Lobster with vanilla, steak tartare with oyster and foie gras brûlé – just a few of the legendary culinary delights once prepared by Amsterdam’s top chef John Halvemaan (1949-2019). Recently his widow Esther Halvemaan surprised De Pont Museum with a gift from the art collection housed in their famous restaurant: a canvas by Robert Zandvliet, a panel by Toon Verhoef and a monumental litho by Marien Schouten – a valued addition of work by these artists who are already well represented in the collection.
John Halvemaan had already been cooking his way to many a Michelin star when he and his wife opened their own restaurant in Amsterdam Buitenveldert in 1989. With his highly acclaimed idiosyncratic style and unconventional combinations he established the groundwork for haute cuisine in the Netherlands. In artists he discerned a creative spirit; their way of working nurtured his ideas. Not surprisingly, a great deal of art, some of it commissioned by Halvemaan, hung in the striking building that he designed with architect Alexander Bodon.
Verhoef's work – abstract, suspenseful and still totally balanced – covered an entire wall, and Zandvliet painted a mural with chocolate. Although that work no longer exists, his elongated painting of two knives, an exceptional piece from his early days, fortunately still does. Halvemaan regarded the litho by Schouten as a characterization of architecture's shape in contrast to outdoor greenery.
Initially all the works seem simple and austere, but due to their ingenious structure they continue to fascinate and amaze us. Just as Halvemaan’s dishes do.
text: Esther Darley
all works are part of the collection of De Pont museum, Tilburg
photos by Peter Cox