Coleccionar Arte Contemporáneo in conversation with GoArt!

March 15, 2019

Vanessa Garcia-Osuna interviews Miriam Bers on the topic of ‘Tendencias des Mercato del Arte’ for coleccionar arte contemporáneo.

Miriam, how did you become an art advisor?

Already during my art history studies with focus on modern and contemporary art I was intrigued by artistic developments and their gradual positioning on the art market. At the time I started doing freelance journalistic work. After collecting work experience in commercial galleries I became the director of Galerie K&S in Berlin, an institutional exhibition space and showroom of Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin and the ZKM Karlsruhe. In my position as curator I accompanied grad-students from all over the world on their career paths as well as selected international artists living in Berlin. Eventually, in 2006, I founded GoArt!, an agency for art advisory and mediation.

Miriam Bers, art advisor and founder of GoArt! Berlin.

How would you explain the increasing influence of the art advisor within the art system?

In my opinion there are various reasons: The amount of collectors but also the working artists have multiplied. Factors such as internationalization, the Asian market (especially China!), investors from Eastern Europe or the Arabic countries have influenced the chain of supply and demand. Besides, in times of low interest policy with classic financial assets there is a higher number of investment in art objects. Not all advisors are coming from the field of art and those who regard the art object as cash item occasionally work in the financial sector. Here the secondary market plays an enormous role. Collectors and art enthusiast with sustainable agenda make up one side of the coin in the art-jungle where everybody needs to constantly keep track of trends and expertise with regard to content. This is where the art advisor – to which I count myself – comes in: in the first instance with focus on the primary market meaning galleries and artists specifically.

What are the advantages of working with an art consultant? What does your work consist of?

From the outside the art market may seem complex and difficult to navigate through. The work I do is always different and highly depends on the client. Is it a newcomer to the art world I try to spend as much time as possible with him to find out what he might be interested in and what a future art collection could entail. This is also one of the reasons why I lately started to take on the concept of “art classes” for my agency: developing an understanding of art, quality criteria and market correlations are complex topics. I often try to come up with a pre-selection – also depending on the portfolio or digital image renderings of the rooms that need to be equipped. This is important for clients who are already in the process of collecting and occasionally travel to Berlin – the world’s biggest production place for contemporary art – from afar.

Working like this I can save an immense amount of time and the rough direction and genre of works can be determined before a personal meeting with galleries or artists. Additionally, I have an elaborate network that facilitates glimpses behind the scenes. Surely, art consultants do not represent artists or galleries but the client, therefore they should have a neutral approach. Ultimately, my multilingual team and I take care of all services relating to the purchase: We visit fairs by order of the client and optionally oversee the handling, transport and hanging of the works.

What are the main challenges a contemporary art collector has to face nowadays?

The main challenge is definitely the constantly growing market and tied up with this the increase in online offerings. It is difficult to align yourself with numbers when it comes to emerging artists because naturally art is bound to many different factors: Questions concerning the inventory, continuity as well as the significance of individual works play a role – nobody wants to buy art works that are already in the process of losing value! These are decisions of importance: Should the collection be an investment in the medium turn or in the long run? Should it merely represent the mainstream? And more importantly: What consequences result from the clients’ preferences, from the decision for a specific genre like photography, video art or performance? This line of questioning goes on to thoughts on conservation.

photo credit: goart!berlin

How can the choices of certain collectors influence the art market?

Generally speaking collecting is often viewed as a prestigious activity. A collector can set public trends with his paintings, photos or objects. In fact, an influential art collector has more capital than most museums and can this way consolidate young artists faster than state-run art institutions. Never before have so many private exhibition spaces or publicly accessible collections been founded: Christian Boros comes to mind. He bought a WWII bunker in Berlin, converted it into a private museum for his collection and was one of the first who rooted for artists like Olafur Eliasson. Another example is the established collection Maramotti, owned by the fashion label Max Mara. Luigi Maramotti discovered artists such as Jacob Kassey long before he was a competitor on the art market. An almost mythic status enjoys Charles Saatchi, art patron and –venturer, who – in the 1990s – promoted young artists like Damien Hirst or Sarah Lukas. He bought and sold their works in large numbers and consequently influenced prices, curators and other collectors.

photo credit: goart!berlin

The art market has reached unprecedented levels. What aspects would explain this exponential growth?

Simply said there are far more wealthy people than before. Classical art works up until the classical modernity are highly competitive while the reception of contemporary art in the age of the knowledge-based society is easier, accessible and popular. New markets have developed: Asian or Arabic countries, such as Hong Kong or Dubai and Abu Dhabi have become centers of the Middle Eastern art world. Art opens doors and at the same time it is publicly accessible. With this added value it is more exceptional than lets say gold that is securely stored in the safe. Moreover, art connects people of various cultures and ethnicities, establishes an international identity, networks and a surplus value that should not be underestimated.

photo credit: goart!berlin

What have been the notable changes you have seen in the art market over the past years? (For example the emergence of the Internet, globalization, etc.)

The phenomenon of globalization has indubitably changed the art world. That way there are Blue-Chip galleries as well as fairs that open branches in Berlin, London, Los Angeles or Singapore. Galleries become agencies to manage international projects and co-operations more flexibly. Additionally, there are gallery owners who switch to working in auction houses. Newer trends develop in the field of real estate: Financial advisors who as of now also have art works in their portfolio. A macro trend is the very speculative and snowballing secondary market that also boosts the prices for contemporary art. Coming along is a growing body of young collectors who are very familiar with our digitalized society. Online market offers and artists who promote themselves directly via online portals present subsidiary challenges for the collector. That way he can visually pre-consider his choices.

photo credit: goart!berlin

Can art be a good investment? Could you give some examples of this?

Yes. In fact, there are numerous examples also in the field of contemporary art. First of all art is a value-adding and goodwill-creating investment. An artists’ career develops through complex connections: emerging artists have gallery owners, museum experts, art associations, critics and curators behind them who invest many resources to their oeuvre. We live in a time of image consumption that is why selection criteria are more important than ever. I carefully observe artist careers for more than two decades: Think of Thomas Demand who had his first solo exhibition in Munich in 1992 while today his works are shown in the Bilbao Guggenheim or the MoMa in New York. Shiharu Shiota – whose works I presented when she was still a master student of Rebecca Horn – has recently become the shooting star of Blain Southern gallery with branches in London and Berlin. The same applies to the unconventional performance and video artist Katarzyna Kozyra who by now belongs to the pool of most notable contemporary Polish artists of today. One of the most successful and internationally prominent German painters is Jonas Burgert who – in 2004, only 15 years ago – could hardly make a living of his art.

Shiharu Shiota, The Key in the Hand, Japanese Pavillon, Biennale 2015, photo credit: goart!berlin

Are there any specific regions, movements or artists you would advise paying attention to?

An exciting new tendency lies in the field of street art. That has a lot to do with the current zeitgeist and the enthusiasm for a hip-hop subculture. Berlin – city of departure and upheaval with all its liberties – accommodates many urban artists. Meanwhile there are museums and galleries that are professionally dedicated to that trend. This is appealing for young collectors in particular, because the prices are still in the four-figure range. At the same time photography is a medium in demand. In general, I think that Europe and its focus topics of sustainability and migration is a major hub for artists and collectors. Berlin alone has one of the biggest international artist networks: official numbers show that more than 20.000 international artists live and work in the German metropolis. Among the protagonists are Olafur Eliasson, Thomas Demand, Thomás Saraceno or Katharina Grosse who became famous here. Art is like a plant that grows where it finds suitable humus to thrive on. The attraction exercised by cities like Paris or New York has today shifted towards Berlin – also pivot point to Eastern Europe. Spain on the other hand has been the gateway to South America since many decades not only proven by the Arco in Madrid.

 

photo credit: goart!berlin

Tautes Heim – Living in a UNESCO World Heritage Building

February 12, 2019

The rentable museum apartment ‘Tautes Heim’ is a project started by landscaping architect Katrin Lesser and graphic designer Ben Buschfeld. Planned by Bruno Taut it is located in the Unesco World Heritage ‘Hufeisensiedlung’ and won the EU-Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa-Nostra-Award in 2013. Katrin Lesser and Ben Buschfeld bought the 65 sqm house in 2010 and renovated it with monument conservation guidelines over a period of only two years. Visitors and architecture fans can rent ‘Tautes Heim’ for an authentic living experience.

Miriam has met the two for an interview:

MB: How does your day start?

BB: We are both freelancers and early birds, therefore – fortunately –  we need no alarm clock. Our day starts with a relaxed breakfast, shower and a fruit salad but shortly after we start working.

MB: Where is the ‘Tautes Heim’ located and how did the idea of it come up? 

KL: For almost 20 years we have lived in the Hufeisen settlement, just 100 meters away from ‘Tautes Heim’.  We feel very comfortable here and are both committed to historic preservation, have repeatedly published on the settlement and also offer guided tours ourselves. From my point of view, a guided tour includes visiting the interior. The reason is simple: the high quality of living behind colorful facades can only be experienced from within the building. Back then „light, air and sunshine“ was the slogan of the planners. The new housing should become a contrast to the dark tenement blocks of that time.

Tautes Heim, Außenansicht, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: How did you manage to let a house with world heritage status privately on a daily basis?

KL: It has a lot to do with the transformation to individual property in this area, in contrast to other settlements of the “Berliner Moderne”. It makes it more difficult ensuring a homogeniously monument preservation. From this situation we have initiated several projects that pursue a knowledge transfer relating to monuments and at the same time address neighbors, politics and externals. Thankfully we are well connected locally and know many houses of the settlement from the inside. One day we accompanied friends of neighbors during the inspection of an end-terrace house up for sale. The house – formerly inhabited by an old lady – was quite run down and in extreme need of renovation. The friends quickly rejected but we were immediately excited and have been looking for a possibility to make it accessible to third parties since.

After having tried to achieve funds unvailingly we came up with the idea of a temporary furnished living space according to museums standard. We took the risk jumping into work and now hope to refinance our private investment through renting. It is fun but also a long idealistic process which was only possible by the experience we bring along.

Hufeisen Settlement, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Hufeisen Settlement, aerial view, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: Your are a couple, do you split the responsibilities for this project? I know for example that you Katrin, are a landscaping architect and have caused the Hufeinsen settlement to become a garden monument. And Ben, what role do you play?

BB: I am a communication designer with focus on architecture and contemporary history, and so far consider myself to some degree a professional. The whole planning and restoration work is a real ‘couples-project’. Over a period of two years we’ve been working together almost every weekend designing and making choices. Only later we split the work. Katrin has much more competence in garden issues and is also a great site manager. I myself on the other hand was able to demonstrate my PR-skills and took care of the photos, website, networking, etc.

Tautes Heim, Living Room, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: Temporary residents and architecture fans can stay overnight and also work at ‘Tautes Heim’. There is a desk and a wifi connection. What about cooking, can I rent the house and invite guests for dinner?

KL: Theoretically, yes. Even though the house is full with originals of the Bauhaus era, simultaneously the kitchen is functionally fully equipped. Modern comfort in the form of a fridge and a dish washer has been achieved by hiding the devices conveniently behind the kitchen front. Also the charming „backofix“ stove does its duty. However, it is no high-end equipment and the 65 sqm house is relatively small. Insofar it is not a place for extensive culinary events. Up to four people can be comfortably catered though. Besides, in spring and summer you can enjoy sitting outside on the terrace in front of the house.

 

Tautes Heim, Kitchen, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Tautes Heim, Bedroom, (www.tautes-heim.de)

MB: How does your day end, do you enjoy cooking?

BB: Yes, I love cooking – more than Katrin actually. But we eat and cook regularly, consciously and healthy – not only for us, but also for our friends and guests. This however takes time of which we lack a bit of these days.

MB: Recipe idea?

BB: This weekend, we are invited to a birthday of a friend and are supposed to contribute something to the buffet. I think we will prepare a mousse auch chocolat and an exotic asian salat – both not typical meals of the 1920ies though.

Tautes Heim, Chamber, (www.tautes-heim.de)

Sigrid Neubert – Modern Architecture in Photography

March 28, 2018

Sigrid Neubert (*1927) is one of Germany’s most renowned architectural photographers. In the past six decades, she has produced aesthetic images of modern buildings and urban landscapes. Later, Neubert was also interested in nature photography while creating poetic, partly mystical imagery. A selection of works by Sigrid Neubert is currently on display in the Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin . The exhibition runs until June 3rd, 2018.

Miriam Bers talked to the two curators of the exhibition – the head of the photography collection of the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) Dr. Ludger Derenthal, and the architect and art historian Dr. Frank Seehausen.

MB: Mr. Derenthal, according to which criteria do you create your program?

LD: In the Museum of Photography we present the whole history of this important visual medium from its beginning in the middle of the 19th century to the present day, often in thematic exhibitions and with works from our collection.

MB: How did the current cooperation with you and Frank Seehausen come about?

LD: We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to compile a representative selection from the comprehensive archive of Sigrid Neubert and incorporate the works into our collection. Therefore it was our aspiration to create an exhibition that involves her complete oeuvre – landscape and architectural photography. We curated the exhibition together: I was responsible for the nature part and Frank Seehausen, who also wrote the book about Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography that will soon be published by Hirmer, took care of the architecture section.

MB: The current exhibition with works by Sigrid Neubert summarized in four keywords?

FS: The architectural photography is presented in four thematic chapters as the core of Neubert’s lifework with manifold references to her free work. We aim to encourage visitors to search for points of view, motives, similarities and differences. Archival material and, above all, architectural drawings make the dialogue between the photographer and the architects comprehensible.

LD: Talking about the landscape photography, two aspects are important to me: Sigrid Neubert has used photography both as a medium of expressing emotions as well as a medium for the development of a unique design vocabulary which together form a very instructive contrast.

MB: What do you think about the relationship between Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography and the New Vision (Neues Sehen)? The press release also refers to 1950s American photography…

FS: In her architectural photography, Neubert has increasingly distanced herself from the US influences of the 1950s and gradually developed her own formal and content-related approach by carefully working out not only the plasticity of the buildings, but also the interaction of the buildings with the environment and its residents. In comparison, we also show works by Julius Shulman, who influenced Neubert in the 1950s.

MB: Architectural photography can be very elaborate. Which techniques did Sigrid Neubert apply? Did she work in a team?

FS: Neubert mostly worked on her own utilizing only a few facilities. For more than 30 years, she used a field camera and preferred to shoot in black and white on 9×12 glass negatives until the 1970s. This generated particularly high-contrast images in perfect technical quality. However, these harsh contrasts – that were characteristics of her work – were not only stylistic device but should also compensate the poor print quality of many architecture magazines. For Neubert it was important to enter an intensive dialogue with the buildings, which in a sense, she regarded as the representative of the architect’s personality.

MB: The current exhibition also includes landscape photography – atmospheric interpretations of the same – that the artist has focused on over the last few decades. How do you explain her dedication to nature?

LD: After many years of producing commission works for architects and magazines, Sigrid Neubert has created her own field of artistic impact. She has always worked in thematic categories, working on some topics for decades. This shows how intensively she has thought about the medium of photography and its possibilities.

MB: Last but not least a question to you, as the two curators of the exhibition: What kind of photography can be found in your living room?

LD: A lightbox with a black-and-white photograph of Reiner Leist showing the skyline of New York.

FS: An architectural photograph by Franz Lazi from Stuttgart produced in 1950.

Photos: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek / Sigrid Neubert

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