Can we take art

The art of collecting - "We won't buy anything at first"

Basel will soon be transformed into a cosmopolitan city again for a few days. Art Basel, Link opens in a new window and numerous secondary fairs open their doors and attract art enthusiasts from all over the world: gallery owners, artists, art collectors - and art consultants. They are looking for the best pieces for their customers.

One of them is Tilman Kriesel with his Hamburg art consultancy business. Those who seek advice from Kriesel will be initiated into their motto: "We won't buy anything at first." So you visit exhibitions and trade fairs for six months, or Kriesel sends the customer emails with tips and advice.

From architect to art collector

Tilman Kriesel speaks with the calm of a man who doesn't have to worry about money. He is the grandson of Bernhard and Margrit Sprengel. In the course of the 20th century, the couple had put together an important collection, from which the Sprengel Museum in Hanover emerged.

Sprengel-Spross Kriesel studied architecture at the ETH Zurich before he decided to “build up collections instead of houses”. The subdued, thoughtful tone reveals: Kriesel is probably not one of the sharp dogs in the art world.

This nature also seems to help him when he mediates between artists and collectors. The 40-year-old does not reveal who uses Kriesel's services - noblesse oblige.

Attorney's fee

The «cooperation» is confidential, intimate and long-term. Almost like a friendship, only paid for: by people for whom money does not play a role.

According to Kriesel, his fee is comparable to that of a lawyer or an architect. There is also a commission when a work of art is purchased.

If buyers are only interested in price, then you have to ask yourself whether the medium of art is the right means of impressing those around you.
Author: Tilman KrieselArt advisor

First, however, a profile is drawn up: What will the future collector be interested in? Are there preferences? How large is the budget? Then Kriesel's research, the excursions and the exchange with the customer begin.

"The atmosphere can quickly become poisonous"

Working together is not always easy. For example, “when art is used to make a name for itself in society”.

Kriesel tells how such customers transfer criteria that have made them professionally successful to artists: The artists are then not valued for their content, but the works are reduced to their material value.

«I stand between the artist and the buyer and get into a mess. The atmosphere can poison so quickly, ”says Kriesel. "If the buyers are only interested in a good price, then you have to ask yourself whether the medium of art is the right means to impress those around you - there are many other ways to distinguish yourself."

Convert the clientele

And yet: art and the market can hardly be separated from one another. Of course, there are collectors who only buy art out of idealism - more of that in a moment.

But there is also the other extreme: speculation. For example, when collections are made on behalf of banks, insurance companies or companies. The market value is often decisive here, the content of the art less important.

How does Kriesel deal with customers who see a collection primarily as an investment? The art consultant finds this legitimate: “It is also the attraction to look at art with money. The artist also has to enforce his claim financially. "

Ultimately, however, Kriesel has a mission: "Perhaps the customer's awareness of what else art can do has not yet grown." Collecting without a passion for art - Kriesel won't let that go and tries to convert his customers.

Successful art collector couple

Christian Boros has had this passion for collecting for a long time. The 54-year-old media entrepreneur goes into raptures when he talks about art. He's been spending money on it since he was 18 years old.

Boros and his wife are a very successful art collector couple. For over ten years Karen and Christian Boros have been included in the annual Artnews list of the 200 “Top Collectors”, link opens in a new window.

A bunker for art

In 2003 Boros, who was born in Poland and grew up in Cologne, bought the former Reichsbahn bunker on Berlin's Friedrichstrasse. After the war, the Nazi building served as a prison for the Red Army, was then a warehouse for tropical fruits from Cuba and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a legendary techno shed.

Boros converted the bunker into his very own exhibition house. Today the public can view the works from his collection there by appointment.

As a collector, you always spend more than you actually want to pay for.
Author: Christian BorosArt collector

This includes works by well-known artists from 1990 to the present day - currently for example Peter Piller or Pamela Rosenkranz, previously among others Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Alicja Kwade, Klara Lidén, Thomas Ruff, Sarah Lucas and Wolfgang Tillmans.

Boros had a penthouse built above the exhibition rooms. He lives there with his family. The collector does not buy his works for speculative purposes - Boros earns the money primarily with his communications agency.

"It is always a matter of self-compulsion"

The art market often makes a name for itself with extremely high prices. When is a price no longer proportionate? “As a collector you always spend more than you actually want to pay for. It is always a matter of self-compulsion, »says Boros. But: "This unreasonableness is part of it."

You don't buy the material. You buy manifested thoughts.
Author: Christian BorosArt collector

He can understand that you buy a Da Vinci for several hundred million: “If you look at it historically, it's not new at all. Even in Renaissance Venice, people spent several times a house on art. Only the numbers are new. "

"You buy manifested thoughts"

So why all the disproportionate? “You don't buy the material, you buy something superordinate. You buy manifested thoughts. An artist speaks a non-verbal language through his art. There is hardly any greater satisfaction than caring about what someone else's opinion is. Some artists are so ingenious that you can hardly make up for that with money. "

Entering into a dialogue with other people through art: So that's Boros’s mainspring - no matter what the cost. He doesn't need a consultant like Tilman Kriesel. Boros prefers to talk directly to artists - for example with Olafur Eliasson, as he himself says: "Artists are direct, least money-driven, most honest."

Art has to irritate

In order for him to decide to buy a work, there is only one criterion for him: the degree of irritation. “A work of art that I don't understand enriches me intellectually. Then I want it because it has brought me further. "

A “Like” is no reason for Boros to buy a work - on the contrary. Although or precisely because he says that he likes art very often.

And yet there are bad purchases in his collection biography. Of course, no names are mentioned here either. Most of the time, however, they are works "with a sweetish attraction", as Boros describes it. After a few years you notice that the work has little depth.

So when you buy something, you have been seduced by the “wow factor”. That fits in with art advisor Kriesel's motto “We won't buy anything first”.

Quality takes time

Kriesel's advice for Art Week goes in this direction: “You should go to the fair with the claim not to buy anything. You much prefer to take the time to look at things, remember what inspires you, ask yourself why that is and which other artists would fit in with it. "

One should go to the fair with the claim not to buy anything.
Author: Tilman KrieselArt advisor

This brings us to the comparison: "Only when you compare two works with each other can you better evaluate the differences and quality."

Don't be dazzled by beauty

So you can slowly begin to concentrate on a specific group - for example only living artists, only painting, etc. Kriesel advises: “You should only make an initial decision after half a year or a full year. But then it should also be uncompromising. "

So for all collectors and those who want to become one: it is better to wait and not be dazzled by the sweet glow.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur Kompakt, 13.6.2018, 7.20 a.m.