Independent Collectors

Kai Bender

Collectors who have a special bond with Berlin.

Photo of Kai Bender
Photo of Kai Bender

To celebrate another year of Gallery Weekend Berlin we speak to a selection of collectors who have a special bond with Berlin.

Focusing on the collecting scene of the city and the personal relationship between city and collector, we find out what makes this capital not just a special place for its artists and visitors, but for the collectors too.

IC Collector Kai Bender tells us how he became involved with the collecting scene in Berlin and what he thinks a new generation of collectors will bring to the city. To celebrate another year of Gallery Weekend Berlin we speak to a selection of collectors who have a special bond with Berlin.

Tell us about your connection to Berlin. How did it all begin?

When my wife Anna and I met back in 2005, she was already living in Berlin. I just moved into her tiny 1.5 room apartment in Mitte, and we had a great time. Shortly after that, I realized how lively and inspirational the art scene in Berlin was. I became involved and started purchasing first works. After we got married we moved to a slightly bigger place in Prenzlauer Berg, with more space for children and art. We started giving our portfolio and our way of selecting work some structure. Connections to our favourite galleries became tighter, we began visiting art fairs regularly, and all of a sudden we started being called a “collector couple” by some. This felt strange at first as there has never been an institutional ambition related to the works we have been acquiring. In the meantime, we became friends with more people sharing our passion, our perspectives on artists, artistic concepts, aesthetics and our patterns of collecting. And one day I read this article saying “Collecting starts when you run out of wall space”. This was funny and convincing at the same time, so we learned to accept the “collector” label.

What is the collecting scene like in Berlin?

Berlin is largely considered a place for producing art, less for collecting art. You read a lot about how you find fewer decades-old, prominent, highly institutionalized collections than in other areas of Germany like in Cologne, Hamburg or Munich. This may be true, but I think the vibrancy of a local collector scene does not just come from the established high-end collections. It much more depends on the overall number of people being actively involved with it. If you have 10 big collectors in your local community, that’s great, but if you have an additional 500 beginning and mid-tier collectors, you end up with a much more lively and diverse crowd. And this is exactly what you find in Berlin.

GEROLD MILLER, Total Object 200, 2009. Courtesy the artist
GEROLD MILLER, Total Object 200, 2009. Courtesy the artist
MARTIN EDER, Festung, 2012. Courtesy the artist
MARTIN EDER, Festung, 2012. Courtesy the artist

Berlin is largely considered a place for producing art, less for collecting art.


What impact has collecting contemporary art, in particular Painting, had on your life?

Contemporary art has added a new perspective to my life, which, from a professional standpoint, has a pretty formal and quantitative spin. Artistic concepts can undermine the patterns of what one could call an “adult life”, like being able to verbalize all opinions and ambitions, trying to meet somebody else’s expectations, focusing on your job at all times, etc. By the way, this doesn’t imply that one should collect driven only by emotional reasons, actually the opposite is true: the more structure you apply to your collection, the better the effect on yourself and others. Painting in particular is important, because the medium stands the test of time; you can say “it ages well”. That said, my definition of “painting” is not limited to oil on canvas, many young artists for example apply principles of painting in their digital work without ever touching a brush.

Do you normally work directly with artists or do you go through Berlin galleries?

I normally buy through galleries like Eigen+Art, Sprüth Magers, Mehdi Chouakri and others. I know there is a lot of dispute around how digital platforms are disrupting the art business, how artists will sell via Instagram, and if traditional galleries are going to be there in 20 years from now. Of course, nobody can tell for sure. But my perception is that galleries today do not just provide the art works per se, but they also provide a social and personal context that many collectors appreciate a lot, including myself. Galleries will need to adapt the way they work with their artists and collectors to the requirements of the digital age, but I am optimistic that they will still be around for a while.

THOMAS SCHEIBITZ, Ohne Titel (No. 678), 2012
THOMAS SCHEIBITZ, Ohne Titel (No. 678), 2012
TIM EITEL, Home, 2015
TIM EITEL, Home, 2015
DANIEL RICHTER, Begegnung im Hochland, 2011
DANIEL RICHTER, Begegnung im Hochland, 2011

How have you seen the Berlin art scene change and where do you think it’s headed?

It is constantly changing, in many aspects. Some major galleries have moved or left over the last years, others have just opened. I think it is good for the local scene, because it rejuvenates. Secondly, there is the trend towards the new media and digitally inspired aesthetics, sometimes called “post-internet art”. The big galleries try to evolve their portfolio in this direction while keeping their core portfolio alive and well. I look forward to seeing how this is going to work out. Thirdly, I expect the arrival of a new generation of collectors, enabled and inspired by the local start-up scene. The scene will continue to change, very much like the whole city has.

Will you be attending Gallery Weekend Berlin this year? And if yes, do you have any tips for collectors as to where they should go?

Yes, I will definitely attend. I look very much forward to new works by Philippe Decrauzat at Mehdi Chouakri. Petra Cortright’s solo exhibition at Societé is also going to be very interesting, as well as Mike Bouchet’s exhibition at Peres Projects. Visitors should also go and see the group show at König Galerie as well as Gert & Uwe Tobias’ work at Contemporary Fine Arts. Personally, I will start the weekend with the openings of Carsten Nicolai at Eigen + Art, and Thea Djordjaze at Sprüth Magers.

MARTIN EDER, Begegnung, 2010
MARTIN EDER, Begegnung, 2010

Berlin (52)

You are the Concept

Private sessions with IC founder and strategist Christian Kaspar Schwarm.

Julia Stoschek

Sergej Timofejev in conversation with Julia Stoschek: one of the most active and famous collectors of time-based art.

Boros Bunker #4

This former techno-club has been home to the private collection and residence of Christian and Karen Boros.

haubrok projects

Lollie Barr meets collector Axel Haubrok in Lichtenberg

Wurlitzer Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection

Gudrun and Bernd Wurlitzer have created a space where artworks sit comfortably alongside signs of everyday life


Geraldine Michalke provides one of the most dynamic sites for aesthetic exchanges in Berlin

The Feuerle Collection

Désiré Feuerle has turned a site of isolation and paranoia into a place infused with humanity, lightness and sensuality

Ingrid & Thomas Jochheim

The collector couple describes the discovery process, which has led them to around 700 artworks to date, as emotional

ARNDT Collection

Tiffany Wood and Matthias Arndt aim to collect works that create disturbance

PRIOR Art Space

Oliver Elst and Laura del Arco have built significant collections, both individually and together

Elke and Arno Morenz Collection

A collection about seven postwar avant-garde movements

Collection Night

A new twilight initiative takes places in Berlin to bring private collections together in a special programme.

Warhol and Works on Paper

Editions and works on paper from The Dirk Lehr Collection.

Art is a Window – Christian Kaspar Schwarm

Una Meistere in conversation in Berlin with IC founder Christian Kaspar Schwarm.

Dirk Lehr Collection

A look inside the Berlin-based collection that refuses to follow trends.

Yvonne Roeb

Inside the studio of the artist with the unusual collection.

Christian Kaspar Schwarm “Young Collections”

Inside the constantly growing and unconventional collection of the IC co-founder.

The Vague Space

The continuously contouring art collection from Independent Collectors’ co-founder.

Boros Bunker #3

A look inside the belly of Berlin's most known World War II Bunker.

Gudrun & Bernd Wurlitzer

On the occasion of the sixth edition of Berlin Art Week, Gudrun and Bernd Wurlitzer will be opening up their home and private collection to the public.

Gudrun & Bernd Wurlitzer 2017

After the German reunion Gudrun and Bernd Wurlitzer witnessed the gallery scene in Berlin change dramatically.

me Collectors Room – Picha/Pictures

"Picha/Pictures – Between Nairobi & Berlin" at Berlin's me Collectors Room features artworks by Berlin-based artists and children that live in Kibera, East Africa’s largest slum.

How to Be Unique

An exploration of the interlacing of textual, structural, and lingual elements and painting with a special emphasis on their material manifestations.

Kuhn Collection

Offering a bright perspective of young contemporary art.

Archivio Conz x KW

Archivio Conz presents “Pause: Broken Sounds/Remote Music. Prepared pianos from the Archivio Conz collection” at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin.

Haus N Collection & ROCCA Stiftung

Two collections joined forces to create a unique cultural experience in an abandoned car dealership in Kiel, Germany.

Kuhn Collection I

This exhibition is the first in a series in which Michael Kuhn and Alexandra Rockelmann share works from the Kuhn Collection on IC.

Recording Memories

Mimi Kolaneci shares parts of his collection

Haus N Collection & Wemhöner Collection

ach, die sind ja heute so unpolitisch

STUDIO BERLIN – Boros Foundation x Berghain

We are here with insight into the seductive new Berlin happening, STUDIO BERLIN, with an interview with Karen Boros and Juliet Kothe, Artistic Directors of the project.

me Collectors Room Berlin/Stiftung Olbricht

My Abstract World

Haupt Collection

Dreissig Silberlinge

Désiré Feuerle

Publicly accessible private collection in an old bunker.

Lapo Simeoni

Collectors who have a special bond with Berlin.

Timo Miettinen

Finnish collector talks about the impossibility of ignoring Berlin’s relevance in today’s art world.

Olaf Schirm

Collectors who have a special bond with Berlin.

From Sponsorship to Authorship

Creative workshops for brands who want to become great story-tellers.

Manfred Herrmann

The Berlin based tax consultant Manfred Herrmann and his wife art historian Burglind-Christin Schulze-Herrmann have been collecting contemporary art for the last 30 years.

me Collectors Room – Private Exposure

For the fifth time, the Olbricht Foundation has invited London Metropolitan University students from the ‘Curating the Contemporary’ Master’s program in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery, to curate and develop an exhibition with works from the extensive art collection of Thomas Olbricht.


From a very early age, Pétur Arason enjoyed visiting artists in their studios with his father. Today, Arason has built up his own collection spanning more than 1 200 works.

Cindy Sherman – Works from the Olbricht Collection

Arguably one of the most important photographers of the late 20th Century, Cindy Sherman is not just a master of disguise but also a master at captivating her audiences.

Gute Kunst? Wollen!

Born into a family of textile merchants that spans over four generations and a long tradition of passionate art collecting Thomas Rusche’s passion for collecting art started early, with his first purchase at the age of 14. Over the years that followed, his passion for collecting has grown into a vast accumulation of 17th century Old Masters, contemporary painting, and sculptures.

Frisch Collection

The Berlin based couple, Harald and Kornelia Frisch, have been collecting idiosyncratic painterly and sculptural positions from different artistic generations free from market-based aesthetics since the 1960s.

Slavs and Tatars: Friendship of Nations

An exhibition from the Berlin-based collector Christian Kaspar Schwarm, featuring work from the art collective, Slavs and Tatars.


Female Artists from the Olbricht Collection at me Collectors Room, Berlin.

Barbara Klemm: Photographs

A new exhibition from the Berlin collector Werner Driller.

I Have Nothing Against Women But…

A look inside the exhibition “I Have Nothing Against Women but Can’t You Ring at Another Person’s Door”

Collection Regard

En Passant

To the patrons of tomorrow

Laurie Rojas on the future of art patronage and how to nurture enthusiasm for good art, worldly sensibility, curiosity, and connoisseurship.

A Travel Companion to access private art

What started off as an ambitious task back in 2012 to gather a world-wide list of the most exciting art collections, resulted in unique book that would radically increase the accessibility of private art to the general public.

The Rediscovery of Wonder

»Good art is rarely simple, but it is hardly ever incomprehensible, « says Christian Kaspar Schwarm, IC founder and avid collector who has never lost his excitement for complexity.