Hunthers and gatherers

How to become an art collector

Michael Klaar / photo: Christian Wind

How do collections evolve, and what is the secret of successful art acquisition? VIENNA ART WEEK magazine asked some prominent collectors.

“Getting better all the time!”
For the pianist and conductor Michael Klaar the “crazy idea” of building up a collection cropped up already while he was still a teenager. Inspired by the Kunst­museum Basel, whose collection owed its existence mainly to donations, he wanted even as a 13-year-old to buy works for the Vienna Museum of Modern Art. “Unfortunately, in contrast to the Swiss art patrons I was neither heir of a pharmaceutical company nor banker. This painful realization thwarted my childhood plans; but the impetus to collect art remained.”

Today Klaar’s collection encompasses works by such great names as Vito Acconci, Paul McCarthy and Gerhard Richter. But the art scene never fails to have a few surprises up its sleeve: just recently he was able by chance to enrich his collection with works by the young Georgian artist Nino Sekhniashvili and by Pawel Althamer. Today collecting is more fascinating than ever: “The realization that a definitive justification for the collected works remains wishful thinking despite all attempts at explanation is an inexhaustible source of spiritual nourishment.” Klaar closes with the words of philosopher Paul Valéry: “A work of art should always remind us that what we see is something we have never seen before.”

“We like it to be a bit political.”
Bernhard and Ruth Moss already purchased their first works while they were still students. It was always the individual work that motivated them to buy, the purchase was usually subjective, spontaneous and impulsive. In order to guarantee a constant quality level they agreed on three rules of play: the works should irritate, confront and challenge – and that every day. “The work has to remind us day in and day out that the world out there is not quite what it seems to be. We also like it to be a bit political and autobiographical.” The art patrons tend to surround themselves with the reverberations of artists who see themselves as “seismographs of society”: “The works must influence existence, stimulate thought and discussion. Because it’s all the same whether you own one work or 10,000.” Accordingly, the couple recommend art acquisition that is as intuitive as it is relaxed: “Simply start, stay at it, and take your time. If you put the focus on quality and extraordinariness you’ll be fine.”

Text by Salomea Krobath:

Salomea Krobath studied social sciences and Chinese in the Netherlands, China and the UK. She has worked as a freelance journalist for the news magazine “profil” since 2014.

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