Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The public private

In the late eighties we visited the Saatchi collection when it was housed in an old paint factory in London. One of the memorable things about going there was walking down Abbey Road and across the pedestrian crossing made famous by the Beatles. At that time the idea of a private collector having his own gallery and making it available to the public was decidedly radical. 

Leap forward 20 plus years and the public private collection has become commonplace. Last week we visited the collection of Axel and Barbara Haubrok in Berlin. The Haubrok collection is located in a disused garaging facility that once serviced the official cars of the GDR aka East Germany. The buildings are spread over a huge area and included a container cafĂ©, workshops as well as what are to become performance spaces and studios. Upstairs it was distressed white cube with machines and equipment evoking its past functions. The selection of the collection on display was largely minimalist paintings and sculpture. A couple of the artists - Callum Innes and Imi Knoebel - will be familiar to Aucklanders. There was also an iconic screen by Franz West. A simple sheet of white painted board with his familiar builder’s steel bent into legs so it could free stand. Who’d have thought our interest in disused garages and art could collapse together so neatly on the outskirts of Berlin.

Images: top to bottom, the entrance to the old garage complex, one of the two galleries showing minimalist work, an Imi Knoebel painting alongside pumping equipment, a Franz West screen alongside works by Jacob Kassey and Lone Haugaard Madsen, the container cafe in the courtyard