'Tiny Art Gallery' initiative by Photography alumni Marijn van der Leeuw and Tommy Smits

19 May 2020

Part of a series of interviews with KABK alumni, highlighting their creative initiatives in times of Corona.

Scrolling through Instagram the Tiny Art Gallery of Photography alumni Tommy Smits (2017) and Marijn van der Leeuw (2018) caught our eye. This miniature party deserves our full attention and so we ask Marijn and Tommy...

Tiny Art Gallery logo
Tiny Art Gallery logo

How are you doing now that we are all in quarantine?

We are fine. We're healthy and the Tiny Gallery has just opened and we're very happy with that. Besides, we've been through all the emotional stages of quarantine and we're skating a lot. We do miss the conviviality that was easier to find before!

What influence do the Corona measures have on your daily art practice?

Expositions, fairs, and assignments have been canceled or postponed by the measures and besides that, we don't have a side job in the hospitality industry anymore, so we must make do with what we have now.

This caused the birth of the Tiny Art Gallery, because now, suddenly, we have time to do these kinds of things, and we like it! Life after 3 months of isolation will probably have an immense effect on society and on our art practice as well.

What moved you to start the Tiny Art Gallery?

The Tiny Art Gallery originated at the beginning of the quarantine days, days in which we were all inside a lot and we felt like the walls were closing in on us. A letterbox on one of these walls, suddenly, offered us the idea of dozens of empty new mini walls. In this letterbox, Marijn always collected small finds and objects. Due to the quarantine, our world has physically become a lot smaller, that's why we wanted to give the little things a bigger stage. Usually, impressive works of art are large, but we would like to present the small things just as impressively. That was the starting point of the monster that it has now become!

We started the Tiny Art Gallery with the means at hand with the aim to offer artists a stage to show their work, generate some income, and provide art lovers with the necessary (micro)dose of art in these confusing times of canceled exhibitions, postponed events and closed museums.

You both studied Photography (Marijn 2018, Tommy 2017), can you trace the design of the Tiny Art Gallery back to your studies?

Not necessarily in the design part of the Art Gallery, but photography plays a big role within the Tiny Art Gallery. Photography and scale have a lot to do with each other because if a photo can do something right, it's to lie! These two aspects already played a role during both our graduation projects. Marijn made small things big and Tommy made big things small.

You do this project together, how does such a collaboration work out? Do you have a clear division of tasks? The 1.5m distance imposes some limitations I can imagine?

We don't really have a tight division of tasks; we just mix everything up. But of course, we both have our own talents! Marijn is a precise worker and Tommy isn't. We are boyfriend and girlfriend so we see each other more often. However now we hardly see other people so we thought it would be a good idea to offer artists from different disciplines and in different stages of experience an equal platform. But all with the same challenge in mind that the objects need to be small. Making a miniature work of art is also an invitation to keep making things in these crazy times we’re living in.

By now all 27 rooms have been reserved by artists from The Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, and London, super cool! What would make your project ultimately successful?

It has gone up to 57 filled actually! We have doubled the size of the gallery to 1 by 1 meter. We received so many works and the enthusiasm with which people participated was great! The first edition is now open, and we believe it's a great success. The physical gallery can be viewed behind the window of the Dunne Bierkade 1, the corner building of Restaurant De Kade in The Hague. Furthermore, we work a lot online and you can follow us on Instagram. We're also thinking about the next editions (so if you're interested to join us, please contact us via our Instagram account).

Imagine, in a few months we don't know any limits by Corona, will the Tiny Art Gallery be bigger in size?

Well, if possible, we want to go even smaller in size and work as spatially as possible within the small space that exists. We hope to make several editions, as we think that size vs. art/Tiny + Art, is an intriguing combination that is not only interesting in these current times of quarantine. The opening on the street last weekend was fun in a weird way, but also a bit tricky to see if there is enforcement around and if you don't get too close to each other, etc. Hopefully, physical meetings will be possible again soon and then we can have 'real' openings at all kinds of locations.

Sounds good Marijn and Tommy, thanks for your time and success with the further development of the Tiny Art Gallery!

Tiny Art Gallery window view in The Hague
Tiny Art Gallery at the Dunne Bierkade 1 in The Hague


Tiny Art Gallery

Visit the Tiny Art Gallery at the Dunne Bierkade 1 if you live in The Hague and otherwise follow the Tiny Art Gallery online via Instagram.

If you're interested to join their project, you can contact them via @thetinyartgallerythehague.

Photography studies

Want to pursue a photography degree at the KABK? Check out the study programmes we offer in Photography at a bachelor's and master's level:
Bachelor Photography and Master Photography & Society.