Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sammlung Ozymandias

In the global art world the rise and rise of the private collection is a simple fact. Every day it seems there is another private collection going public in an old bunker, a new glass penthouse or an abandoned warehouse. Public museums appear helpless in the face of this juggernaut with private collection shows a standard programming element and gifts a requirement. In our short time in Vienna we have seen four major presentations of private collections – selections from the Generali Foundation, the Sammlung (collection) Verbund, the Sammlung Essl (in its own building) and the collection of the Greek tycoon Dakis Joannou at the Kunsthalle Wien and the Museum Modernerkunst. While there is an argument for the public museums that the explosion of art prices has hugely limited their ability to purchase contemporary art, this does not address the other side of the equation. Why are private collectors (whether corporations, foundations or individuals) creating their own institutions with all the major on-going costs involved? At one level it seems to be a canny mix of philanthropy, ego and tax advantage (as well as a quick finger to the public institutions that have used their collections as a quick fix resource for so many years), but it is not happening in isolation. Art has become more interesting to more people. The concept of the public museum is under strain as it struggles to deal with so many trends, ideas, artists, and vested interests. Power is on the move – will the public institutions keep up?
Later: Having just written this post, we went to lunch and on the way passed a shop window full of art. The day before, in this window, we had seen a signed Manzoni tin of artist shit sitting on a pedestal quietly fading in the sun. Today we notice the space we had assumed belonged to a dealer gallery is in fact yet another private collection. The Sammlung Klewan
Image: Top, the Essl collection. Bottom left and right, Sammlung Klewan