BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

Alain Servais

Servais Family Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Portrait of Alain Servais. On wall: Matthew Day Jackson, ’Cult of Death #8’, 2009
Portrait of Alain Servais. On wall: Matthew Day Jackson, ’Cult of Death #8’, 2009

What was the first piece of artwork you purchased and when was this?

The first works that I bought with the awareness of art, was in 1997 with photographs by Nan Goldin and Andres Serrano. Prior to 1997 and this nascent awareness, there were works that I had purchased “instinctively” such as a Philippe Pasqua that I acquired in his studio in New York in 1994 and a $100 painting by an unknown artist that I got from a gallery in the East Village in 1987.

I don’t believe that one decides to become a collector, but rather that you are or you are not. And more generally, collecting is more than acquiring works of art. It is a way of living, a way of thinking.

Front: Renato Garza Cervera, ’Of Genuine Contemporary Beast (Religious)’, 2005
Front: Renato Garza Cervera, ’Of Genuine Contemporary Beast (Religious)’, 2005
(l–r) Wim Delvoye, ’Montfaucon’, 1990; Thomas Houseago, ’Large Plaster Figure’, 2009 – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
(l–r) Wim Delvoye, ’Montfaucon’, 1990; Thomas Houseago, ’Large Plaster Figure’, 2009 – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Why do you collect?

To express myself. Adding my “sentence” around the “words” created by the artists. To share new ideas, questions, doubts, and surprises. To learn about myself and the world I am living in, so to open my mind to other options. To participate in the constitution of the history of the art of today. To feed my insatiable drive to learn what is not taught. To think outside of the box.

Does your collection follow a concept or a specific theme?

In my opinion, a collection will always be an image of its initiator. However, for a collection to be interesting, the collector must not only “collect himself”, but instead open up to a broader reality. I am constantly trying to meet that challenge.

Within that context, there are a number of themes that cross each other in various works across the collection to give it diversity, which I believe is inherent to human nature. I would hate for the collection to be entrapped by never evolving themes.

I am interested in humanity, the way we live together and how we organize ourselves today and all over the world but I am particularly drawn to minorities, as I believe it is in their treatment one can judge the level of “maturity” of a society. It draws from the fascinating studies and writings of Claude Levi-Strauss on anthropology and ethnology with developments towards psycho-sociology.

The groundbreaking book by the French philosopher Edgar Morin “The lost paradigm: human nature”, taught me as an adolescent that despite their efforts to extract themselves from and pretend to dominate nature, humans are often so much easier to understand through their “natural” side, their “animal” side which implies violence, instincts, sexual drives, etc. This book can explain a certain “rawness“ in the collection.

My still-growing knowledge of art history convinces me every day that the art worth collecting, that the art that some will want to see in 30 years time, is always closely related to the socio, politico economic context of the society it develops in. It forces me to ask myself continuously what history in 100 years will remember from our times. From that question I developed my interest in a globalized art scene in line with the clear trend towards a globalized world but also in a deep interest for digital art which fits the fabulous development of computers and the internet. It includes also a deep interest in ecology.

Finally, art must surprise me, challenge me, open up my mind and heart following the definition that I heard many years ago from Mera Rubell: “Art is a language which opens your heart to the Other.”

Ghost of a Dream, ’Dream Vacation’, 2008
Ghost of a Dream, ’Dream Vacation’, 2008
Entang Wiharso, ’"Too Close" Comic Book series 2’, 2009
Entang Wiharso, ’"Too Close" Comic Book series 2’, 2009

Which artists you are currently following?

Ian Cheng, Hito Steyerl, Julieta Aranda, Nina Beier, Robert Rauschenberg, Liu Chuang, Fritzia Irizar, Richard Tuttle, Tabor Robak, Hiwa K, John Gerrard, Julien Charrière, Jon Rafman, Ryan Trecartin, Hassan Sharif, to name but a few.

Do you have a personal relationship with the artist you collect?

For me it is not a necessity before acquiring the work. The only exception is if I need some reassurance regarding the “sincerity” of the artist. After the purchase, I feel freer from what is basically a commercial relationship and therefore happy to interact with the artists when it is possible.

Why did you decide to make your collection publicly accessible?

The collection is a family effort; particularly from my father whose Foundation Henri Servais supports its accessibility. We do not believe that we are more than the custodian of the works of art for the public and for future generations.

The Foundation Henri Servais supports initiatives towards personal development and community building. Making the collection accessible to the public fits that goal perfectly.

(l–r) Ariel Orozco, ’Rompecabezas 2’, 2010; Ghada Amer, ’Black Series / Much Again’, 2000 – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017
(l–r) Ariel Orozco, ’Rompecabezas 2’, 2010; Ghada Amer, ’Black Series / Much Again’, 2000 – © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

Which publicly accessible private collection would you recommend visiting?
In Belgium the Vanhaerents but also the Vanmoerkerke collection, in Brazil Inhotim, in Miami the Rubell family collection, CIFO by Ella Cisneros and the Margulies collection, the Pinault Foundation in Venice, the Zabludowicz Collection and the David Roberts Art Foundation in London and many others.

All images courtesy the Servais Family Collection, Brussels

Collectors (58)

Rik Reinking

WAI - Woods Art Institute, Wentorf bei Hamburg, Germany

Christen Sveaas

Kistefos Museet, Jevnaker, Norway

Maurizio Morra Greco

Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples, Italy

Noemi Givon

Givon Art Forum – Tel Aviv, Israel

Qiao Zhibing

TANK Shanghai and Qiao Space - Shanghai, China

Jochen Zeitz

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) - Cape Town, Africa

Dominique & Sylvain Levy

DSLCollection – Paris, France

Andrea von Goetz

Sammlung Blankenburg – Hamburg, Germany

Michael Buxton

Buxton Contemporary - Melbourne, Australia

Anastasios A. Gkekas

The Office Collection - Nicosia, Cyprus

Christine and Andrew Hall

Hall Art Foundation - Reading, USA & Derneburg, Germany

João Carlos de Figueiredo Ferraz

Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz (IFF) - São Paulo, Brazil

Anita Zabludowicz

Zabludowicz Collection – London, United Kingdom

Gordon Elliott

The Elliott Eyes Collection - Sydney, Australia

Seth Stolbun

The Stolbun Collection – Houston, USA

Christian & Karen Boros

Sammlung Boros – Berlin, Germany

Maria Didrichsen

Didrichsen Art Museum – Helsinki, Finland

Timo Miettinen

Salon Dahlmann – Berlin, Germany

Marli Hoppe-Ritter

Sammlung Marli Hoppe-Ritter – Waldenbuch, Germany

Désiré Feuerle

The Feuerle Collection – Berlin, Germany

The Vague Space

Christian Kaspar Schwarm on the first solo presentation of his collection at the Weserburg Bremen

Gudrun & Bernd Wurlitzer

Wurlitzer Pied A Terre Collection – Berlin, Germany

Corbett Lyon

Lyon Housemuseum – Melbourne, Australia

Geert Verbeke-Lens

Verbeke Foundation – Kemzeke, Belgium

László Vass

Vass Collection – Veszprém, Hungary

Daisuke Miyatsu

Dream House – Ichikawa, Japan

Samara Walbohm & Joe Shlesinger

Scrap Metal Gallery – Toronto, Canada

Charles Riva

Charles Riva Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Venke & Rolf Hoff

KaviarFactory – Lofoten, Norway

Ivo Wessel

Sammlung Ivo Wessel - Berlin, Germany

Ramin Salsali

Salsali Private Museum – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Vittorio Gaddi

Collezione Nunzia e Vittorio Gaddi – Lucca, Italy

Miguel Leal Rios

Fundação Leal Rios – Lisbon, Portugal

Julia Stoschek

Julia Stoschek Collection – Dusseldorf, Germany

Gertraud and Dieter Bogner

Kunstraum Buchberg – Gars am Kamp, Austria

Bob Rennie

Rennie Collection at Wing Sang – Vancouver, Canada

Heiner Wemhöner

Sammlung Wemhöner – Herford, Germany

Lin Han

M WOODS – Beijing, China

Kenny Goss

The Goss-Michael Foundation – Dallas, USA

Karsten Schmitz

Arbeitswohnung Federkiel – Leipzig, Germany

Devon Dikeou

The Dikeou Collection - Denver, USA

Thomas Olbricht

ME Collectors Room Berlin/Stiftung Olbricht – Berlin, Germany

Mera & Donald Rubell

Rubell Family Collection – Miami, USA

Pétur Arason

Safn – Berlin, Germany / Reykjavík, Iceland

Steffen Hildebrand

G2 Kunsthalle – Leipzig, Germany

Rafaela Seppälä

RKF Collection – Helsinki, Finland

Frédéric de Goldschmidt

Frédéric de Goldschmidt – Brussels, Belgium

Daniel Teo

The Private Museum – Singapore, Singapore

Claudio Cosma

Sensus – Luoghi per l’arte Contemporanea – Florence, Italy

Michał Borowik

Michał Borowik Collection – Warsaw, Poland

Herbert Gerisch

Herbert-Gerisch-Stiftung - Neumünster, Germany

José Berardo

Museu Coleção Berardo – Lisbon, Portugal

Bärbel Grässlin and Karola Kraus

Sammlung Grässlin - St. Georgen, Germany

Joëlle and Eric Romba

Rocca Stiftung – Berlin, Germany

Myriam and Amaury de Solages

Maison Particulière – Brussels, Belgium

Friedrich Gräfling

Sammlung Fiede - Aschaffenburg, Germany

Benjamin Genocchio

Fair Director at The Armory Show