Ruud Spruit, formerly director of the Westfries Museum in Hoorn,
author of
article 'Ming Yu Palace in Amsterdam'
published in  'OBJEKT' lifestyle magazine.
Intriguing story about an art and collecting antiques.
Hans Vonk, photographer - publisher, illustrates with pictures.
You will find the story and pictures in 5 pages.


Han Ming Gerardus Yu was born and lives in Amsterdam.

Ming was born on Queen's Day the 30th of May 1947. Ming Yu and his life-partner Wouter van Os operated an antique shop an business between 1965 and 1990.
At the age of 18 Ming started to deal from home. By means of antique advertisements he marketed the trade. Stimulated by the success and experience of making a profit, they decided to open a store together. Ming committed himself fulltime, Wouter kept his job as a film distributor for the first few years. The store was located in the antique center of Amsterdam, the so-called "Spiegelkwartier". They also had a studio-workshop on Herengracht.

The source of energy and the experience of happiness, being carried away in the economic process of an antique dealer is connected with a cyclical process of transitions. There is the scavenger hunt and falling in love with an object, which turns - after a sharp purchase - into giving a maintenance and cleaning service to arouse the amazement and appeal of potential buyers. The next transition is the sales pitch and a lucrative price that generates capital for the next scavenger hunt.

They were boundlessly curious to explore what constitutes a good art collection. France, Germany and England were the main hunting grounds for bringing a collection together. Sometimes banks were stressful with new liquidity requirements during an economic crisis and in order to do business with communist East Germany they had to decipher their bargaining codes. The two partners became increasingly attuned to each other in their business.They learned to balance an inevitable professional agitation and worry with relaxation and divergence. Their visits to good hotels, culinary esteemed addresses and preference for distinguished car brands (Rolls) are examples of this.

Ming Yu focused more on retail sales, contacts with potential buyers. He introduced the use of the fax machine to maintain contact with potential Japanese customers. He took care of the 'face' of the store. Wouter van Os focused on the techniques of restoring music boxes so they would sound like the old days, he was also the accounting and administrative force.

They started collecting and selling 'general' antiques from the 18th and 19th centuries. Over time, and if the investment fund allowed it, they placed new accents - on occasion, for example, on jewellery - and specialized in antique mechanical musical instruments and music boxes. They also remained antique dealers with a good expertise and knowledge in porcelain, clocks, paintings and sculptures. They participate in major antique fairs in the Netherlands, Germany, Olympia London, Belgium, ect.

Van Os & Yu were together full-time in the antique trade for 25 years, including weekends. Year after year they tried to improve the collection, they kept looking for more unique objects. For example pianolas with pianists from the beginning of the 20th century, such as Sergei Rachmaninov, Stravinsky and Josef Lhévinne, where the playing is recorded on paper rolls. In March 1914, the Duo-Art pianola was introduced, a reproducing piano which could play back rolls recorded by well-known pianists and composers. The collection Van Os & Yu of music boxes and musical instruments was considered the largest and most important in Europe and highly appreciated by Japanese connoisseurs.

We can say that the company was led by a pair of complementary talents. Wouter's serious illness also threatened the continuity of the business and it was decided to wind down the business. In 1990 the entire collection of music boxes was sold. Ming's life was seriously affected but not his love of the antiques, he continued to collect privately.

The catalogue of the current collection again consists of functional and artistic objects from the 17th 18th 19th century. Their joint work has contributed to the preservation of a historical-cultural heritage. By restoring, rehabilitating and preserving utensils and art objects from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, they shed light on the aesthetics and craftsmanship of these artifacts from bygone centuries. This work is just as essential as the preservation of word art-literature or music of previous centuries and their expressive power and meaning in the present. Both antique dealers enjoyed the ultimate craftsmanship they encounter in the objects and the integration of mythology, history and design in the 17th, 18th and 19th century periods of applied art.

 Information about the dealer Ming Yu, read the article in 'OBJEKT'.
The international magazine for interior design and art,
appeared  Summer 2006,


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