Jorg Grimm


Jorg Grimm

Being a descendant of the fairytale writing Grimm Brothers, having an artist mother who goes by the name of Arty and a stepfather who is also a painter, an extraordinary life in the creative crafts almost seemed predestined for Jorg Grimm. Forty-one and a father of three, he is the driving force behind the renowned gallery GRIMM.

Beyond an illustrious heritage, what his achievements really stem from are a profound know-how of business, an extraordinary eye for aesthetics and a seemingly inexhaustible source of energy and new ideas. Located in Amsterdam and now recently in New York, GRIMM represents artists such as Charles Avery, Matthew Day Jackson, Dana Lixenberg, Elizabeth Price, Michael Raedecker, Daniel Richter and Nick van Woert.


"Initially I wanted to become a painter, just like my parents.
I started at a very young age, always doodling around in their studios."


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“Initially I wanted to become a painter, just like my parents. I started at a very young age, always doodling around in their studios.” At seventeen, he left his small village in Gelderland for the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, holding romantic and perhaps naive expectations of mastering the art of painting. It didn’t take long before he discovered that the main focus of his courses was instead on the process of ‘experimenting in different media’. After one year, he quit, demoralised. 

 

“I was always looking at making deals.” Grimm recalls.
“Then I discovered there were a bunch of great and interesting artists
who weren't represented by galleries."

 

Following an equally disappointing stint at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Grimm decided to change plan, giving up his artist dream for studies in Economics – a brilliant play as we now know. Needing a mortgage for his house, Jorg found work at a computing firm, and it was there that he discovered his talent for selling. “I was always looking at making deals.” Grimm recalls. “Then I discovered there were a bunch of great and interesting artists who weren't represented by galleries.”   

  
Painting by Willem Weismann (NL, 1977)

That’s another of Grimm’s talents: meeting the right people. One of them being George Condo. Grimm had met George while doing an internship for a film production company in NYC. “Over a year later, I called and asked if he wanted to do a show in Amsterdam. With his career probably not being what it is today, he consented almost immediately, yet indifferently.”

"Over a year later, I called and asked if he wanted to do a show in Amsterdam. With his career probably not being what it is today, he consented almost immediately, yet indifferently."

Grimm was free to choose from a pile of drawings from George’s home, and Condo’s gallerists in both London and Cologne were very helpful. Little did they know that Grimm didn’t even have a proper space yet. He and his wife Hannah started out in an anti-squatting situation at the Bloemgracht. It was located above a second-hand furniture store and didn’t even have heating. “The night before our opening in Amsterdam, George had another opening in London. It was packed with aristocrats and high end VIP’s, and at some point I was even sitting next to Ringo Starr. When we got back to Amsterdam, we had quite a laugh at the contrast to our rather humble opening, where mostly friends and family turned up", Grimm remembers, eyes sparkling.
 

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Now, twelve years later, Grimm’s premises have certainly been upgraded. He has two beautiful spaces in Amsterdam (one near the Rijksmuseum and another on the Keizersgracht) and recently, a prime property in New York.

It took a year of intensive searching but eventually he struck gold with the location: a ground floor on the Bowery. Positioning him just a stone's throw from the New Museum. The gallery’s attendance numbers are overwhelming – welcoming roughly eight times as many visitors as their Amsterdam siblings. For Grimm, another pleasant surprise was the collegiality. “On our opening night we received twelve bouquets of flowers from fellow gallerists. Because it is so hard out here, so expensive, everybody helps each other out. They refer collectors to each other, share tips and lend equipment.”

In a way, Jorg has followed in the footsteps of Pierre, son of the great Henri Matisse. Pierre left for New York to become an art dealer. Although cussed by his father for ‘turning to the dark side’, Matisse Jr. actually did really well. Pierre had a great eye for talent, discovering and championing artists like Joan Miro, Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti. Jorg shares that keen eye for talent – the eye to which GRIMM also owes much of its success.

As Grimm explains, he always selects artists for having a unique voice, regardless of the medium. “Whether it’s painting, sculpture, installation or photography, all works exhibited at GRIMM could best be described as ‘museal’. We work with a lot of artists that are mid-career and in addition I have always tried to find a really good balance between already successful artists and artists whose careers we help develop. Last week, for example, we opened a Daniel Richter exhibition at Keizersgracht – one of the most highly regarded painters of his generation – while presenting a group exhibition in our other space, with a much less certain outcome.”



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“Look around for a year, don’t buy a thing. Go to galleries, art fairs, enjoy! Buy for an emotional or intellectual investment, not a monetary one. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

One of the key pieces of advice Grimm ever received comes from Bruno Brunnet, owner of CFA Gallery in Berlin. “He told me the one rule to become a successful gallerist: you have to be there. It’s an open statement, but it’s very true. Literally speaking, it means travelling a lot, for example: to attend group shows by your artists at other galleries. But you also have to be there for the artist during the harder times – when they don’t have an exhibition – to manage their career.” Judging from his intense involvement in all aspects of his business, from studio visits to client diners, navigating between two continents, while often still personally installing his exhibitions, Grimm really took Brunnet’s advice to heart. And all is done at his characteristic pace: ‘Jorg speed’, as coined by his staff.


Chair by Paul McCob


Advice to anyone who would like to start buying art: “Look around for a year, don’t buy a thing. Go to galleries, art fairs, enjoy! Buy for an emotional or intellectual investment, not a monetary one. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.” In the latter case, Grimm Gallery’s doors are always wide open. And eventually, of course, for buying a future Miro or Giacometti. 



PHOTOGRAPHER CRISTIAN DAVILA HERNANDEZ • PORTRAIT OF JORG GRIMM • WORDS BY MISHA KRUIJSWIJK