What started as a plan to establish a new lighting brand on Dutch soil eventually resulted in a two-month search for a lost brand: Atelier Artiforte.
In 2018, Titus Darley, David Derksen and Remco van der Voort had the idea of creating a new lighting brand. The principles were simple. The lamps in the collection would be a mix of classics and new designs and have a timeless design. In addition, the light would be exclusively LED. The three men contacted Eng Bo, Kho Liang Ie's son through their network. They did so because they stumbled upon the K-46 floor lamp, a stylish and timeless classic, which they would like to re-release. They also reached out to licensees of Aldo van den Nieuwelaar's lighting.
The original plan was to establish an entirely new lighting brand. But after some research, it turns out that the K-46 used to be made by a firm called 'Lichtornamenten Atelier Artiforte'. The search began.
All that can be found online about Atelier Artiforte at that time is the following (8 December 2020):
“Atelier Artiforte was a small company based in Rotterdam, specialized in hand-crafted lighting fixtures and nowadays well-known by their very progressive lighting designs, created by Kho Liang Ie, Johan Niegeman and H. Fillekes.”
“The firm Artiforte was a small company based in Rotterdam and active from the 1950s until the end of the 1960s. Little is known about the company, only the beautiful lamps remain. H. Fillekes designed several lamps lamps for Artiforte, as published in several catalogues. He also was the owner of the company.”
They decide to investigate and soon discover more products that were once in Atelier Artiforte's collection, such as the ST84, designed by Johan Niegeman. After further research, they find out that the brand is long gone and little is known about it. They decide to search through various archives to find out more about Atelier Artiforte. They find various advertisements for bench workers, seamstresses and grinders but also an article about a 17 March 1976 Fillekes/Artiforte lawsuit against Herda.
The history of Atelier Artiforte
Although little by little more is becoming known about the brand, one big mystery remains unsolved: it is still unclear what H. Fillekes' first name is. Searches for Henk, Herman, Hans... offer no clear results.
On December 2020, they find J.J. Buchter's name under Artiforte, in the 1934 Rotterdam address book. He might well be the founder. Via LinkedIn, they also approach one Hans Fillekes who might be related, and they search death records for H. Fillekes' first name.
In the Chamber of Commerce archives, Artiforte is not found. They do, however, find a company called Artiforte Deelnemingen. They request an extract from that company from the National Archives.
Through the Rotterdam Archive, they then request the Fillekes family's house map (at 222 Insulindestraat) on 4 January 2021 and approach several Fillekes from Rotterdam via Facebook. On 11 January 2021, things suddenly move very quickly. On that day, they receive a KVK scan of the Artiforte Deelnemingen bv file. It turns out to be the continuation of Artiforte lampen bv. This solves the mystery of Fillekes' first name, because 'H.' appears to stand for 'Hendrik': Hendrik Fillekes, born 9 February 1918. Died 4 September 1983. Married to Hendrika Johanna Fillekes-Bezooyen. Born 18 April 1918. It also lists their address in 1975, in Capelle aan den IJssel. This a major breakthrough in the search, because now the quest for the heirs can start!
Another thing the KVK file shows is that J.J. Buchter is the founder of Atelier Artiforte, in 1930 (the registration in the KVK of 16 January 1934). After the war, the company became the property of the Dutch Management Institute, until Henk Fillekes took over with Johan van Wierst.
The last piece of the puzzle is almost falling into place. The residency card from the Rotterdam City Archive, which they received on 12 January 2021, shows that Hendrik Fillekes lived at Insulindestraat 222 from 21 February 1947 to 1 October 1958, together with his wife and two children. Unfortunately, the names of the wife and children on the residency card are absent. There is, however, a family card of Hendrik Fillekes' father, also named Hendrik.
In January 2021, at Titus Darley's request, the Capelle aan den IJssel municipality requests the Fillekes family whether they can contact them. The family agrees and so, about two months after starting their search, they get in touch with Jeanette Fillekes, Henk Fillekes’ daughter.
Jeanette turns out to have several interesting archive documents that provide insight into Fillekes' oeuvre and Atelier Artiforte's collection. Moreover, she regularly worked in her parents' company in her youth and even featured as a model in several of the company's brochures. Thus, after two months, an exciting search came to an end and it was decided to revive Atelier Artiforte after 40 years. Atelier Artiforte B.V. is re-established and acquires the rights to publish Henk Fillekes' designs.
In May 2022, during Object Rotterdam, the Atelier Artiforte brand will see the light for the first time. Then still without Fillekes' iconic Magneto lamp. More than two years later, in May 2023, the Magneto - courtesy of Kees de Groen and Azad Haqiqi - is back on the market after almost 70 years.