Johnny Van Haeften, the veteran Dutch and Flemish Old Master dealer, closed his Mayfair gallery this week after 40 years in the area and has set up shop in his home in Richmond, southwest London. Van Haeften was forced to shut after the owner of the building at 13 Duke Street sold it and announced that the Italian art dealer Fabrizio Moretti was moving in.
Van Haeften says he considered taking legal action, but was advised that litigation could prove costly and lengthy. “My lawyer said it would take a year out of my life and I was looking at £50,000. Life is too short and it was time for a change. It was the right decision,” Van Haeften says, adding that he and Moretti have long been friends.
The relocation marks a “change in pace” for Van Haeften, who has reduced his stock from 225 to 50 paintings, with plans to reduce that number even further. The new gallery, located in a refurbished coach house, is open by appointment only and has become something of a family-run affair, with Van Haeften’s wife and daughter contributing to the business.
The Old Master specialist says this year will be the last time he exhibits at Tefaf Maastricht. Van Haeften has stepped down from the executive committee of the venerable art and antiques fair, but will continue to sit on the board of trustees. “With the innovation of Tefaf launching in New York this year, it’s important to encourage a younger generation [of dealers],” he says.
For young dealers entering the fray, prospects look good. Van Haeften says the Old Master sector has been enjoying something of a comeback over the past six months to a year. “There’s lots of new interest from Asia and the Far East generally,” he says. Van Haeften is currently involved in the global tour of the Leiden Collection–the largest private collection of 17th-century Dutch paintings, which he helped the US commodities magnate Thomas Kaplan amass. Works are due to go on show at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Long Museum in Shanghai, the National Museum in Beijing and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, among other venues.
Despite downsizing, Van Haeften is adamant he will not wind down his gallery altogether. “The new venture is going to be a mixture of ABC—advising, brokering and consulting—with a bit of D thrown in, because I’ll always be a dealer,” he says.