Johan Sadeler I after Maarten de Vos, Mercury and His Influence, 1585, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A mercurial enterprise

In the Renaissance, people involved in the arts, sciences, and commerce were known as children of Mercury, messenger of the gods and namesake of the planet thought to govern these earthly activities. Men (and less frequently women) from vocations as various as sculptors and poets, orators and astrologers, mathematicians and merchants were guided by his quicksilver promise. His countries were Greece, Egypt, Flanders and Paris, his weather tempestuous, and his tastes subtle and penetrating.

All this must have been in the air when I founded ACHAA projects in Antwerp in 2006 with the broadest possible scope, to take in activities as diverse as scholarly research, artistic pursuits, cultural events, editorial services – even running a gallery space. The original name for all this was A Consultancy for the History of Art & Architecture, a rather unwieldy construction that conveniently turned into ACHAA, which looks and sounds like the Hindi word for “good” – good ideas, good service, good quality – good projects!

I’ve remained true to this multifaceted, quality driven mission ever since, whether translating and editing art books, advising collectors, writing expertise, or curating exhibitions – in the house of Mercury, intellectual and commercial pursuits share common ground and all is possible. My academic background, which could be described as restless to say the least, may also have something to do with it. By the time I graduated from high school, I had attended thirteen different schools in three different geographical regions. My college majors took in biochemistry, chemistry and architecture – and let’s not forget brief flirtations with Germanic studies, drawing and painting, photography and printmaking – before ending with a BA in English and a specialization in technical writing and editing. With an interdisciplinary master’s degree in architectural history and Latin American studies, I explored the introduction and spread of modernism throughout South America – particularly Brazil. The Portuguese Atlantic world with its network of fortified trading posts and ad-hoc settlements caught my attention briefly before pivoting into a PhD on painting in seventeenth-century Antwerp, another fixed point in the constellation of seaborne empires that bloomed and flourished under the guidance of Mercury.

A scientist’s passion for precision, an artist’s eye for aesthetics, and a writer’s urge to express: these turn out to be excellent tools in the realm of publishing and other territories of the imagination. Let them work for you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to discuss a publishing project, an idea for an exhibition, or a new research proposal.

Irene Schaudies