Needless to say I bought some things from this season’s offerings at Brown Clothes, and I preordered a few pieces from Melanie’s upcoming Fall collection.  I would have bought a painting from Rembrandt too, but there were none available.

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