Erwin Olaf, Hope – Portrait 5, 2005. Acquired by the Rijksmuseum thanks to BankGiro Lottery players. © Erwin Olaf

Erwin Olaf’s oeuvre has long been inspired by the Dutch Golden Age of painting. Notably, Rembrandt has been a great inspiration for Olaf throughout his career. In 2018, the Rijksmuseum became the recipient of a total of 500 objects, comprising prints, portfolios, videos, magazines, books and posters. The vast majority are donations; 60 photographs and three videos have been acquired with the support of the Bank Giro Loterij. The museum and the artist celebrated this gift and acquisition with an exhibition featuring a selection of iconic works by Olaf, for which he drew inspiration from paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and Breitner. The exhibition, featuring about 20 works from Olaf and the Rijksmuseum collection, showed how Olaf’s work manifests an unbroken line from early Dutch painting to the present day.

On the occasion of Photo London 2019 and the Aperture’s release of Erwin Olaf: I Am, Erwin Olaf and Erik van Ginkel (Director of Finance and Operations of the Rijksmuseum and photography enthusiast) talked to us about Olaf’s work, his inspiration, and the exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, shedding light behind one of Holland’s most praised artists of the 21st Century.


Erwin Olaf (born in Hilversum, the Netherlands, 1959) is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Johannes Vermeer Award (2011), a Lucie Award (2008), and Photographer of the Year in the International Color Awards (2006). Among other accolades, Olaf received the commission to design the new national side of the Dutch Euro, launched in 2013. In 2008 and 2014 Aperture published volumes one and two of Olaf ’s self-titled monographs; Aperture is the English-language publisher of I Am, a survey of his work published in Spring 2019 to accompany the largest retrospective of his work to date, a multiple-venue show with installations at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag; and the Fotomuseum Den Haag.
Erik van Ginkel has been the Rijksmuseum’s Director of Finance & Operations since 1 September 2011. He holds ancillary positions at, amongst others, Codart, Dutch Museum Association, Fundación Han Nefkens, Amsterdam Marketing and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts. As a photography enthusiast, Erik van Ginkel joins the Rijksmuseum’s Curators of Photography to several photography fairs on a yearly basis, such as AIPAD (New York), Paris Photo, Unseen Amsterdam and Photo London