Han Nefkens Writer, art collector and AIDS activist

Han Nefkens, born in Rotterdam in 1954, studied journalism in France and the United States, then worked for 11 years as a radio correspondent in Mexico. In 1987, when he discovered he was HIV-positive, he decided to concentrate on what he always really wanted to do: write. The first result was 1995's Bloedverwanten (Blood Brothers), a semi-autobiographical novel about two brothers, both infected with HIV. This was followed by articles in NRC Handelsblad and a collection of short pieces, Twee lege stoelen (Two Empty Chairs), in 2005.

In late 2001 Nefkens, who by then was living in Barcelona, became seriously ill with a highly dangerous infection in his brain caused by HIV. Nefkens survived, but he had to learn to eat, walk, speak, read and write all over again. The 2008 book De Gevlogen Vogel: notities over en herwonnen leven (This Bird Has Flown: Notes on a Recovered Life) is a penetrating report of that lengthy recovery process.

In addition to writing, Nefkens is also an art collector and patron of the arts. What started in 2001 with the purchase of a video installation by Pipilotti Rist has grown into the H+F Collection, named after Nefkens and his Mexican partner Felipe. This is a collection of contemporary art consisting of photographs, videos, installations and paintings by Jeff Wall, Sam Taylor-Wood, Bill Viola, Shirin Neshat, Felix Gonzalez-Torres and others. The works are striking for their tranquil, restrained power and poetic ambiguity. Nefkens puts them out on long-term loan to museums within the Netherlands and abroad, including the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, Rotterdam’s Boijmans Van Beuningen, Huis Marseille in Amsterdam and the FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais in Dunkirk. Traveling exhibitions in several European museums are also made up of works from Nefkens' collection.

In recent years Nefkens has been initiating increasing numbers of projects and commissioning work from individual artists. With his foundation ArtAids, Nefkens also tries to use art to involve people in the AIDS problem and to collect money for the fight against HIV and AIDS.

In 2011 Nefkens received the prestigious Silver Carnation Award from the hands of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

The thread running through all his activities is a strong desire to share. "Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to surprise people, to share something special," Nefkens says. "Giving is one of the most underrated values in society. Having is dividing up the world: This is mine; that’s yours. By setting up something that I can share with others, I become part of the world. Sharing is opening yourself up to the world. I can't imagine anything more enriching than that."