Safn – Berlin, Germany / Reykjavík, Iceland
What was the first piece of artwork you purchased, and when was this?
My father enjoyed going to artists’ studios, to look at their work and to make conversation. He always took me with him, I was 17 years old when we visited a very well-known Icelandic painter, Kristján Davíðsson, as my father wanted to buy a painting from him and asked me to choose one which he should buy. This was in 1959.
Why do you collect?
Perhaps it is something in my genes, as I was interested in art from very early on. I started to go to museums when I was 12 - 13 years old, and then later I tried to do some paintings and drawings myself but found out very soon that it was not at all promising. Many friends of mine became artists and my wife, Ragna Róbertsdóttir, is an artist and I learnt a lot from her. I started showing art in my company and also I curated a few shows in museums. I collected some works that I had exhibited and slowly it started to become a collection. Living with art and with artists is something I cannot be without.
Does your collection follow a concept or a specific theme?
Not really, but I can say that most of my collection would be considered Minimal, Conceptual and Fluxus like.
Who are the artists you are currently following?
Dieter Roth has interested me tremendously for a long time. I think he can be considered one of the major artists of the second half of the last century, if only for the books he made! To name a few others that I have followed for a long time: Lawrence Weiner, Ceal Floyer, Karin Sander, Franz Graf, Alan Johnston, Kristján Guðmundsson, Hreinn Friðfinnsson, Roman Signer. It is always difficult to answer this kind of question, you always forget to mention artists who are dear to you.
Do you have a personal relationship with the artists you collect?
Yes, very much so, for me it is very important. Most of my works in the collection are by artists that I know personally and that are very dear friends. It has always been very important to me to know the artist I am buying from.
Why did you decide to make your collection publicly accessible?
Perhaps it is the same need as the one of an artist who has to show his work. I think I have some good and important works that people would like to see. I think it is a big problem today that hundreds and thousands of artworks are in storage in museums and collections all over the world, and they will probably never be shown! Should some of it be sold to the public? I think we will hear more discussions about this problem in the near future.
Which publicly accessible private collection would you recommend visiting?
One reason why we decided to open an exhibition space in Berlin is the fantastic art landscape in this town, and this includes a number of superb private collections that are publicly accessible. One of my favorites is the Haubrok collection. I simply appreciate most of the artists that they collect; many of them I collect myself. It has always been a pleasure to go there in the past years.
All images courtesy Safn, Berlin / Reykjavík
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