uit BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors
uitgeverij Hatje Cantz
If no one ever looked at art, would anybody even create it? And how much does art actually need buyers? These are by no means outrageous questions. So here’s another, more concrete one: Is an art world conceivable without collectors, without such dependent relationships? The who-with-whom, how much, and why questions. And who are these collectors anyway? Privileged or unloved individuals? Men and women of conviction, or mere investors? Show-offs or idealists? There is some truth to all these clichés. But one thing is certain: owning works of art changes most collectors as deeply as creating them does the artist. As an expression of a collector’s personality, an art collection can also kindle the desire to share such private treasures with the public. This is what the BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors is all about. The first global guide to private and publicly accessible collections of contemporary art. A guide that goes beyond the conventional. A guide to loud and quiet locations, to the unobtrusive as well as the immodest.
“We asked ourselves why no one had done it before.”
Christian Schwarm (Independent Collectors) and Dr. Uwe Ellinghaus (BMW) on the genesis of this book.
Christian Schwarm: When did we start talking about publishing a guide to worldwide private collections of contemporary art?
Dr. Uwe Ellinghaus: Over three years ago. We asked ourselves why no one had done it before.
CS: And now we know why: what initially sounded easy turned out to be a huge challenge. The list of 173 locations we brought together simply didn’t exist before. I mean, our team quickly checked off the internationally renowned collections, but tracking down the not-so-well-known places, based on insider tips, took nearly a year of meticulous, worldwide research. This project is a milestone for our Independent Collectors platform, which has up until now only been online. And I think it’s a milestone for BMW, too?
UE: Absolutely. We loved the idea of the Art Guide from the start. So much so, that we at BMW decided to co-publish a book of this kind—something we’ve never done before. There’s the Michelin Guide for fine dining, so why shouldn’t there be a BMW Art Guide for fine private collections?
CS: BMW has been supplying a lot of substantive content and building long-term partnerships—particularly in the art world, like with the BMW Guggenheim Lab or the BMW Tate Live format.
UE: For us, it’s the next logical step. Our partnership with Independent Collectors arose under exactly these auspices; and we hope to gain more visibility for our joint activities with this book. But above all, we hope this book becomes an inspiring source of information for readers, and that we’ll be able to list even more collections in possible future editions.
CS: Independent Collectors’ current membership shows how great the potential is: over 4000 collectors from almost ninety countries exchange ideas over our platform. Offline—in real life—not everyone can or wants to make his or her collection accessible to the public. And some of them, in fact, made an exception just for this book—agreeing to open their spaces for interested guests upon request. This is obviously a sensitive issue, but I hope their examples may set a precedent. We all know the old cliché of the hermit-like collector, barricaded with his treasures behind giant wooden doors, is just that— a cliché; it rarely corresponds to reality.
UE: That’s right. Most collectors like talking with like-minded people. And many of them build a bridge for interested beginners by explaining artists’ works clearly but also in a way that retains the works’ necessary depth. It’s easier than one thinks to get people inspired by art. Actually, the same happened to us as a company: In 1975, when Alexander Calder was encouraged by race-car driver and passionate art collector Hervé Poulain to design the first BMW Art Car, no one thought it would be the beginning of a truly unique collection. But so far a total of seventeen artists have “transformed” a BMW into a work of art, among them Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, Jenny Holzer, Jeff Koons, and Olafur Eliasson.
CS: Calder had obviously “infected” BMW in some way. Something like this happens to most collectors at some point in their lives. I myself was in my mid-twenties when suddenly, in an exhibition in London, I was floored by contemporary art—really out of nowhere. Art hadn’t played a major role in my parents’ home when I was growing up, and school led me to believe that everything to do with art was endlessly boring. A huge oversight on my part, but I realized it only later. Any collector will tell you their own unique story of how they found their way to art—and why they began to buy it.
UE: Some people ask why collecting art is even necessary. You can always look at works of art in museums or in books.
CS: That’s true. But it makes a really big difference when you decide to live with a work of art. When you see it on a daily basis. When you are con-fronted by it, even when it is difficult to understand. I learned years ago from an experienced collector friend that a work’s “resistance to appreciation” can also be an indicator of its quality. It’s similar with music: what you immediately like, you often do not like for long.
UE: Which is a pretty subjective matter. What art you like, and what art challenges your aesthetic sensibility is something you can only find out on your own. It is for precisely this reason that we decided to make this not a book of art criticism, but rather a practical guide to private collections you normally wouldn’t find in traditional travel guides.
CS: And they don’t belong in traditional travel guides, because this is not a navigation aid for buses filled with tourists. It’s a guide for experts heading out on international jaunts. This is why it was important for us to include private collections that are still characterized by privacy. The word “private” leaves lots of room for interpretation, of course. There are fantastic corporate collections not listed here, for example, and there are impressive private collections that have been donated to museums and have merged with their permanent collections.
UE: I think we were all amazed by how many different kinds of private collections exist, and with really different orientations. And each month there are more. This is why we deliberately focused on places that concentrate primarily on contemporary art, that are permanently accessible in one location, and that have a private background.
CS: You can see evidence of this last condition in that you can’t just go and visit many of these collections whenever you want. Only about half of them have fixed opening hours, and visiting some of them must be scheduled well in advance. But with a little planning, a visit to any of the collections in this volume is sure to be a rewarding experience, in a truly unique location. We look forward to receiving feedback from our readers and hope that many more collections will open their doors to like-minded art lovers.
Berlin, spring 2012
177 Museum van Bommel van Dam
An enthusiastic Dutch couple and their personalized collection
Maarten van Bommel acquired his first artwork in the age of sixteen. Later, as a stock trader, he continued growing his collection. From 1944 on, he and his wife, Reina van Dam, both now deceased, collected unsystematically: abstract Dutch painting of the Informel and CoBrA, but also African masks and Japanese woodcuts. After extensively seeking a suitable location to house their 1000 works, they found it in 1969 in the city of Venlo: an ideal museum for their art and, next door, a residential bungalow. Through a connecting door, they could move freely between the two. Over the years, the collection has been added to by other collectors, and under the current director, Rick Vercauteren, it has become more contemporary and international.